U.S. Supreme Court: Rules on Patent Challenges

Brent Kendall reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “Supreme Court justices were scratching their heads Monday over new government procedures making it easier for companies or individuals to challenge patents without a long and costly fight in federal court.

“That is because the new process, which takes place at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, is guided by different legal standards than those followed by the courts. As a result, the Patent Office and a federal judge could each review the same patent and reach opposite conclusions.

“‘It’s a very extraordinary animal in legal culture to have two different proceedings addressing the same question that lead to different results,’ said Chief Justice John Roberts during an hourlong oral argument in a case involving a patent claim over an invention that alerts drivers when they are speeding.”

The Journal article explained that, “The case, which is being followed closely by top U.S. companies, comes after a congressional overhaul of the nation’s patent laws in 2011. The court is considering whether the patent-office rules need to conform with the legal standards in place in the courts.”

Mr. Kendall added that, “Many technology companies, including Dell Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Intel Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co., favor the new procedure as an effective way to attack patents that never should have been approved.

Drug companies and others, such as 3M Co., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Monsanto Co., which rely on strong legal protections for intellectual property, say the process is too friendly to patent challengers and creates legal uncertainty that could chill investment in innovations.”

“A decision is expected by the end of June,” today’s article said.

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