315(e)(2) Estoppel Application Less Than Straightforward
IPR estoppel is established under 35 U.S.C. § 315(e)(2), which provides that “the petitioner in an inter partes review of a claim in a patent . . . that results in a final written decision . . . may not assert . . . in a civil action . . . that the claim is invalid on any ground that the petitioner raised or reasonably could have raised during that inter partes review
.” (emphasis added). After Last year, in Shaw Industries Group, Inc. v. Auomated Creel Systems, Inc., 817 F.3d 1293
(Fed. Cir. 2016) the interpretation of "reasonably could have raised during that inter partes review" has been unnecessarily complicated.
Shaw had petitioned for a writ of mandamus instructing the PTO to institute IPR based on a ground the Board previously denied as redundant. Id.
at 1299. To satisfy one of three requirements for such a writ, Shaw argued that it had no other adequate means to attain the desired relief because it had brought that ground before the PTO and thus may be estopped from arguing the ground in any future proceeding. Id.
However, the Court found no reason for Shaw to fear estoppel, holding that “[t]he plain language of the statute prohibits the application of estoppel under these circumstances.” Id.
at 1300. The Court’s logic was that an IPR does not “begin until it is instituted.” Id.
According to the Court, under Section 315 and due to its term “during that inter partes review,” an IPR petitioner could not have raised (or have reasonably raised) any ground in a petition for which the PTAB did not institute trial. Shaw’s proffered invalidity ground had been denied and thus never entered the IPR; therefore, Shaw would not be estopped from its new invalidity argument. The take-away from Shaw
is that Section 315(e) does not estop an IPR petitioner from challenging a patent based on petitioned but non-instituted grounds of unpatentability.
The legislative intent behind 315(e)(2) is quite the contrary.