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Supreme Court Oral Arguments Cuozzo

Jim Ruttler, Patent Attorney

Posted Wednesday, April 27, 2016 by Jim Ruttler

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Cuozzo. The issues being litigated include the standard for claim interpretation at IPR proceedings and whether decisions to institute IPR proceedings are appealable. These are important issues with respect to patent rights in the United States.

IPR proceedings (Inter Partes Review) are newly created proceedings for the Patent Office to review issued patents. The Patent Office tends to view these proceedings as an extension of examination whereas patent owners tend to view them as mini-court proceedings evaluating issued patents. This tension has resulted in differences with how patent claims should be interpreted. The Patent Office wants to use the standards used during examination, but patent owners want the standards used by the courts. The Patent Office standard is less favorable and results in patents being invalidated more easily whereas the court standard is more favorable and results in patents being more likely to be upheld.

The Supreme Court took the case at their discretion and so based just on this, it is likely that they will reverse in some respect the lower court’s decision to uphold the Patent Office’s interpretation. The Chief Justice John Roberts also seemed to be leaning heavily in the patent owner’s favor based on the fact that the IPR proceedings are supposed to streamline litigation - NOT make it more complicated.

The appeal of the Patent Office’s decision to institute or not is the second issue and one that is difficult to predict an outcome. The statute says no appeal, but that is contrary to administration law principles.

We should have a result in the next couple of months. Stay tuned.

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