Current Developments at the PTAB

The USPTO Patent Trial and Appeal Board

June 23, 2017

This page presents noteworthy cases and developments at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, pertinent rulemaking packages, and court decisions affecting the PTAB.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

Credit Acceptance Corp. v. Westlake Svcs., LLC, No. 2016‑2001 (Fed. Cir. June 9, 2017) (Dyk (author), Mayer (dissenting in part), Reyna, JJ.). Although decisions to institute inter partes, post‑grant, and covered business method review proceedings are not reviewable on appeal, the Federal Circuit may consider an estoppel‑based challenge in an appeal from a covered business method patent review because the estoppel provision governs throughout the span of the entire proceeding and not just during the institution phase. Slip op. at 8–12. The court ruled that the petitioner was not estopped from requesting the review even though the petitioner had received final decisions in two prior USPTO proceedings involving the same patent, as those decisions did not determine the patentability of the claims at issue here. Slip op. at 12–15.

EmeraChem Holdings, LLC v. Volkswagen Group of Am., Inc., No. 2016‑1984 (Fed. Cir. June 15, 2017) (Moore (author), Clevenger, Chen JJ.). Where the petition and the Board’s institution decision contained specific claim‑by‑claim references to three patents, but only generalized, non‑specific statements mentioning a fourth patent upon which the Board relied in its final written decision to find unpatentability of three of the challenged claims, the Federal Circuit held that the patent owner had not received sufficient notice required by the Administrative Procedure Act to adequately respond with respect to the fourth patent. Slip op. at 11–19.

Nantkwest, Inc. v. Matal, No. 2016‑1794 (Fed. Cir. June 23, 2017) (Prost (author), Dyk, Stoll (dissenting) JJ.). In contrast with appeals to the Federal Circuit from adverse decisions of the Board, the statutory provision for civil actions brought in district court provides that, “[a]ll the expenses of the proceedings shall be paid by the applicant.” 35 U.S.C. § 145. Notwithstanding the American Rule that the parties are responsible for their respective attorneys’ fees unless a contract or a statute dictates otherwise, the Federal Circuit ruled that the party bringing a § 145 civil action must pay the USPTO‚Äôs attorneys’ fees, as they are “expenses” under the statute.

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Practice Manual for the PTAB

Joel is the author of The Patent Trial and Appeal Board: Advocacy and Practice. To purchase the book, please visit Publishers’ Graphics Bookstore.