It May Be Time to Abolish the Federal Circuit
I don’t really know why we need the Federal Circuit anymore. Witness the denial of en banc rehearing in Athena Diagnostics, Inc. v. Mayo Collaborative Services, LLC on July 3. This denial of rehearing provoked eight separate opinions, with no single opinion achieving more than four judges in support. With 12 judges deciding whether to rehear the case en banc that means no single opinion gained support from more than one-third of the Court. And that opinion that gained the most support was a dissenting opinion, meaning those judges wanted to rehear the case and specifically said that the claims “should be held eligible”. In fact, as Retired Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit, Paul Michel, noted yesterday, “all 12 active judges agreed that the Athena patent should be deemed eligible, even though seven judges apparently felt helpless in view of Mayo.” The truth is the Federal Circuit is not helpless. The Federal Circuit is choosing to interpret Mayo—on the life science side—and Alice—on the software side—expansively. The Federal Circuit has one primary job, which is to bring stability and certainty to U.S. patent laws. It would be easy to distinguish both Mayo and Alice, but rather than recognize the peculiar facts of these cases as representing the most trivial of innovations, the Federal Circuit has used Mayo to destroy medical diagnostics and Alice to destroy software. More analytical prowess would be expected from a first-year law student.