A lawsuit brought by Apple, Google and other big tech companies regarding the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s policy on inter partes reviews (IPRs) has been dismissed by a federal judge in California. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office permits administrative judges to deny more bids for IPRs, which the tech companies claimed undermined the role IPRs play in the patent world and that the policy violates federal law.
How do IPRs work?
The IPR process permits parties to contest the validity of a patent on the basis of prior art consisting of patents or printed publications. Big tech companies generally face many patent infringement lawsuits, and view this process as a way to deal with frivolous claims. The number of rejections of IPR petitions have been growing, however, because the PTO gives administrative law judges the discretion to deny IPRs if related litigation is progressing.
Apple, Google and other big tech companies sued the PTO claiming that the policy undermined the PTOs goal of “protecting a strong patent system” and also that the policy was in violation of federal law. The PTO argued that its decisions on whether to deny IPRs cannot be challenged. The court agreed with the PTO, citing a 2020 high court ruling which dictated that “closely related” PTO decisions cannot be reviewed.
The court’s decision can be found at Apple Inc. v. Iancu, Case No. 5:20-cv-06128-EJD, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 218143 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 10, 2021).
Patent law is complex
As this shows, patent law can be incredibly nuanced. However, patents form the backbone of many businesses. These businesses both want to ensure their products and processes are protected, but also want to protect themselves from patent infringement claims. These are complex cases that many companies choose to seek help with patent trials, so they can make educated decisions.