In the companion district court case to the Supreme Court’s 2019 Thryv v. Click-to-Call decision regarding the scope of review for inter partes review (IPR) decisions, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit addressed what it characterized as “a rather unusual set of circumstances” to find that the accused infringer was estopped from challenging in district court the validity of a claim for which the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) had refused to institute IPR. Click-to-Call Techs. LP v. Ingenio, Inc., Case No. 22-1016 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 17, 2022) (Stoll, Schall, Cunningham, JJ.)
Click-to-Call filed suit against Ingenio alleging patent infringement of 16 claims. Ingenio filed a petition for IPR challenging the 16 claims and one additional dependent claim. The Board only partially instituted the IPR, and in its final written decision addressed and found persuasive un-patentability grounds based on a Dezonno reference but refused to consider grounds based on a Freeman reference (leaving one of the asserted claims unaddressed). Ingenio had successfully requested a stay of the district court suit pending resolution of the IPR. During the appeal of the Board’s decision regarding the IPR, the Supreme Court in SAS Institute, Inc. v. Iancu, overruled the practice of partial institutions. However, Ingenio never sought remand under SAS for the Board to consider its challenge to the unaddressed asserted claim.
After the IPR appeal had run its course, the district court lifted the stay and Ingenio moved for summary judgment of invalidity. Ingenio argued that the unaddressed asserted claim (which was the only asserted claim not found unpatentable in the IPR) was invalid based on the same Dezonno reference that Ingenio had used against the other asserted claims. Click-to-Call argued that 35 U.S.C. § 315(e)(2) estopped Ingenio from raising this invalidity ground. Click-to-Call also moved to amend its selection of asserted claims to add two additional claims that were not at issue in the IPR. The district court found that Dezonno anticipated the unaddressed asserted claim and denied Click-to-Call leave to amend its asserted claims. Click-to-Call appealed.
Click-to-Call argued that Ingenio was estopped from asserting invalidity of the unaddressed asserted claim. The Federal Circuit agreed and found that IPR estoppel applied. Specifically, the Court found that district court erred by only analyzing common law issue preclusion, focusing on whether the argument had been “actually litigated” instead of following the language of IPR estoppel under § 315(e)(2), which estops grounds that “reasonably could have [been] raised.” The Court found that the statutory language precluded Ingenio from arguing that Dezonno anticipated the unaddressed asserted claim. The Court explained that Ingenio’s IPR petition included not only a challenge to the unaddressed asserted claim based upon Freeman, but also unpatentability challenges to other claims based on Dezonno. The Court viewed this as evidence of Ingenio’s awareness of Dezonno as an anticipatory ground that it “reasonably could have raised” in the IPR. The Court was unpersuaded by Ingenio’s arguments that there was no estoppel with regard [...]