October 1, 2014
The reader may recall that last week an expanded PTAB panel announced an interpretation of 35 U.S.C. § 315(c) that essentially ruled out a joinder request for a subsequent IPR petition made by an existing party to the instituted proceeding. Target Corp. v. Destination Maternity Corp. (IPR2014-00508 and -00509.) In Target, the Board adopted a “party joinder” interpretation of the § 315(c) IPR joinder statute that provided for new persons to join an instituted IPR, but not for joinder of new issues raised by the same petitioner.
This interpretation was a departure from an earlier interpretation of § 315(c) that allowed a party to the instituted IPR the ability to request joinder of a later-filed petition based on new issues (“issue joinder”). As noted by the Board in Target:
In other decisions, the Board has granted joinder of an additional petition or proceeding (as opposed to an additional person) to an instituted inter partes review. See Ariosa Diagnostics v. Isis Innovation Ltd., Case IPR2012-00022 (PTAB Sept. 2, 2014) (Paper 66) (“Ariosa”); Samsung Elecs. Co. v. Virgina Innovation Scis., Inc., Case IPR2014-00557 (PTAB June 13, 2014) (Paper 10) (“Samsung”); Microsoft Corp. v. Proxyconn, Inc., Case IPR2013-00109 (PTAB Feb. 25, 2013) (Paper 15); ABB Inc. v. Roy-G-Biv Corp., Case IPR2013-00286 (PTAB Aug. 9, 2013) (Paper 14); Sony Corp. v. Yissum Research Dev. Co. of the Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem, Case IPR2013-00327 (PTAB Sept. 24, 2013) (Paper 15).
The issue joinder interpretation provided a petitioner a mechanism to attempt to “cure” a partial institution based on new grounds of unpatentability or to challenge claims newly added to the litigation since the filing of the original IPR petition. And this could be done even if the later-filed IPR petition was filed after the § 315(b) one-year bar date.
This week, the Board rejected four IPR petitions with joinder requests based on the earlier ‘issued joinder” interpretation of § 315(c). In Microsoft Corp. v. Enfish LLC (IPRs 2014-00574, -00575, -00576, and -00577), the Board denied joinder, but only after it made a full analysis of Microsoft’s joinder request based on the issues raised by Microsoft. Since Microsoft was the Petitioner in the underlying instituted proceedings, these later-filed IPR petitions and their respective joinder requests were made by the same party (Microsoft), yet the Board did not apply the “party joinder” interpretation announced in Target. Had the Board used the party joinder interpretation the decisions would have been much shorter.
Microsoft had filed these four IPRs and their respective joinder requests after the one-year IPR bar, so failure to obtain joinder resulted in each later-filed petition being denied based on the § 315(b) one-year bar.
The Target and Microsoft decisions were only four days apart. It may take more time to determine whether the Board intends to use the issue joinder or party joinder approach to decide future IPR joinder motions.