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Posts Tagged: "Chevron deference"

Facebook v. Windy City Settles It: The CAFC Does Not Care About the PTAB’s Opinions

The Supreme Court in SAS (SAS Institute Inc. v. Iancu) was quite clear that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB or Board) has to follow the statute when conducting Inter Partes Review (IPR). So, when Facebook sought to enter patent claims into their IPR against Windy City Innovations past the one-year deadline dictated by 35 USC § 315(b), the PTAB had conveniently written themselves an opinion that allowed Facebook to join Facebook to circumvent the deadline. The Board’s Precedential Opinion Panel (POP) used the language in USC § 315(c) and had written that the statutory use of the words “any person” allowed them to join a party to itself. See Proppant Express Invs., LLC v. Oren Techs., LLC, No. IPR2018-00914, Paper 21, at 4–6 (P.T.A.B. Nov. 8, 2018). After the CAFC’s Facebook v. Windy City decision, it’s clear that any PTAB Precedential Opinion Panel statutory interpretation is irrelevant. Practitioners should not accept any conclusions made by the Board about a statute, and petitioners should be more assured that a reasoned argument will prevail.

Facebook v. Windy City: CAFC Strikes Down PTAB’s Approach to Joinder in IPRs

In Facebook v. Windy City Innovations, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit earlier today ruled that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) erred both in allowing Facebook to join itself to a proceeding in which it was already a party, and in allowing Facebook to add new claims to the inter partes reviews (IPRs) at issue through that joinder…. On the topic of whether the language of § 315(c) authorizes the joinder of a person as a party to a proceeding in which it is already a party, the Court was again clear on what the plain language of § 315(c) allows. The Director is permitted  “to join as a party [to an already instituted IPR] any person’ who meets certain requirements. 35 U.S.C. § 315 (emphases added).”

Re-examining the USPTO’s Bid for Adjudicatory Chevron Deference—a Response to One Analysis of Facebook v. Windy City

Last week, Professor Andrew Michaels published an article with IPWatchdog commenting on Facebook v. Windy City and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s claim for Chevron deference for precedential decisions of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). While I agree with his ultimate conclusion, “the PTAB cannot speak with the force of law through adjudication even on issues where it has the authority to do so through regulation,” I disagree with the path he took to get there. I’ve written extensively on the topic (see the bibliography is at the bottom of this article). Of my articles, the most relevant is The PTAB Is Not an Article III Court, Part 3: Precedential and Informative Opinions. More recently, I filed an amicus brief in Facebook. In my view, PTAB precedential decisions can be eligible for Chevron deference in only the rarest of circumstances:  the PTAB is the wrong entity in the USPTO to engage in rulemaking, the PTAB doesn’t follow the procedures required by statute and executive order for rulemaking, and the PTAB doesn’t have access to the personnel within the USPTO that are necessary for rulemaking.

Examining the USPTO’s Bid for Adjudicatory Chevron Deference

In response to a request for supplemental briefing from the Federal Circuit in Facebook v. Windy City Innovations, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently argued that its precedential panel opinions interpreting the America Invents Act (AIA) are entitled to Chevron deference, under which (essentially) courts must defer to an agency interpretation of a statute so long as the interpretation is reasonable. To the extent that this bid for Chevron deference is limited to procedural administrative Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) matters such as the one at issue in that case, (an interpretation of 35 U.S.C. § 315(c) which relates to the USPTO Director’s ability to join a party in inter partes review [IPR]), it is arguably defensible. But to the extent that the agency claims (or plans to claim) that its precedential PTAB opinions are owed deference on issues of substantive patent law, it is likely incorrect.

Brett Kavanaugh: A history of Skepticism toward the growth of the Administrative State

As was the case with Justice Neil Gorsuch, Kavanaugh has a history of being skeptical toward the growth of the Administrative State, which means the growth of agency power is not something he has shown a predisposition to being in favor of in his decisions. Given the outsized importance of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) within the patent industry, and the fact that the Supreme Court has already twice mentioned “shenanigans” in PTAB procedures, another conservative Justice inclined to be skeptical about the growth of administrative power may ultimately set the stage for review of some of the more egregious PTAB violations of the Administrative Procedures Act, such as but not limited to a severe and substantial lack of judicial independence among the Administrative Patent Judges that make up the PTAB (i.e., the Office admittedly engaging in panel stacking to guarantee favored outcomes in inter partes challenges, the fact that dissents are not allowed unless approved by supervisors, and supervisors deliberating with subordinates on cases they were not assigned to handle).

Aqua Products: Is It Helping Patent Owners Swim Better Nine Months Later?

At the time, many thought this change in law would significantly assist patentees in avoiding full-blown cancellation of their claims. However, our review suggests a case-by-case analysis without overwhelming success on a motion to amend… Although the industry expected Aqua Products to cause a sea change for motions to amend, there has been little, if any, substantive effect. Since Aqua Products, the Board has considered the opinion’s impact in 92 cases, referring to the memorandum guidance in 38. Of those 92 cases, the Board has rendered decisions in 43 cases, denying 32 motions to amend, granting in whole or in part 7 motions, and denying as moot 4 motions.

Trump picks Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court

Earlier this evening President Donald Trump announced the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch of the Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit as his selection to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away February 13, 2016. While there will be much time to evaluate Judge Gorsuch’s record and impressive Ivy League background prior to any confirmation hearing or vote in the United States Senate, I have located several intellectual property cases from the 10th Circuit with decisions authored by Gorsuch. While patent issues would not have gone to the 10th Circuit, it also seems worth pointing out that Judge Gorsuch has expressed skepticism of Chevron deference.

Conservative Ideology Will Rebuild the Patent System

Congress sent H.R. 5, the House-passed Regulatory Accountability Separation of Powers Restoration Act, to the Senate’s Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee on January 12, 2017. When enacted it will overrule Chevron deference. This enactment will therefore shine the disinfecting sunlight of appellate review where it has not gone before…. Patent practitioners need to realize that the Act will eliminate stare decisis over earlier court approvals of specific Patent Office rules. First, after the Act, it will be an open question whether the Patent Office may use BRI within IPR proceedings. That is because the law will have changed over what deference a court must give Patent Office regulations. In Cuozzo, the Court cited Chevron in analyzing whether rulemaking imposing BRI on IPR proceedings constituted “a reasonable exercise of the rulemaking authority that Congress delegated to the Patent Office.” Cuozzo, 136 S. Ct. at 2144. After walking through a collection of policy rationales that made BRI seem “reasonable” to the majority, the Court concluded by explicitly noting that the “Patent Office’s regulation, selecting the broadest reasonable construction standard, is reasonable in light of the rationales described above. . . .” Id. at 2146.