APA Safeguards Rebuttal Opportunity to New Claim Construction
A fundamental safeguard of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) is the opportunity to be heard and to present evidence. Over the years the Federal Circuit has reminded the PTAB that parties must have notice of the agency’s positions and a meaningful opportunity to rebut such positions. The same opportunity must be provided for positions of opposing parties — as long as such positions are deemed timely.
Since the SCOTUS decision in SAS institute, which explained that the petition serves to “guide the life of the litigation,” the Board has considered positions expressed in a petition to be fixed. That is, if a patent owner raises a new claim construction mid-trial, the petitioner may not stray from its original positions (typically addressing a different construction) to rebut the new position of the patent owner. As can be appreciated there is a clear tension between the due process guarantees of the APA and a rigid application of the SCOTUS explanation in SAS.
Yesterday, the CAFC issued a precedential decision to clarify that there is at least some wiggle room for petitioners.