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Posts Tagged: "Tribal sovereign immunity"

The Year in Patents: The Top 10 Patent Stories from 2018

Before proceeding it is worth noting two things. First, that my list focuses on specific and identifiable events. Second, there are a number of stories worth mentioning, but which just missed the cut for one reason or another. The two that will probably be most glaring omissions are the Federal Circuit’s decision in Vanda Pharmaceuticals v. Westward Pharmaceuticals, 887 F.3d 1117 (Fed. Cir. 2018), and the final rules implementing the Phillips claim construction standard. With respect to Vanda, while it is a pro-patent decision, the claims found eligible are virtually indistinguishable from those held ineligible in Mayo, so it seems virtually certain a different panel of the Federal Circuit would have ruled differently. Thus, all Vanda did was seem to create uncertainty, which may be good for settlements, but likely not a repeatable decision. As for the Phillips standard, while it makes perfect sense for the PTAB to be using the same claim construction standard as used in federal district courts, many have questioned whether it will make any real difference in outcomes. Still, it is a big event and would have been 11th on my list. Had a chance to Phillips been accompanied by patent claims being presumed valid and requiring clear and convincing evidence to be declared invalid at the PTAB, that would certainly be worthy of top 10 inclusion. Alas, that would require an amendment to the statute and beyond the powers of Director Iancu. Thus, the banishment of BRI, while important, finds itself on the outside looking just in at this year’s top 10.

Federal Circuit rules tribal sovereign immunity cannot be asserted in IPRs

Federal Circuit, in an opinion authored by Judge Moore, affirmed the determination of the PTAB, holding that tribal sovereign immunity cannot be asserted in IPRs. the decision of the Federal Circuit is rather seriously flawed. The PTAB is simply not capable of exercising jurisdiction over a patent through in rem jurisdiction. The ruling of the PTAB only implicates the rights of certain persons, and because the patent and all patent claims remains open to challenge by others in the future. That truth means the PTAB acts, at best, quasi in rem, which thanks to Supreme Court jurisprudence should be extremely relevant when determining the applicability of tribal sovereign immunity.

Federal Circuit Hears Oral Arguments on St. Regis Appeal of Tribal Sovereign Immunity

On Monday, June 4th, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit heard oral arguments in St. Regis Mohawk Tribe v. Mylan Pharmaceuticals, a case appealed from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) which asks the appeals court to determine whether tribal sovereign immunity can be asserted to terminate inter partes review (IPR) proceedings at the PTAB. The Federal Circuit panel consisting of Circuit Judges Kimberley Moore, Timothy Dyk and Jimmie Reyna lobbed tough questions at counsel representing appellants St. Regis and Allergan, appellees Mylan and Teva as well as the respondent for the U.S. federal government, without giving much clue as to whether the panel favored the argument offered by any particular side.

Askeladden LLC Submits Another Amicus Brief Advocating Against Tribal Sovereign Immunity for PTAB Proceedings

In this regard, a PTAB proceeding is not a suit in court, but instead an administrative proceeding in which the Patent Office (through the PTAB) takes “a second look at an earlier administrative grant of a patent.” Cuozzo, 136 S. Ct. at 2144 (2016); see also Oil States, slip op. at 7 (“[T]he decision to grant a patent is a matter involving public rights—specifically, the grant of a public franchise. Inter partes review is simply a reconsideration of that grant, and Congress has permissibly reserved the PTO’s authority to conduct that reconsideration.”). Like other administrative actions in which States and Federal Agencies (e.g., the Federal Power Commission) may regulate rights or responsibilities of Tribes with respect to off-reservation activities, a PTAB proceeding is one of the “other mechanisms” available to the USPTO to resolve questions of patent validity as the administrative authority granting the patent in the first instance. Cf. Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Cmty., 134 S. Ct. 2024, 2028 (2014).Even if the Tribe cannot be compelled to participate in this proceeding, the PTAB retains authority to adjudicate the validity of patents under review. Indeed, there is no requirement under the AIA that a patent owner participate in a proceeding in order for it to proceed.

Mohawks appeal PTAB denial of Sovereign Immunity defense

The appellants are appealing from a series of inter partes review (IPR) proceedings at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) where the Board made the controversial decision to deny motions to dismiss the IPRs on a sovereign immunity defense raised by the St. Regis tribe. On appeal, St. Regis and Allergan asks the Federal Circuit to determine whether the PTAB erred either in holding that tribal immunity does not apply to IPR proceedings and in deciding that Allergan was the “effective patent owner,” enabling the IPRs to proceed in the St. Regis tribe’s absence even if tribal immunity applied.

Mohawk Tribe wins stay from Federal Circuit in sovereign immunity fight

The Federal Circuit issued an Order staying further proceedings at the PTAB relating to the RESTASIS patents now owned by the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe. The stay will remain in place until at least one day after the oral argument scheduled for June 2018. The Court will consider whether the stay shall remain in effect or be lifted based on the merits of the case.

Mohawk Tribe Ready to Battle over Ex Parte Communications between PTAB Judges

Attorneys for the Mohawk tribe have notified the USPTO that ex parte communications between an APJ assigned to the IPRs and an APJ not assigned to the IPRs cannot possibly fall within the deliberative privilege of (b)(5), as it is commonly referred to in FOIA matters… Shore concluded his e-mail to the USPTO putting the Office on notice of impending litigation, reminding the USPTO of its obligation to retain all information and documents in anticipation of a FOIA lawsuit that would seek to compel release of documents in non-redacted form… In reviewing the March 9, 2018 document release there are several other e-mail communications that raise the specter of improper ex parte communications in violation of the APA, both relating to the Mohawk RESTASIS IPRs, as well as the IPRs where an expanded panel of the PTAB refused to recognize a sovereign immunity defense made by the State of Minnesota.

Law Professor Notes PTAB’s Decision on Sovereign Immunity Goes Well Beyond the Constitution

As Sherkow’s Twitter critique notes, however, this hesitation to extend sovereign immunity to tribes in proceedings at the PTAB without precedent for doing so presumes that such an immunity defense would be denied by default, a presumption Sherkow called “painfully, absolutely wrong.” The abrogation of tribal sovereign immunity can be legislated by Congress, (which, as has been noted, was already attempted by Sen. Claire McCaskill [D-MO]) but without Congressional action specific to this abrogation, the default presumption would be that tribes have sovereign immunity to assert. “Hesitancy extending the immunity where immunity is unclearly presented is one thing,” Sherkow wrote. “But upending the Constitutional scheme on Kiowa’s dicta is another.”

PTAB Denies St. Regis Mohawk Assertion of Sovereign Immunity

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office denied the Motion to Dismiss filed by the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe. The Tribe asserted sovereign immunity and requested the IPRs be dismissed. The PTAB denies the request finding an IPR to not be an exercise of power over the Tribe… And therein lies the problem the PTAB faces. The Administrative Patent Judges routinely demonstrate an acute lack of understanding relative to very basic legal matters.

PTAB Chief Attempts to Explain Expanded Panel Decisions, Sovereign Immunity at PPAC

Given the PTAB’s ability to make decisions precedential, Ruschke’s argument about how important and meaningful it is to have expanded panels to ensure uniformity misses the mark. The PTAB does not designate many cases as precedential (another problem for a different day), but it is possible for a three-judge panel decision to be made precedential. In fact, there have been a number of cases that have been pronounced as precedential by the PTAB where the decision was made by a three-judge panel. That being the case, why is it necessary for any expanded panels unless PTAB leadership is trying to influence Administrative Patent Judges despite the lack of a precedential designation? And doesn’t such an attempt to influence call into question the decisional independence of APJs?

Why did two APJs issue an identical concurring opinion in separate cases?

Notice what APJ Harlow wrote relating to IPR2017-01068 is word for word identical to what APJ Bisk wrote relating to IPR2017-01186. Indeed, the entirety of the concurring opinions are word for word identical. Obviously, the concurring opinions were shared internally in some form or fashion prior to being issued by the PTAB. But why? It seems perfectly reasonable for the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe to want to know who actually wrote these two concurring opinions. Did APJ Harlow and APJ Bisk cooperate and jointly write a single concurring opinion filed in two separate cases? Why would two APJs not assigned to the same case take it upon themselves to collaborate in writing a single concurring opinion? Are APJs not assigned to a case typically consulted? Did someone else write those opinions for APJ Harlow and APJ Bisk to make sure this particular viewpoint was incorporated into the decisions? How did APJ Harlow and APJ Bisk have access to the concurring opinions each would file?

St. Regis Tribe requests oral hearing, seeks discovery on political pressure at PTAB

The St. Regis tribe is seeking discovery on due process concerns posed by the potential of political or third-party pressure asserted to “reach an outcome inconsistent with the binding Supreme Court and Federal Circuit precedents.”… The St. Regis tribe is seeking the oral hearing to push for discovery in a total of 18 topics. These topics include the makeup of the panels in the St. Regis proceedings, the date each APJ was added to the panel, how the makeup of the panel was decided, who determined the makeup of the merits panel, when the decision on the panel’s makeup was made as well as the disclosure of all ex parte communications concerning the St. Regis case. St. Regis is also seeking communications made on the sovereign immunity issue between specific APJs, including APJs Jacqueline Harlow and Jennifer Bisk.

The Top Trends in Patent Law for 2017

As we mark the close of yet another year, we’re provided with a perfect opportunity to look back on the previous twelve months and see what has transpired. No one could call it a good year for patent owners (except those with the largest pockets, of course) starting with the United States’ 10th-place ranking among national patent systems in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s IP Index, and it didn’t appear as though any weaknesses in uncertain patentability across the U.S. technological landscape were addressed in a positive manner this year. It’s inevitable that the ball will drop on New Year’s Eve and calendars everywhere will turn from 2017 to 2018. Whether the U.S. federal government will be able to stop the death knell sounding doom for our nation’s patent system, however, is still anyone’s guess and it seems far from likely.

The Year in Patents: The Top 10 Patent Stories from 2017

It is that time once again when we look back on the previous year in preparation to close the final chapter of 2017 in order move fresh into the year ahead. 2017 was a busy year in the patent world, although change was not as cataclysmic as it had been in past years, such as 2012 when the PTAB and post grant challenges began, in 2013 when AIA first to file rules went into effect, or in 2014 when the Supreme Court decided Alice v. CLS Bank. It was, nevertheless, still an interesting year… To come up with the list below I’ve reviewed all of our patent articles, and have come up with these top 10 patent stories for 2017. They appear in chronological order as they happened throughout the year.

PTAB: State Waives Eleventh Amendment Immunity by Filing Patent Infringement Lawsuit

An expanded panel of the PTAB, in a majority opinion authored by Chief Judge David Ruschke, agreed with the University of Minnesota that an IPR proceeding is an adjudicatory proceeding of a federal agency from which state entities may be immune. Nevertheless, the PTAB ruled that the University of Minnesota had “waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity by filing an action in federal court alleging infringement of the patent being challenged in this proceeding.”