Adding New Blood into the Estoppel Mix

IPR estoppel under 35 U.S.C. § 315(e)(2) 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).  As pointed out previously, a growing number of district courts have construed the phrase the “reasonably could have raised” aspect of 35 U.S.C. §§ 315(e)(2) to define grounds that a party could have included in its petition, but did not.

Assuming a failed petitioner can locate a piece of prior art that it could not have raised earlier (and make the appropriate showing to avoid estoppel) are combinations with failed art of the IPR precluded?
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Estopping a Winning Argument?

One of the stranger developments of recent months has been the interpretation of PTAB estoppel (315(e)(2)) to foreclose a petitioner from pursuing arguments in a district court that were successful at the PTAB. That is, a petitioner that has successfully defeated claims at the PTAB, and has received a Final Written Decision (FWD) explaining the same, is thereafter estopped from making the same successful arguments in court.

Earlier this month, the government supported this position in an amicus brief to the Federal Circuit in BTG v. AmnealIn it’s brief, the government explains that its interpretation leads to the “counterintuitive result that the district court would not be able to consider invalidity arguments that the Board found persuasive.”

Aside from interpreting the statute to be “counterintuitive” in the first instance, which is canon of sorts in statutory construction, it also requires one to construe estoppel as somehow guarding against consistency.
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Invalidity Contentions Serve as Estoppel Benchmark

A Patent Owner may only avail itself of an IPR estoppel defense in court upon demonstrating that a competent prior art search would have uncovered the art that is asserted post-IPR (i.e., raised or reasonably could have raised during the IPR. 35 U.S.C. § 315(e)(2))  This demonstration of proof can be complicated by a number of factual questions such as the degree of skill of the searcher, the complexity of the art, and what was known by the petitioner and when.

A recent decision in the Southern District of Texas looks to simplify such disputes by utilizing invalidity contentions as estoppel markers. 
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