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The Cuozzo Conundrum: Prosecution History Estoppel Remains An Open Issue

On June 20, 2016, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Cuozzo Speed Technologies, LLC v. Lee. One of the questions presented to the Court was the appropriate claim construction standard for inter partes review (IPR). The fundamental dispute, as framed by the Court, was the apparent intent of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) and the express rule-making authority it granted. Pursuant to the rule-making authority granted by the AIA, the Patent Office set forth the broadest reasonable interpretation (BRI) as the standard for construing claims under an IPR. This is the standard used during original examination of an application for a patent. The patent-owner argued that, since IPRs were intended to be an alternative to litigating validity in the courts, it should be subject to the same standard of claim construction used there, which is generally understood to be narrower. Ultimately, the Court held that the rule-making authority trumped any arguments about intent and consequences and affirmed the Patent Office’s application of the BRI standard.

Not So Fast: Split Federal Circuit Panel Sided with PTO on Novel IPR Issues

In In re Cuozzo Speed Technologies, LLC,[1] the first ever appeal of the final written decision from an inter partes review (“IPR”) before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB” or the “Board”),[2] the Federal Circuit decided two novel and fundamental questions arising under the newly enacted IPR proceedings created by the America Invents Act of 2011 (“AIA”). On both issues, the Federal Circuit agreed with the PTO,[3] holding (1) institution decisions by the Board are almost never reviewable on appeal, either interlocutory or after the Board’s final written decision, and (2) that the “broadest reasonable interpretation” standard is the proper standard for claim construction in IPR proceedings.[4]