Industry Reacts to the Supreme Court’s Arthrex Ruling: Chaos Averted – or Just Delayed?
The Supreme Court issued a split 5-4 decision earlier today, in which a plurality of the Court agreed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) that the structure of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) under the America Invents Act (AIA) has resulted in Administrative Patent Judges (APJs) being unconstitutionally appointed principal officers, but took a different approach than the CAFC to fixing the problem. Some were surprised by the conservative Court’s choice to sever the statute and ultimately hand the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director—a political appointee—power to review final decisions, though it was not surprising that they attempted to fashion a solution that would preserve the PTAB and inter partes review (IPR) system. Justice Gorsuch, in his partial dissent, said that he would have identified the constitutional violation, explained his reasoning, and simply “set aside” the PTAB decision at issue. Instead, said Gorsuch, “Effectively, the Court subtracts statutory powers from one set of executive officials and adds them to another.”
While the decision is not likely to have any immediate impact, it does raise questions about implications down the line, including how the USPTO and its new Director will address the ruling. Below, industry stakeholders consider what the Court did (and did not do) and provide their take on this highly anticipated holding.