Scott McKeown is a partner in Ropes & Gray’s intellectual property litigation practice and chair of the firm’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) group. He focuses his practice on post-grant patent counseling and litigation matters at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and related appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Scott handles all aspects of post-issuance patent proceedings, specializing in administrative trials before the PTAB, such as inter partes review (IPR) and post-grant review (PGR). He also provides advice on USPTO post-grant proceedings concurrent with complex International Trade Commission (ITC) and district court litigations.
Named one of the world’s leading patent practitioners for post-grant proceedings by Intellectual Asset Management, Scott is the most active PTAB trial attorney in the U.S., having handled more than 150 PTAB matters since 2012, including those in which more than $500 million was at stake. He currently serves as lead post-grant counsel to some of the world’s best-known innovators.
McKeown is also a Professorial Lecturer in Law at the George Washington University Law School and editor of PatentsPostGrant.com where he regularly contributing insights and commentary on USPTO post-grant patent proceedings, trends, practice tips and news. He also lecture and write extensively on post-grant proceedings at the USPTO and am a member of the teaching faculty of the Practicing Law Institute (PLI). McKeown is a past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA), Intellectual Property Law Section Committee 104 (Post Grant USPTO Proceedings).
Scott also maintains an award-winning blog, PatentsPostGrant.com, which examines developments in patent litigation, including issues related to USPTO post issuance proceedings.
Noteworthy 2021 developments at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) were primarily driven by oversight—via the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director, Supreme Court and Federal Circuit—rather than by new rules or policy of the agency. After the highly anticipated Arthrex decision fizzled at the Supreme Court, the most significant 2021 development may be former Director Iancu’s departure and legacy of decidedly pro-patent owner policies. That legacy is increasingly under attack. From the Biden administration’s nomination of a new director, to legislative proposals, to Congressional pushback on Section 314(a) discretionary denials of institution (especially as they relate to the Western District of Texas), to lawsuits challenging the practice as an Administrative Procedures Act violation, change is afoot. The coming year is sure to see recalibration of current PTAB practices.
Unified Patents Inc. explained in its amicus brief in Cuozzo Speed v. Lee that “[t]he phrase ‘broadest reasonable interpretation’ describes the same procedure applied in both the PTO and by the courts.” An inconvenient truth for Cuozzo — but a truth nonetheless. Gene attacked Unified Patent’s position here last Sunday as “false on its face” and “unequivocally incorrect.” Those pejoratives miss the point of Unified’s brief. Unified did not argue that the courts and PTO both apply BRI in name; indeed, Cuozzo would lose his semantic gripe if that were the case. Rather, Unified argued that peeling away the Phillips and BRI labels reveals that both standards employ the same procedure. On this point, Unified’s position is hardly controversial, and Unified is hardly alone.
The early “death squad” hysteria persisted just long enough to catch the interest of hedge funds. The hedge funds saw an opportunity to utilize the PTAB to spook financial markets to their gain. The game plan involved establishing “short” positions in publically traded stocks that have their valuation closely tied to patents, as is the case in the Bio/Pharma sector. Given the PTAB’s early infamy, the bet was that the mere filing of an IPR would spook investors enough to move a stock price to the negative (i.e., quick profit for a short seller). Yet, as hedge funds targeting Bio/Pharma patents have quickly learned, gambling on patent challenges in the unpredictable arts is not a viable, long-term business model.
Congress created AIA trial proceeding to combat trolls, not create an altogether new class of them. Since the initial filings of Hayman, the STRONG ACT has been introduced in the Senate and includes a provision that would require standing for IPR petitioners (presumably to thwart such filings). However, companies not only employ IPR as an alternative to ongoing litigation but as a due diligence tool to avoid such situations in the first instance. Innovators looking to develop a new product line, or new area of business should have the freedom to clear the landscape of improvidently granted patents via the PTAB without having to wait for a lawsuit, or threat of one. Such knee-jerk legislative fixes will have unintended, and unfortunate consequences.