Notice of Proposed Rulemaking/NPRM
Subscribe to Notice of Proposed Rulemaking/NPRM's Posts

Clean Up on Aisle PTAB: Clarification of Discretionary Denial Practice

The US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for inter partes review (IPR) and post-grant review (PGR) proceedings before the Patent Trial & Appeal Board, seeking to codify existing precedent and guidance regarding the Board’s discretionary considerations in denying IPR or PGR petitions. 89 Fed. Reg. 28693 (Apr. 19, 2024).

The NPRM follows a 2020 request for comments and an April 2023 Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) that the PTO had hoped to finalize in terms of rulemaking by fall 2023. However, proposals in the ANPR hit a snag following criticism from Congress and more than 14,500 comments from stakeholders and the public, including charges that the PTO Director was overstepping her authority.

The newly proposed rules address:

  • Briefing on motions for discretionary denial
  • Factors for discretionary denial
  • Termination and settlement agreements

Briefing on Motions for Discretionary Denial

A significant aspect of the proposal provides for a separate briefing schedule between a patent owner’s preliminary response (POPR) and a request for discretionary denial, which must be filed no later than one month prior to the deadline for the POPR for briefing on its merits. Under the proposal, the discretionary denial arguments would be excluded from the preliminary response unless otherwise authorized by the Board and are intended to avoid encroaching on the wordcount limits for briefing on the merits. Under the proposed briefing process, there would be a 10-page limit for a patent owner’s request for discretionary denial and for the petitioner opposition, and a five-page limit for the patent owner’s sur-reply.

Factors for Discretionary Denial

The proposed rules address denial of institution for “parallel petitions” or “serial petitions” to provide a framework for considering whether previously presented art or arguments provide grounds for denial. The proposed rules also address treatment of joinder petitions, particularly in relation to already instituted petitions. Parallel petitions are defined in the proposed rule as two or more petitions by the same petitioner challenging the same patent that are filed on or before the filing of a POPR to any of the petitions or on or before the due date for filing a POPR to the first petition. Serial petitions are defined as challenged claims of the same patent overlapping with those in a previously filed petition for IPR, PGR or covered business method patent review.

According to the proposed rules, a parallel petition would not be instituted without a good cause showing of why more than one petition is necessary. Factors for a good cause showing include:

  • A petitioner’s ranking of desired petitions for consideration
  • An explanation of differences and materiality between the petitions
  • The number of challenged patent claims, including those asserted by the patent owner in district court litigation
  • A priority date dispute
  • Alternative claim constructions requiring different prior art references on mutually exclusive grounds
  • Knowledge of asserted claims at the time of filing a petition
  • Complexity of the technology

Similar considerations would also apply to joinder petitions.


Continue Reading

read more

PTO Proposes New Guidelines for Director Review in Board Proceedings

The US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) proposed new rules governing the process for Director review of Patent Trial & Appeal Board decisions in America Invents Act (AIA) proceedings. Rules Governing Director Review of Patent Trial and Appeal Board Decisions, 89 Fed. Reg. 26,807 (proposed Apr. 16, 2024) (to be codified at 37 C.F.R. pt. 42).

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposes adding 37 C.F.R. § 42.75, which includes rules addressing the following issues:

Limited Availability of Director Review. The NPRM proposes that Director review in AIA proceedings would only be available to a party from institution decisions, final written decisions or panel decisions granting rehearing of a decision on institution or a final written decision. However, the Director would have authority to review any interlocutory decisions rendered in reaching such decisions. The NPRM also proposes that the Director may sua sponte review institution decisions, final written decisions or decisions granting rehearing.

Timing, Format and Content of Requests for Director Review. The NPRM proposes that requests for Director review would have to be sought within the time period set forth by 37 C.F.R. § 42.71(d), comply with the formatting and length requirements of 37 C.F.R. §§ 42.6(a) and 42.24(a)(1)(v), and would not be allowed to introduce new evidence. Any sua sponte Director review would have to be initiated within 21 days after the deadline to seek rehearing.

Effect of Director Review. The NPRM proposes that a decision on institution, a final written decision or a decision granting rehearing would become final agency action unless Director review was timely sought or timely initiated sua sponte or a request for Director review was denied.

Director Review Process. The NPRM proposes that Director review would not stay the underlying proceeding, but if the Director grants review, the review would conclude with the issuance of a decision or order that provides the reasons for the Director’s disposition of the case. A party would be permitted to appeal a Director review decision of either a final written decision or a decision granting rehearing of a final written decision (not institution decisions or decisions granting rehearing of institution decisions) to the Federal Circuit in accordance with the procedures set forth in 35 U.S.C. §§ 141(c) and 319. A request for Director review would be treated as a request for rehearing and would reset the time for appeal until Director review was resolved.

Delegation. The NPRM proposes that delegation of Director review would be permitted, subject to conditions set forth by the Director.

Communications With the PTO. The NPRM proposes that communications from a party concerning a specific Director review request or proceeding would have to copy counsel for all parties. Other than authorized amicus briefings, communications from third parties would not be allowed.

Comments are due by June 17, 2024, and can be submitted through the federal eRulemaking portal here.

read more