is a partner with Gottlieb, Rackman & Reisman, P.C. Mr. Feller’s practice focuses on patents and other legal areas involving the development and use of technology, including patent litigation and inter-partes review, patent prosecution, offensive and defensive patent portfolio analysis and development, IP risk assessments, product clearance, and strategic IP counseling.
The overlap between sovereign immunity and IP issues is not something that comes up all of the time. However, when it does, the impact of the immunity can be significant. The law for certain matters, such as lawsuits in Federal court, is fairly well resolved. However, its application when new procedures are made available, such as for IPRs which were established in 2012, has provided new challenges and opportunities… So can the Federal or State government be sued for infringement under Federal patent, trademark, or copyright law? The answer often depends on the particular facts and specific legal issues of a dispute. That said, in most cases the answer is Yes for the U.S. Government and No for states and Tribal Nations, unless they have taken a specific action to waive immunity for that matter. A brief summary follows.
An Inter Partes Review (IPR) is an important tool for companies that face frequent patent infringement challenges. An IPR is essentially a mini-litigation focusing solely on patent validity conducted before a panel of administrative patent judges sitting in the Patent Trial and Appeal board (PTAB). Once an IPR is initiated, a decision on validity is issued within one year. The narrow focus, fast timing, and lower cost of an IPR, along with certain legal advantages that make proving invalidity easier in an IPR than in a district court, make it an attractive alternative to district court litigation when good invalidity arguments are available.