Thus far, 2019 has been an eventful year for US patent law. Over the past seven months, the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (the US appellate court tasked with reviewing all district court patent decisions) have issued several significant rulings that may affect the rights of patent owners. This article reviews the most important of these rulings, including decisions on the application of the on-sale bar and state sovereign immunity.
A Federal Circuit panel recently held that state sovereign immunity does not apply to inter partes review proceedings conducted before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the Patent and Trademark Office. The dispute had arisen after the University of Minnesota (UMN) sued LSI and Ericsson customers in a district court for the infringement of several UMN patents claiming 4G LTE telecoms technology.
The Supreme Court recently ruled six-to-three that a federal agency cannot petition for the review of an issued patent under the America Invents Act. This decision prevents the government from challenging the validity of issued patents through inter partes, post-grant and covered business method reviews.
While the biosimilar market in the United States has gotten off to a relatively slow start compared with Europe – where biosimilars have been available since 2006 – it has recently gained momentum and will continue to grow in the coming years as more blockbuster biologics lose regulatory exclusivity and patent protection.
The Supreme Court recently held that the sale of a patented invention to a third party that is contractually obligated to keep the invention confidential can trigger the on-sale bar of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act. The decision clarifies statutory language in the act, which has been a source of considerable confusion to patent litigants. The decision also requires that IP owners carefully ensure that public disclosure of their business dealings does not interfere with their patent rights.