Patent Trial and Appeal Board

Supreme Court to Tackle Validity of Patent Office Panels

Almost every year the Supreme Court of the United States takes on at least one important patent case. Generally, a patent grants an inventor the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling the patented invention. The Supreme Court’s decision this term will have a far reaching impact on the process of challenging the validity of patents.

In 2011, the federal government passed a new law known as the America Invents Act. Part of that act formed the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, an administrative court tasked with determining issues affecting patentability.

Patent Trial and Appeal Board at Work

The new appeal board was designed to speed the process of determining the validity of a patent by creating an administrative court that could quickly make determinations on what was hoped to be a small percentage of patents. This small percentage of patents was intended to include patents that perhaps should not have been originally issued and were the source of significant and unreasonable litigation costs in court. The result was a two-tier administrative law court system. At the first level, the Board conducts trials to determine whether a particular technology or patent is valid.

At the second level, the Board conducts appeals where disappointed parties can dispute the lower level rulings. The new, two-level system in some ways was a terrific innovation to prevent so-called patent trolls from suing when a new technology became universal and demanding huge sums of money on the off chance a judge or jury agreed with their claim.

According to some experts, this new patent process has been a boon for tech companies like those based in California. One expert estimates that industries have saved over $2 billion in legal fees since the law was passed. Some parties, concerned that this new patent review process has improperly shifted the balance of patent review into a burdensome anti-patent position, have successfully litigated the validity of this new process to the Supreme Court.

Constitutionality of New System Challenged

The groups not happy with this new system argue that it violates the U.S. Constitution. The main thrust of their argument is that a patent is equivalent to private property, and an agency is not authorized to take private property away from private citizens. They argue that only courts organized under Article III of the Constitution can make those kinds of decisions.

On its face, this is a compelling argument. After all, judges on the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board are appointed by an executive officer from the executive branch, and never face scrutiny from Congress or the courts. Furthermore, they have a great deal of power to render patents invalid and take property rights away from inventors.

On the other hand, others strongly believe that this new board is exactly what the industry needed to fight patent trolls. Inventors and large companies were constantly facing the threat of litigation when they employed particular technologies, all based on the probability that someone somewhere filed a similar patent in the past.

Your Intellectual Property Partners

This case proves that intellectual property law is in constant change and flux. That is why your company needs the right partner to help you protect your intellectual property rights. At the Royse Law Firm, we look forward to answering all of your intellectual property questions and providing you with high quality legal services. Contact us today.

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