Stay To Force PTAB Outside of Statutory Time Limit?

Today, the Federal Circuit issued a stay of further Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) proceedings pending the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe’s sovereign immunity appeal. The appeal challenges the Board’s determination that the Tribe is not immune from its proceedings as a sovereign entity. As a reminder, the tribe is alleged to be the new owner of Allergan patents relating to the ophthalmic Restasis® 
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Preserving Access to Cost Effective Drugs (PACED) Act

Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) along with Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), David Perdue (R-Georgia) introduced the Preserving Access to Cost Effective Drugs (PACED) Act (S.2514), to “restore the power of the Patent and Trademark Office and federal courts, and the

Federal Statutes Applicable to Tribes Absent Expression to the Contrary

In addition to the state sovereign immunity dispute now headed to the Federal Circuit, you might recall that the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) was also considering the related question of whether sovereign immunity applies to Board proceedings involving Native American tribes. Last Friday, the Board decided that tribal immunity does not apply to USPTO proceedings in Mylan v. Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe.
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Federal Circuit to Consider PTAB Sovereign Immunity Defense

State-affiliated entities enjoy immunity from suit in federal courts under the 11th amendment. To date, a handful of such entities have successfully leveraged the same immunity theory to avoid review of their patents before the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB). While still other Patent Owners have aligned themselves with Native American Tribes in an effort to benefit from their sovereign status in the hopes of avoiding PTAB review.

More recently, in Ericsson v. Regents of the University of Minnesota.the PTAB has determined that sovereign immunity is waived where the sovereign entity files an infringement suit. (here)

Appeal was taken from this decision this week.
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Tribal Immunity Considered by PTAB

Previously I explained that the 7th amendment argument in Oil States and the 11th amendment argument for sovereign immunity from the PTAB are both tied to the same basic, threshold premise — IPR is a trial proceeding akin to an Article III lawsuit. This premise has been criticized by the Supreme Court in In re Cuozzo Speed Technologies, and, more recently by the Federal Circuit in Ultratec, Inc. v. Captioncall, LLC, 2017, (Fed. Cir. Aug. 28, 2017). For this reason, sovereign immunity (including tribal immunity) is likely to fall with the Oil States challenge.

Until such time, however, the PTAB must address the issue in the ongoing IPRs of Allergan’s Restasis® patents. In doing so, the PTAB has now issued an Order inviting amicus briefing, setting a submission deadline of December 1, 2017.
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Oil States/CAFC to Unravel “Litigation” Premise

Sovereign immunity from proceedings of the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) has become inextricably linked with the Oil States debate now before the Supreme Court. That is, the 7th amendment argument in Oil States and the 11th amendment argument for sovereign immunity at the PTAB are both tied to the same basic, threshold premise — IPR is a trial proceeding akin to an Article III lawsuit.

In Oil States, the “trial argument” is made to distinguish IPR proceedings from patent reexamination. It is argued that because an IPR is more trial-like compared to the earlier, examination based system, a jury trial is now required, consistent with the 7th Amendment.

In the sovereign immunity context, immunity applies if an administrative proceeding is similar to civil litigation. Fed. Mar. Comm’n v. S.C. State Ports Auth., 535 U.S. 743 (2002). But, some judges of the CAFC have already signaled a willingness to unravel this “IPR is a trial” premise, and it is my expectation that Oil States will follow suit.
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