Court Finds Issue Joinder Inconsistent with AIA Statute

As I predicted back in August, the Federal Circuit has now effectively reversed the PTAB’s first Precedential Opinion Panel (POP) decision in Proppant Express Investments v. Oren Technologies, Case IPR2018-00914 (PTAB Mar. 13, 2019) (Paper 38)  In this decision, the POP held that 35 U.S.C. § 315(c) provides discretion to allow a petitioner to be “joined” to a proceeding in which it is already a party, and provides discretion to allow joinder of new issues into an existing proceeding (here).

In  Facebook, Inc. v. Windy City Innovations, LLC, the Federal Circuit held that 315(c) was not ambiguous—an existing “party” to a proceeding cannot be joined as a party— and, as such there was no reason to even consider the earlier POP precedent for according any Chevron or Skidmore deference.  However, the Court then went on to explain that even if there were ambiguity, the POP decision would not be accorded deference in accordance with administrative law principles.
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Issue Joinder on the Way Out?

As discussed some months back, the Patent Trial & Appeal Board’s (PTAB) new Precedential Opinion Panel (POP) decided its first case in Proppant Express Investments v. Oren Technologies, Case IPR2018-00914 (PTAB Mar. 13, 2019) (Paper 38)  In this decision, the POP held that 35 U.S.C. § 315(c) provides discretion to allow a petitioner to be “joined” to a proceeding in which it is already a party, and provides discretion to allow joinder of new issues into an existing proceeding (here).

This practice, known as “issue joinder” is now before the Federal Circuit. And, the Court does not appear receptive to the agency’s statutory interpretation.
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Issue Joinder Debate Comes Full Circle

As previously discussed, the Patent Trial & Appeal Board’s (PTAB) new Precedential Opinion Panel (POP) has considered its first case in Proppant Express Investments v. Oren Technologies, Case IPR2018-00914 (PTAB Mar. 13, 2019) (Paper 38)

The POP reversed the earlier (divided) panel decision in Proppant Express (which conflicted with the earlier consensus of Target Corp. v. Destination Maternity), holding that 35 U.S.C. § 315(c) permits issue joinder. More specifically, the POP held that 315(c) provides discretion to allow a petitioner to be joined to a proceeding in which it is already a party and provides discretion to allow joinder of new issues into an existing proceeding (here).

That is, we are right back where we started in Target.
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