In a series of non-precedential orders, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reiterated that it lacks jurisdiction to hear appeals on whether the Patent Trial and Appeal Board properly decided to deny inter partes review (IPR) petitions based on parallel district court litigation. Cisco Systems Inc. v. Ramot at Tel Aviv University, Case Nos. 20-2047, -2049 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 30, 2020); Google LLC v. Uniloc 2017 LLC, Case No. 20-2040 (Oct. 30, 2020); In re: Cisco Systems Inc., Case No. 2020-148 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 30, 2020); Apple Inc. v. Maxell, Ltd., Case No. 20-2132, -2211, -2212, -2213, 21-1033 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 30, 2020).
The 2011 Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) created various mechanisms for challenging the validity of issued patents in post-grant proceedings before the US Patent and Trademark Office PTO) by adding transitional covered business method and post-grant review proceedings to existing ex parte re-examination, and expanding and renaming inter partes re-examination to inter partes review (IPR).
Under 35 USC §§ 311, 312, a petition for IPR must identify all real parties in interest, identify and support the prior art grounds for challenges to the claims, and provide “such other information as the Director may require by regulation.” Under 35 USC § 314 and 37 CFR 42.4(a), the Board institutes a trial on behalf of the PTO Director, and a “determination by the Director whether to institute an inter partes review under this section shall be final and nonappealable.” In deciding whether to institute the trial, the Board considers, at a minimum, whether a petitioner has satisfied the relevant statutory institution standard. Even when a petitioner has satisfied the institution standard, the Director has statutory discretion under 35 USC 314(a) and 324(a) to deny a petition.
In 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States held in Cuozzo Speed Techs. v. Lee that “the agency’s decision to deny a petition is a matter committed to the Patent Office’s discretion,” and that there is “no mandate to institute review.” The Supreme Court also found that the Director is given broad discretion under 35 USC 315(d) and 325(d) to determine the manner in which “multiple proceedings” before the PTO involving the same patent may proceed, “including providing for stay, transfer, consolidation, or termination of any such matter or proceeding.” Subsequent PTO policies and precedential Board decisions set forth factors affecting the case-specific analysis of whether to institute an AIA proceeding, and particularly a follow-on or serial petition, or discretionary denial due to the timing of parallel district court proceedings.
In Cisco v. Ramot, the Board denied Cisco’s petitions to institute IPRs against two patents that Ramot had asserted against it in a district court case. The decisions denying Cisco’s petitions cited the Board’s discretion under 35 USC § 314(a) not to institute review and relied on the factors determining whether efficiency, fairness and the merits support the exercise of authority to deny institution in view of an earlier trial date in the parallel proceeding. Specifically, the Board [...]