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.