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Posts Tagged: "public rights"

Constitutional Separation of Powers & Patents of Invention: Oil States Energy Services, LLC v. Greene’s Energy Group, LLC

Despite potentially relevant Supreme Court precedent in Thomas and Granfinanciera, the better view under the weight of Supreme Court precedent with respect to patent validity, absent the recent decision by the Court in Oil States, is that determination of the validity of issued patents does not include the government as a party and, therefore, only private rights are involved.  Jurisdiction should, therefore, be solely within Article III, and preclude final determinations of patent validity as they currently exist under the AIA, as well as other post-issuance adjudication, such as interference proceedings and ex parte reexamination.  Statutory provisions for post-grant examination at the Patent Office should be limited to an advisory capacity as an adjunct to a federal district court and address only issues of fact.  Such factual determinations coming from the Patent Office should be subject to review for substantial evidence by a district court in order to pass constitutional muster under Article III. However, given that issued patents are deemed to be “public rights” and that IPRs have been upheld as constitutionally valid under Oil States, there may be no limit to the power Congress can grant to the Patent Office over the validity of patents, potentially usurping any role for the judiciary in this regard under Article III.

Why is the Trump DOJ arguing patents are a public right?

It is no surprise to anyone that patent rights in the United States suffered enormously under the two terms served in the White House by President Barack Obama. That the Obama White House was uncomfortably close with Google is widely known, and Google has been the face and driving force of the lobby that supports weakening patent rights in America. What is far less clear, and extremely difficult to explain or understand, is why the Department of Justice continues to make arguments against patents. Indeed, in the DOJ brief filed in Oil States v. Greene’s Energy, the Solicitor General argues repeatedly throughout the brief that patents are not private property, but rather are a public right… At the very beginning of the brief filed by the DOJ in Oil States, in the Summary of the Argument, the DOJ stakes its claim and beings by arguing that patents are a public right (not private property) that is akin to a government-conferred franchise.

Law Professors File Briefs with the Supreme Court in Oil States

A review of amici briefs filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in Oil States Energy Services, LLC v. Greene’s Energy Group, LLC provides evidence of a stark split in how various stakeholders in the U.S. patent system view the patent validity challenge activities ongoing at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). Whereas many of the world’s largest tech companies who have a dominant advantage in the consumer marketplace are in favor of the PTAB remaining active, many small entities and individual inventors are greatly opposed to the PTAB and its differing standards on patent validity leading to a higher rate of invalidation than in Article III district court proceedings. A look at amici briefs coming from law professors can shed some light on where the academic sector comes down on the subject of the PTAB’s constitutionality.

AIA and PTAB Unconstitutional Under the Public Rights Doctrine

Only Article III courts can provide a fair, neutral and unbiased forum for assessment of patent validity. For over two hundred years, patent validity, patent infringement and patent damages have been consolidated to be heard in federal district courts. Federal courts supply impartial judges that are immune from influence by the executive or legislative branches. Furthermore, federal courts supply jury trials that enable a fair application of due process rights in the hearing of a patent dispute. Patent validity review is only a single component of patent infringement cases and it is efficient to have this component of the matter reviewed in a single matter.

Private Rights and the Sanctity of an Independent Judiciary

There appears to be a consistent pattern of public rights cases from Murray’s Lessee to Stern. Congress may establish a public right, separate from actions that affect the federal government, that involves an action related to protection of the public, such as health or welfare, and may establish an executive tribunal in which to adjudicate these rights. An Article I tribunal may adjudicate these public rights, primarily by advancing a fact-finding role, but within the constraints of consent, due process and review by an Article III court. On the other hand, private rights or rights involving matters between private parties that have been adjudicated in common law in Article III courts will continue to be resolved only in the federal courts. A right to a jury to hear facts in federal courts will be maintained in those disputes between private rights involving private parties.

The Modern Public Rights Doctrine

The modern public rights jurisprudence flows from Atlas Roofing in 1977 to Stern in 2011. Although the case law does not provide a straight line, there is a consistent pattern illustrating the clear constraints of administrative agency adjudication. These constraints include consent of the parties, due process and review by Article III courts. Without these elements, according to a continuous line of Supreme Court jurisprudence, administrative proceedings are illegitimate and unconstitutional. Stern is the governing precedence on the issue of the public rights doctrine, with the composition of the Court today substantially identical to that of the Stern Court.

The Classical Public Rights Doctrine: Growth of the Administrative State

The Crowell Court distinguishes between matters of common law adjudicated in the federal courts and matters that may be reviewed in administrative agencies. However, the Court is concerned mainly with the maintenance of due process in administrative tribunals… The Crowell Court is thus concerned about the “essential demands of due process” and the limits of federal government authority. Enabling administrative tribunals to act merely as finders of fact, within the bounds of due process, and allowing for their findings to be reviewed in Article III courts, the issue of separation of powers is prominent in the preservation of the independence of the judiciary.

SCOTUS asked to consider constitutional challenge to post grant patent proceedings

The question presented in the petition for certiorari in Cooper v. Lee is whether 35 U.S.C. §318(b) violates Article III of the United States Constitution, to the extent that it empowers an executive agency tribunal to assert judicial power canceling private property rights amongst private parties embroiled in a private federal dispute of a type known in the common law courts of 1789, rather than merely issue an advisory opinion as an adjunct to a trial court. This case raises a constitutional challenge to new post-grant patent proceedings.