Posts Tagged ‘inter partes review’

Lex Machina’s 2013 Patent Litigation Report Shows Disparity Between Litigated Patents and those under PTAB Review

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Litigation and post-grant proceedings often go hand-in-hand. A new litigation report published by Lex Machina summarizes patent litigation data for 2013 and prior years.  It is an interesting report and very easy to digest.  Two findings caught my eye.  The first one relates to the overall number of patent litigation cases filed in 2013:

Plaintiffs filed 6,092 new patent cases in U.S. District Courts in 2013 . . .

The second finding is the number of U.S. Patents at issue in those filings:

4,917 patents were at issue in all cases filed during 2013.

That second number is surprising, because if understood correctly, the findings indicate that about 5 out of every 6 lawsuits filed in 2013 relate to different patents.  That ratio seems high — especially in view of the AIA litigation joinder provisions.  However, if we assume these numbers are roughly correct, they show a large difference between the number of patents asserted and the petitions filed in the PTAB.

For example, compare Lex Machina’s reported 4,917 patents at issue in 2013 suits with the 1,312 total IPR and CBM petitions on file in the PTAB from September 16, 2012 to May 8, 2014.  These numbers indicate that  at most about 1 out of 3 patents in litigation are the subject of a PTAB petition.  If true, that means several patents in litigation have not been submitted for review by the PTAB.

Of course, bear in mind that this is just a rough, unscientific approximation because:

  • not every petition in the PTAB relates to a new patent,
  • not every patent being challenged in the PTAB is in litigation, and
  • this crude approach does not attempt to correlate the petitions before the PTAB with a certain year of patent assertion.

Not every patent in suit is eligible for a post-issuance proceeding in the PTAB, so there is no reason to expect that every patent in suit will be the subject of a petition.  But, this data seems to indicate that there is still a large number of litigated patents that could be subject to future post-grant challenges. Readers are invited to contact me with better data than this admittedly rough approximation.  Please send me that information and I will try to post it to give a more accurate representation of patents in litigation versus those challenged in the PTAB.

 

See You at the AIPLA 2014 Spring Meeting!

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

I am presenting at the AIPLA Spring Meeting on May 15, 2014 in Philadelphia and hope to see you there.  My task is to provide strategies for filing inter partes reviews, covered business method reviews and post-grant reviews.  I hope to see you there!

I just got back from the PLI Post-Grant Conference held in San Francisco.  The new world of patent litigation has only just begun and we are seeing many interesting ways that the AIA post-grant provisions are changing the way we view and value patents.  This year already has brought a lot of patent-related decisions from the PTAB, Federal Circuit, and Supreme Court.  There will be a lot to process in the months to come.  Stay tuned.

Federal Circuit Dismisses Appeals by Petitioners Who Were Denied Inter Partes Reviews

Friday, April 25th, 2014

The Federal Circuit issued two orders on April 24, 2014 dismissing appeals by petitioners in proceedings where the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) denied institution of inter partes review (IPR).  Each appeal is summarized as follows:

St. Jude Medical, Cardiology Div. v. Volcano Corp. & Michelle K. Lee (as Deputy Director) - Appeal of Denial of IPR Petition

St. Jude brought suit against Volcano for patent infringement of five patents in 2010.  St. Jude Med., Cardiology Div., Inc. v. Volcano Corp., No. 10-cv- 631 (D. Del. filed July 27, 2010).  Volcano counterclaimed alleging patent infringement of its U.S. Pat. 7,134,994 in September of 2010.  More than two years later, the district court dismissed all claims relating to the ’994 patent (based on stipulations by the parties).

About a half year after the district court dismissal, St. Jude filed a petition for IPR of the ’994 patent.  IPR2013-00109.  But that petition was dismissed by the Board (acting as a delegee of the Director) based on the one-year bar for IPR petitions.  35 U.S.C. § 315(b).  In a case of first impression, the Board determined that a counterclaim alleging infringement of a patent asserted over a year before the filing of the IPR petition triggered the 315(b) bar.  St. Jude appealed the Board’s decision not to institute IPR to the Federal Circuit.  Volcano and the PTO Director moved to dismiss St. Jude’s Federal Circuit appeal.

The Federal Circuit dismissed St. Jude’s appeal, holding that it may not hear appeals from the Director’s denial of petition for inter partes review.  In making its decision, the Court applied 35 U.S.C. § 314(d) and explained that an appeal to the Federal Circuit of a decision on IPR lacks jurisdiction unless the Board institutes trial:

Chapter 31 authorizes appeals to this court only from “the final written decision of the [Board] under section 318(a).” Id. § 319. Likewise, section 141(c) in relevant part authorizes appeal only by “a party to an inter partes review . . . who is dissatisfied with the final written decision of the [Board] under section 318(a).” Id. § 141(c). What St. Jude now challenges, however, is the Director’s non-institution decision under section 314(a) & (b). That is not a “final written decision” of the Board under section 318(a), and the statutory provisions addressing inter partes review contain no authorization to appeal a noninstitution decision to this court.  . . .

The statute thus establishes a two-step procedure for inter partes review: the Director’s decision whether to institute a proceeding, followed (if the proceeding is instituted) by the Board’s conduct of the proceeding and decision with respect to patentability.  . . . The statute provides for an appeal to this court only of the Board’s decision at the second step, not the Director’s decision at the first step.

The Federal Circuit’s position on direct appeals from the Director’s decision whether to institute an inter partes review is summarized in the next paragraph:

In fact, the statute goes beyond merely omitting, and underscoring through its structure the omission of, a right to appeal the non-institution decision. It contains a broadly worded bar on appeal. Under the title, “No Appeal,” Section 314(d) declares that “[t]he determination by the Director whether to institute an inter partes review under this section shall be final and nonappealable.” Id. § 314(d). That declaration may well preclude all review by any route, which we need not decide. It certainly bars an appeal of the non-institution decision here.

The Court’s holding in St. Jude Medical was also used to dismiss the next appeal which requested mandamus relief:

In re Dominion Dealer Solutions, LLC. - Petition for Writ of Mandamus to the USPTO

Dominion Dealer Solutions filed several IPR petitions to challenge the patentability of several patents owned by AutoAlert, Inc.  IPR2013-00220, -00222, -00223, -00224 and -00225.  The Board denied institution of trial for five of the IPR petitions.  Dominion filed requests for rehearing, but they were also denied by the Board.  Dominion then filed an action in the Eastern District of Virginia to challenge the Board’s decision under the Administrative Procedures Act (see my earlier post).  Dominion also filed a “Petition for Writ of Mandamus to the Director” with the Federal Circuit.

The Federal Circuit denied the petition for mandamus.  In denying Dominion’s appeal, the Federal Circuit referenced the St. Jude Medical decision made that same day:

In another Order issued today, we dismiss an appeal by a patent challenger seeking review of the Director’s decision not to institute an inter partes review. See Order Dismissing Appeal, St. Jude Med., Cardiology Div., Inc. v. Volcano Corp., No. 2014-1183 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 24, 2014). We explain that such a challenger may not appeal the non-institution decision to this court. We conclude that such an appeal is precluded by the statutory provisions addressing inter partes review, including section 314(d)’s broad declaration that the Director’s decision “whether to institute an inter partes review under this section shall be final and nonappealable,” and by our jurisdictional statute. See St. Jude, slip op. at 5-6.

Those conclusions require denial of Dominion’s petition for mandamus relief. At a minimum, given our conclusions about the statutory scheme, Dominion has no “clear and indisputable” right to challenge a noninstitution decision directly in this court, including by way of mandamus. That is all we need to decide.

The Court noted Dominion’s appeal in the Eastern District of Virginia, and its dismissal on April 18, 2014, but concluded “[w]e need not decide that issue here.”

_______

These decisions remind petitioners that they should take every reasonable measure to obtain institution of trial, because appeals of Board decisions denying institution of trial will not easily survive a motion for dismissal in light of the holding in St. Jude Medical. It will be interesting to see whether Dominion will decide to appeal the district court’s dismissal of its APA challenge now that the Federal Circuit has rejected mandamus relief under the St. Jude Medical holding.

Eastern District of Virginia Decides PTAB Decision to not institute IPR is Not Appealable

Monday, April 21st, 2014

A patent owner insists that your company infringes a patent and makes a claim of patent infringement.  You have settled patent infringement assertions before, but this patent seems invalid over known prior art.  You consult with your patent counsel and a decision is made to file a petition for inter partes review (IPR) under the new post-grant challenges afforded by the America Invents Act.

A lot of hard work goes into preparing the IPR petition.  You include a declaration by an expert and multiple prior art grounds of invalidity.  You file your petition, knowing that in six months you will get a decision on whether the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) will institute trial.  You get notice that a decision has been made and you read it, only to learn that your petition for IPR has been denied in total.  You believe the decision not to institute is a mistake.  What do you do?

To know your options you consult the statute:

§ 314. Institution of inter partes review

. . .

(d) NO APPEAL.—The determination by the Director whether to institute an inter partes review under this section shall be final and nonappealable.

Final and nonappealable?  That does not sound good.  After all, you recall hearing something about requests for reconsideration.  So you consult the CFR:

§ 42.71 Decision on petitions or motions.

. . .

(c) Petition decisions. A decision by the Board on whether to institute a trial is final and nonappealable. A party may request rehearing on a decision by the Board on whether to institute a trial pursuant to paragraph (d) of this section. When rehearing a decision on petition, a panel will review the decision for an abuse of discretion.

(d) Rehearing. A party dissatisfied with a decision may file a request for rehearing, without prior authorization from the Board. The burden of showing a decision should be modified lies with the party challenging the decision. The request must specifically identify all matters the party believes the Board misapprehended or overlooked, and the place where each matter was previously addressed in a motion, an opposition, or a reply. A request for rehearing does not toll times for taking action. Any request must be filed: . . .  (2) Within 30 days of the entry of a final decision or a decision not to institute a trial.

You prepare and file a request for rehearing according to the rules, but the PTAB affirms its earlier decision.  What can you do now?

Petitioners are starting to explore different avenues to attempt to challenge a decision not to institute trial.  Some have filed for relief in the Eastern District of Virginia, some have appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and some have made claims in both courts.  A recent decision by the Eastern District of Virginia relies on § 314(d) to hold that appeals of PTAB decisions to not institute trial are  final and nonappealable.

In Dominion Dealer Solutions, LLC, v. Michele K. Lee, 3:13CV699, ____ (E.D. Va. 2014), Judge Robert E. Payne denied  Dominon’s challenge of the PTAB’s decision not to institute trial in five IPR petitions filed by Dominion against patents owned by AutoAlert, Inc.  The court instead granted the PTO’s motion to dismiss based on its interpretation that the PTAB’s decision not to institute trial is final an nonappealable under 35 U.S.C. § 314(d).

As it turns out, the Federal Circuit already has a petition for mandamus from Dominion requesting relief from the PTAB decision to not institute IPR.  It will be interesting to see how the Federal Circuit decides that petition, because that may be an indicator of the Federal Circuit’s approach to other persons that are also seeking a writ of mandamus — some of which we will be discussing in future posts.

 

 

 

Join Me in San Francisco for PLI’s Post-Grant CLE Program on April 28

Friday, March 7th, 2014

I will be presenting at PLI’s “USPTO Post-Grant Patent Trials 2014″ CLE Program on April 28th with a number of other post-grant practitioners. Please join us there or attend via webinar! — Timothy Bianchi

USPTO Statistics Show Inter Partes Patent Reviews are Frequently Settled Before Final Board Decision

Monday, February 17th, 2014

The U.S. Patent Office regularly posts statistics on post-grant proceedings such as inter partes review and covered business method patent review.   An excerpt of PTAB statistics for February 13, 2014 is found below.  The acronyms “FWD” and “RAJ” stand for “Final Written Decision on the merits” and “Request for Adverse Judgment.”  The “Other” category includes terminations due to dismissal.

IPR Stats for 2-13-2014

The number of trials with a final written decision on the merits (FWD) remains relatively small because IPR proceedings take roughly about a year and a half from filing of a petition to conclusion, and the AIA provision allowing IPRs is only about 17 months old.

Interestingly, the data shows a relatively high number of settled IPR proceedings.  These settlements can occur any time after the filing of the petition and before a final written decision on the merits.  Therefore, these settlements are made within months of the Petition filing rather than years.  Of course, all settlements are not equal.  Some result in the termination of both the Patent Office proceeding and the concurrent District Court litigation. Others may only  terminate the Patent Office proceeding.  And, as discussed in earlier posts, some settlements may dismiss the Petitioner from the Patent Office proceeding but maintain the proceeding against the Patent Owner.  Regardless, early settlements often favor the Petitioner and provide a “win” for the Petitioner.  And even if that is not the case, settlements executed before a final decision on the merits provide another opportunity for early discussion and resolution of patent disputes.

It should be noted that IPRs are responsible for more settlements than can be provided by these statistics, because many disputes are resolved by settlements achieved prior to any filing of IPR petitions (i.e., in cases where the Patent Owner is afforded an opportunity to settle before an IPR petition is filed).

It will be some time before more accurate statistics on IPRs will be available, however these settlement statistics show that parties can achieve some resolution of patent disputes very early in post-grant proceedings, and likely much earlier than in traditional litigation time frames.

Patent Office Board Clarifies Petitioner Role for Single Petition by Several Companies

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

A petition for covered business method review, inter partes review, or post-grant review may  be filed on behalf of of several different parties and real parties in interest.  Typically, such filings involve one, two, or three named persons (e.g., companies) as the petitioner.  However, the Board’s rules do not state a limit on the number of persons that may sign a single petition. On October 15, 2013, thirty-five (35) companies were named in a Petition for a Covered Business Method Patent Review of U.S. Patent 8,146,077.  Agilysys, Inc. et al v. Ameranth, Inc., CBM2014-00014.  The companies named in the Petition include:

Slide1

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB or Board) used this Petition to clarify its position on petitions naming several parties and real parties in interest. Id., Paper 11 (February 11, 2014).  The Board clarified that the Petition may name several companies, but that each cannot separately appear and independently participate:

On February 7, 2014, the Board initiated a conference call with the parties, to inform the parties that although thirty-five companies are identified in the petition as “Petitioners” and real parties-in-interest, the thirty-five companies collectively constitute only a single party in this proceeding before the Board. Consequently, the designation in the petition of fifteen pairs of lead and backup counsel, one pair for each of fifteen groupings of the thirty-five companies, is unacceptable. As a single party before the Board, all thirty-five companies must speak with a uniform voice, whether in writing or orally in a conference call, hearing, or deposition.

Counsel for Petitioner proposed that the thirty-five companies would file a single paper, sharing the pages among themselves, and in the event of differences  in the positions of the different companies, there would be one or more separate sections in the paper to articulate the differences.  Counsel for Patent Owner objected to this approach.  The Board agreed with Patent Owner:

The manner of conducting this proceeding, as proposed by [Counsel for Petitioner], is not in accordance with the rules governing trial practice and procedure before the Board. The thirty-five companies collectively filed a single petition, and thus, are recognized as a single party, as Petitioner, before the Board. According to 37 C.F.R. § 42.2, “Petitioner” means “the party filing a petition requesting that a trial be instituted.” In circumstances not involving a motion for joinder or consolidation of separate proceedings, for each “petition” there is but a single party filing the petition, no matter how many companies are listed as petitioner or petitioners and how many companies are identified as real parties-in-interest. Even though the separate companies regard and identify themselves as “Petitioners,” before the Board they constitute and stand in the shoes of a single “Petitioner.”

Because the thirty-five companies constitute, collectively, a single party, they must speak with a single voice, both in writing and oral representation. [Counsel for Petitioner's] proposal transforms the “Petitioner” under 37 C.F.R. § 42.2 from a single party into thirty-five different parties. That is not only contrary to 37 C.F.R. § 42.2, which defines “Petitioner” as a single party by referring to “the party filing a petition,” but also prejudicial to Patent Owner, who potentially would have to respond to thirty-five different, possibly inconsistent, positions on every issue. Nor would the Board’s interests in the speedy and efficient resolution of post-grant proceedings be served by permitting the presentation of inconsistent positions based on the filing of a single petition.

The original Petition named fifteen pairs of lead and backup counsel.  Based on the “single petitioner” concept articulated by the Board, the Petitioner was ordered to file a paper to re-designate lead and backup counsel “by regarding itself as a single party” in accordance with 37 C.F.R. § 42.10(a) within a week of the Order entered February 11, 2014.

 

Board Proposes Solution for Petitioner if Expert Witness Not Available for Deposition in Patent Office Trial

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

In current post-grant practice, most petitions are accompanied by an expert declaration to support the assertions made by the petitioner.  If the petitioner successfully obtains institution of a patent office trial (inter partes review, covered business method patent review, or post-grant review), each declarant making a declaration for the petition must be made available for deposition.  But what happens if the declarant is not available?  One example is provided in Corning Gilbert Inc. v. PPC Broadband, Inc., IPR2013-00347.

In the Corning IPR, the Petitioner’s expert, Dr. Mroczkowski, signed a declaration that was submitted to support the IPR petition.  After institution of the IPR, the Board was informed that Dr. Mroczkowski had become ill with cancer and had to undergo surgery.  He was also undergoing weekly chemotherapy and daily radiation treatment during late December and scheduled for therapy up to early February.  Counsel for Petitioner requested a twelve week extension in order for Dr. Mroczkowski to recover and be available for deposition, noting that 35 U.S.C. § 316(a)(11) provides an additional  time (up to 6 months) to complete the IPR.

The Board declined a twelve week extension, and instead suggested that Petitioner attempt to locate another expert who would be willing to present the same testimony as Dr. Mroczkowski:

The Board considers reasonable an extension of approximately five weeks for Petitioner to locate and substitute, for Dr. Mroczkowski, another expert witness who would be willing to execute the same declaration executed by Dr. Mroczkowski, excluding the credentials and qualifications of Dr. Mroczkowski. Counsel for Petitioner expressed that obtaining another expert at this time would add to Petitioner’s cost, perhaps unnecessarily, because Dr. Mroczkowski may recover in time to be cross-examined.

The Board explained that five weeks will be provided to Petitioner to make an effort to resolve the difficulty presented by the illness of Petitioner’s original expert witness. Petitioner is free to forego that opportunity, and to depend on Dr. Mroczkowski’s getting well enough to be cross-examined at an appropriate time according to a revised schedule including the five-week extension. In that case, however, Petitioner will have made a litigation choice, and assumed the risk of events not proceeding according to plan.

(IPR2013-00347, Paper 18 at p. 3, December 23, 2013.)

The Board provided more guidance in its next order (Paper 20, January 2, 2014).  Counsel for Petitioner suggested that it file a declaration by a second expert “simply declaring that the second expert agrees with the opinions set forth in Dr. Mroczkowski’s declaration.”  The Board indicated that the proposed approach would still ultimately rely on the testimony of Dr. Mroczkowksi, “which is inappropriate if he cannot be cross-examined.”  (Paper 20 at p. 2.)  The Board offered another approach:

The Board inquired why the new expert could not execute a declaration literally having the same wording as in Dr. Mroczkowski’s declaration. Counsel for Corning replied that because the two experts will have different qualifications, paragraph numbers as referenced in Corning’s petition, directed to Dr. Mroczkowski’s declaration, likely will not match paragraph numbers in the declaration executed by the second expert witness.

To maintain the same paragraph numbers in the second declaration, however, Corning may present qualifications of its second expert witness in a separate exhibit or in later paragraphs, and then use blank spaces to occupy the paragraphs which, in the first expert declaration, express the qualifications of Dr. Mroczkowski. If such a substitute expert declaration is filed, however, Corning also should file a substitute petition that refers to the declaration by the substitute expert witness, and not the declaration of Dr. Mroczkowski.

The Board asked the parties to try to reach agreement as to the various specifics about Corning’s potentially filing of a substitute declaration from another expert witness, to replace that of Dr. Mroczkowski, before contacting the Board with a proposal.

The parties appear to have agreed to new dates, as set forth in a Notice of Stipulation to Extend Due Dates 1-3 (Paper 21, January 14, 2014).  However, there is nothing further in the record to reflect whether agreement was reached as to the possible filing of a substitute declaration as of the date of this post.

It remains to be seen if this approach is employed in other contested proceedings, since it is inevitable that an expert witness will occasionally be unable to testify after institution of a proceeding.

[Editor's Note:   All of us who have had friends or family touched by cancer empathize with Dr. Mroczkowski's situation, and we wish him a full and speedy recovery.]

Litigation Defendants Cannot Rely on Joinder to Avoid Timing Requirements of Inter Partes Reviews

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

In my last post, we explored the interplay of the one-year bar under 35 U.S.C. § 315(b) and joinder in inter partes review (IPR) proceedings.  That case involved a Petitioner who could not have filed an IPR petition prior to the 315(b) bar date because the bar triggered prior to the date that the America Invents Act (AIA) authorized filing of IPR petitions.  That Petitioner was barred from joining another set of IPRs when those IPRs were terminated early (before decision on institution).

Consider the situation where a prospective petitioner could file an IPR under the AIA, but observes another Petitioner has already filed an IPR petition, so the prospective petitioner hesitates to file pending the results of the earlier-filed IPR petition.  Shouldn’t that  prospective petitioner just wait to see if the first petition is successful in obtaining institution of trial, and then join if the first petitioner is granted?  If so, the prospective petitioner could file its petition with a request for joinder to join the first IPR under 35 U.S.C. § 315(c) and 37 C.F.R. § 42.122(b), correct?  Perhaps, but what happens if the first Petitioner settles with Patent Owner before the Board’s institution decision?  If the prospective petitioner files its petition after it is barred under 315(b), and the first IPR terminates before institution of trial, the prospective petitioner will have lost its right to join the earlier-filed IPR and its late petition will be dismissed.  That’s precisely what recently happened in IPR2014-00244:

The Board agrees with Patent Owner that Fifth Third Bank should not have delayed in filing its petition until after it learned of the settlement, allowing the one-year period under 35 U.S.C. § 315(b) to lapse. By doing so, Fifth Third Bank took a risk that the inter partes review proceeding would terminate prior to a decision on institution, as 35 U.S.C. § 315(c) only permits joinder to a previously instituted case. See 35 U.S.C. § 315(c) (“If the Director institutes an inter partes review, the Director, in his or her discretion, may join as a party to that inter partes review . . .”). We do not find persuasive Fifth Third Bank’s arguments of prejudice. Fifth Third Bank made a litigation choice, and now must face the consequences.

Because Fifth Third Bank delayed its filing, and IPR2013-00341 has been terminated, the joinder statute’s prerequisite of an instituted review cannot be met. Fifth Third Bank’s request for joinder is, therefore, denied.

Fifth Third Bank v. Leon Stambler, IPR2014-00244, Paper 4 (December 17, 2013) at p. 5.

Under the statute, joinder is available if institution occurs.  But since settlement and termination can occur before institution of trial, a prospective petitioner must be careful not to allow the 315(b) bar to block its filing if that can be avoided.

Patent Office Board Takes a Bite out of Apple’s IPR Challenge of VirnetX Patents

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

In  mid-2013 Apple filed seven inter partes review petitions to challenge four VirnetX patents.  Recently, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (the Board) denied all seven inter partes review (IPR) petitions.  This outcome demonstrates the Board’s current interpretation of the one-year bar applied in IPR proceedings and its position on joinder of petitions.

Apple’s Interpretation of the One Year Bar

Apple disclosed that its petitions were filed more than a year after service of a complaint asserting infringement of the subject patents, and understood that the petitions might be challenged depending on the Board’s interpretation of 35 U.S.C. § 315(b) (the statute barring IPR petitions filed after certain assertions of infringement):

Petitioner notes it was previously served with a complaint asserting infringement of the ’135 patent in August of 2010, which led to Civil Action No: 6:10-cv-417. During that action, the District Court established an additional civil action, Civil Action No. 6:13-cv-00211-LED, on February 26, 2013 (also pending in the Eastern District of Texas). The August 2010 complaint does not foreclose the present petition, as Patent Owner served a new complaint on Petitioner asserting infringement of the ’135 patent in December of 2012.

Apple Inc. v. VirnetX, Inc., et al., IPR2013-00348, Paper 1 (June 12, 2013), at p. 1 (emphasis in original).  Similar disclosures can be found in the other six related petitions:  IPR2013-00349, -354, 393, -394, -397, and -398.

Apple anticipated that the 2010 complaint service might cause a concern and argued that the 315(b) bar should not apply:

Petitioner submits this conclusion [that the petitions are not barred] is compelled by the plain language of § 315(b). Notably, § 315(b) does not specify a one-year deadline that runs from the date of the first complaint served on a petitioner. Rather, it states “[a]n inter partes review may not be instituted if the petition requesting the proceeding is filed more than 1 year after the date on which the petitioner, real party in interest, or privy of the petitioner is served with a complaint alleging infringement of the patent.” Thus, a petition filed within 1 year of the date any complaint alleging infringement of the patent is served on a petitioner is timely under the plain statutory language of § 315(b). This is also the only reading of § 315(b) consistent with the statutory design. Congress designed the IPR authority to be option to contest validity of a patent concurrently with district court proceedings involving the same patent. A timely filed IPR proceeding in any action a patent owner elects to commence is perfectly consistent with this statutory design.

Reading § 315(b) in this manner also is the only way to effectively foreclose gaming of the system by a Patent Owner. Indeed, if § 315(b) were read to foreclose IPR proceedings in a second, independent action for infringement a patent owner elected to commence, it would unfairly foreclose use of the IPR system. For example, a patent owner could assert irrelevant claims in a first action, wait a year, and then assert different claims in a new action that do present risks to a third party. In this scenario, the patent owner would foreclose legitimate use of an IPR to contest validity of the patent claims asserted in the second action based on the third party’s reasonable business decision to not dispute validity of irrelevant claims in the first action. Rather than attempting to decipher which scenarios would be improper, the Board should follow the plain meaning of § 315(b), and find a petition timely if it is filed within 1 year of the date any complaint alleging infringement of the patent is served on a Petitioner.

Finally, reading §315(b) to foreclose this petition based on the August 2010 complaint would be particularly unjust in this case. The 1-year period following service of the August 2010 complaint expired before it was possible to submit an IPR petition – petitions could only be filed on or after September 16, 2012.

Id., Paper 1 at pp. 2-3 (emphasis in original).

But Apple had one more card to play that could avoid the entire issue of the 315(b) bar:  a request for joinder with another IPR proceeding challenging the same patent.

Apple’s Joinder Request

Apple knew that if it could successfully join another IPR proceeding, such joinder under 35 U.S.C. § 315(c) (and  37 C.F.R. § 42.122(b)) would not be subject to the one year bar under the last sentence of 35 U.S.C. § 315(b).  Apple filed its Motion for Joinder on August 21, 2013, requesting joinder to IPR proceedings by New Bay Capital, LLC challenging the VirnetX patents:

Pursuant to the authorization granted by the Panel on August 14, 2013 in Paper No. 6, Petitioner Apple Inc. (“Petitioner” or Apple) moves to have the Board join IPR proceedings IPR2013-00348 & -00349 to each other and with IPR proceeding IPR2013-00375 filed by New Bay Capital, LLC (“NBC”), each of which concerns U.S. Patent No. 6,502,135.

Id., Paper 7 at p. 1.

Apple submits that joinder of the proceedings is fully warranted. See IPR2013-00004, Paper 15 at 4; Dell v. Network-1 Security Solutions, Inc., IPR2013-00385, Paper 17 at 2-3. Joinder is proper under the statutory design of inter partes review, will simplify and reduce the number of issues before the Board and will enable streamlined proceedings (i.e., one coordinated proceeding instead of three separate proceedings). In addition, the Board can manage the joined proceeding in a way that does not impact scheduling or conduct of the proceedings. See Motorola Mobility LLC v. Softview, LLC, IPR2013-00256, Paper 10 at 2-3.

Id., Paper 7 at p. 3.

So, it seemed like Apple had two independent avenues for potential institution of IPR:  (1) an interpretation of 315(b) that would result in no bar of the petitions, and (2) joinder with ongoing IPR proceedings filed by New Bay Capital, regardless of any potential 315(b) bar.

New Bay Capital Terminates its IPRs

On November 6, 2013, New Bay Capital filed unopposed motions to terminate its IPRs (IPR2013-00375, -376, -377, and -378):

Pursuant to 37 C.F.R. §42.73(b)(4) and the Board’s Order of November 1, 2013, Petitioner New Bay Capital, LLC (“New Bay”) moves to terminate the present inter partes review proceeding. Termination is appropriate because New Bay is abandoning this contest, VirnetX does not oppose and a trial has not been instituted.

The Board granted New Bay Capital’s motions and terminated those IPR proceedings on November 12, 2013.

Apple’s IPR Petitions Denied

The Board reviewed the facts of the complaints served on Apple in the past and decided that the 2010 complaint served on Apple barred its IPR petition under 315(b).  The Board also dismissed Apple’s joinder request because the Board had recently terminated the New Bay Capital IPRs:

The timeliness limitation of 35 U.S.C. § 315(b) does not apply to a request for joinder. As such, Petitioner filed a motion to join the instant proceeding with another proceeding, IPR2013-00375, pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 315(c). See Paper 7 (“Petitioner’s Motion for Joinder of Proceedings”). Granting the motion would obviate the time bar under 35 U.S.C. § 315 (b). The IPR2013-00375 proceeding, however, has been terminated. New Bay Capital, LLC v. Virnetx, Inc., IPR2013-00375, Paper 16 (PTAB Nov. 12, 2013). Accordingly, Petitioner’s motion for joinder is dismissed.

Id., Paper 14 at p. 5.

So both of Apple’s avenues for institution of trial in these seven IPR petitions were blocked by the Board.

Reconsideration Still an Option

Even though Apple’s seven IPR petitions were denied, Apple still has the right to request reconsideration and it remains to be seen if it will file requests for rehearing.  Such requests have historically proved to be unlikely to be granted.  Other Petitioners have sought additional avenues for institution that will be discussed in a future post.