The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) decisions on the timeliness of administrative patent validity challenges are not appealable to Article III courts.

Inter partes review proceedings give an accused infringer the right to challenge the asserted patent’s invalidity before the USPTO, provided that such challenges are timely filed within one year of the complaint for patent infringement. The Supreme Court ruling in Thryv v. Click-to-Call Technologies gives the USPTO almost unfettered authority to decide whether a party properly sought review under the America Invents Act (“AIA”) within the one year, or was in privity with a supplier, business partner or other party who had been sued. The ruling is a blow to patent owners, who have frequently challenged inter partes review proceedings on those grounds and won at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

But letting patent owners tie up proceedings with timeliness appeals cuts against the AIA’s goal of weeding out bad patent claims efficiently, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for 7-2 majority. Doing so would “tug against that objective, wasting the resources spent resolving patentability and leaving bad patents enforceable,” Ginsburg wrote.

Justice Neil Gorsuch dissented, arguing that the time-bar is “both a constraint on the agency’s power and a valuable guarantee that a patent owner must battle the same foe only once,” and the PTO should not have “freewheeling authority” to interpret it.

The case is Thryv Inc. v. Click-To-Call Technologies LP, case number 18-916, in the Supreme Court of the United States.

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