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Time Bar Dismissal Saves Patent Found Unpatentable

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit dismissed an appeal, finding it lacked appellate jurisdiction to review a Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) decision to vacate an institution decision of inter partes review (IPR) based in part on the Board’s time bar evaluation. Atlanta Gas Light Co. v. Bennet Regulator Guards, Inc., Case No. 21-1759, (Fed. Cir., May 13, 2022) (Lourie, Stoll, JJ.) (Newman, J. dissenting)

This is the third time this case has been before the Federal Circuit. On July 18, 2012, Bennett served Atlanta Gas with a complaint alleging infringement of its patent. The district court dismissed the complaint without prejudice. More than two and a half years after service of the complaint, Atlanta Gas filed an IPR petition. Bennett argued that Atlanta Gas’s IPR petition was time barred, but the Board disagreed, instituted review of all claims and found every claim unpatentable in a final written decision. After receiving the final decision, Bennett sought sanctions for Atlanta Gas’s failure to notify the Board of Atlanta Gas’s changed parentage. On appeal, the Federal Circuit vacated the Board’s final written decision, finding the IPR time barred under 35 U.S.C. §315(b). (Bennett Regulator Guards, Inc. v. Atlanta Gas Light Co.). The Supreme Court thereafter issued its decision in Thryv, Inc. v. Click-To-Call Tech, where it held that time bar determinations are not reviewable. On remand from the Supreme Court, the Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s unpatentability decision, did not address the time bar decision and remanded the case back to the Board to finalize its order on sanctions (Bennett II). On remand, the Board vacated its institution decision in light of the US Patent & Trademark Office’s (PTO) changed policy on time bar evaluations and declined to award the requested sanctions. Atlanta Gas appealed.

The Federal Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. Atlanta Gas argued that the Board’s decision was a final sanctions decision that is reviewable under 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(4)(A) and that any portion of the Board’s determination beyond the sanctions award violated the Court’s mandate in Bennett II. Bennett countered that the Court lacked jurisdiction under 35 U.S.C. § 314(d) and the Supreme Court’s Thryv decision and that the Board’s decision was not inconsistent with the Bennett II mandate. The Court agreed, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction because the Board’s decision was based in part on its time bar evaluation and, therefore, was not purely a sanctions decision. Additionally, the Court found that the time bar determination was within the scope of the mandate, albeit mooting its determination of unpatentability.

Judge Newman dissented. In her view, the sanctions order was the only issue on appeal. She also pointed out the inconsistency with the Bennett II mandate, noting the contradiction in the Federal Circuit currently mooting the unpatentability decision with the Bennett II decision finding the patent unpatentable. She explained that denial of appellate review could be seen as authorizing the Board to vacate its final decisions [...]

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What’s the Deal with Comedians?: Too Late for Copyright Claim against Seinfeld

In a non-precedential ruling by summary order, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against famed comedian Jerry Seinfeld, finding that the defendant’s claims, which accrued in 2012, were time-barred. Christian Charles v. Jerry Seinfeld, et al., Case No. 19-3335 (2d Cir. May 7, 2020) (Summary Order).

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PTAB Time Bar Application in Instituting IPR Proceedings Nonappealable

Addressing the scope of review of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (PTAB’s) application of the one-year time bar of 35 USC § 315(b) in deciding whether to institute an inter partes review (IPR) proceeding, the Supreme Court of the United States held that application of the time bar by the PTAB is nonappealable. Thryv, Inc. v. Click-to-Call Techs., LP, Case No. 18-916 (Supr. Ct. Apr. 20, 2019) (Ginsburg, Justice) (Gorsuch, Justice, joined in part by Sotomayor, Justice, dissenting). The Court explained that an appeal based on the PTAB’s application of the time bar for filing an IPR petition is prohibited under 35 USC § 314(d), which states that the PTAB’s decision on institution “shall be final and nonappealable.”

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11th Circuit Tells Guitar Maker to Take a [Pantera] Walk on Delayed Copyright Claims

Affirming a summary judgment in favor of defendant, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit determined that a copyright infringement lawsuit pertaining to the graphic design on a guitar made famous by a late heavy metal guitarist, was time-barred because the plaintiff’s copyright infringement claim was actually a claim of copyright ownership over the design. Buddy Webster v. Dean Guitars, et al., Case No. 19-10013 (11th Cir. Apr. 16, 2020) (Wilson, J.).

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Federal Circuit Confirms Time Bar Under § 315(b) Is Waivable

Notwithstanding the jurisdictional nature of the time bar under § 315(b), the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit determined that a party may waive a time bar argument if it failed to raise the issue with the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) during the inter partes review (IPR) proceeding. Acoustic Tech. Inc. v. Itron Networked Solutions, Inc., Case No. 19-1061 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 13, 2020) (Reyna, J.).

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