Federal Gov’t & Federal Contractors in the Court of Federal Claims – A Legal Relationship?

Federal government contractors are protected from patent infringement suits when infringing activities are performed pursuant to a contract with the Federal Government. 28 U.S.C. § 1498(a).  Under § 1498, rather than sue such contractors directly in a Federal District Court, patentees must instead file a suit against the United States in the Court of Federal Claims.  Typically, contractors will intervene thereafter and become third party defendants.

When these contractors lodge IPR petitions with the PTAB, they often take the view that since they were never served with a “complaint for infringement,” that the one year anniversary of the 1498 complaint does not preclude such filings under 35 U.S.C. § 315(b).  But a recent case will explore the legal relationship of the Federal Government to its contractors, and whether at least a privity relationship exists for purposes of applying 315(b) to the complaint anniversary date.
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