Changes Clarify Expanded Panel Use & Single APJ Institution Decisions

As discussed on Monday, recent informative decisions explain the PTAB process for designating expanded panels for AIA trials. To apply the expressed rational of these decisions to the entirety of the Board, the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) has revised its Standard Operating Procedure (SOP 1) accordingly. The revision addresses the assignment of Administrative Patent Judges to merits panels, interlocutory panels, and expanded panels in appeals, interferences, and AIA Reviews.  Among other things, the revision to SOP 1 clarifies that, although a party may not request an expanded panel, see AOL Inc. v. Coho Licensing LLC, Paper 12, No. IPR2014-00771 (March 24, 2015); Conopco, Inc. v. Procter & Gamble Co., Paper 24, No. IPR2014-00506 (December 10, 2014), a party is permitted to suggest the need for an expanded panel, see PTAB SOP 1 § III.C. (Rev. 14) (May 8, 2015). 

Another, perhaps more noteworthy change, is the ability of a single APJ to decide AIA trial institution. (footnote 1)  Going forward, a single APJ will institute trial, but any perceived prejudice from that single APJ would be avoided (theoretically) by the participation of two additional judges at the time of the final written decision. This change was mentioned in the Director’s blog post some weeks back.

The Board has also released a revised organizational chart and associated explanation (here).