Post-grant review became available on September 16, 2012, along with several other America Invents Act provisions. However, the jury is still out on the potential impact of the new method to challenge a patent’s validity.
The new post-grant review procedures allow a third party to challenge a patent’s invalidity on a number of grounds, including prior art, lack of enablement, lack of novelty, or inadequate written description. Thus, post-grant review allows parties to raise a number of new challenges that were previously reserved for litigation.
Post-grant review is also designed to proceed quickly. Under the rules established by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, post-grant review proceedings should be completed within one year of their commencement. In addition, although it contains several aspects of litigation, including limited discovery, protective orders, and settlement, it should cost considerably less.
Challengers may also have a better chance of success. While courts presume that patents are valid unless “clear and convincing” evidence demonstrates otherwise, there is no similar presumption in post-grant review. Rather, patents are invalidated based on a preponderance of the evidence.
Although post-grant review certainly has substantial benefits, there are several limitations that may impact how widely it is used. First, challengers must act quickly. The proceedings must be commenced within nine months of a patent’s issuance. More importantly, the petition must include all of the evidence needed to prove invalidity.
In addition, post-grant review has several important implications when it comes to estoppel. Estoppel applies to any invalidity claims that were raised or reasonably could have been raised during the post-grant review. Because the grounds available for challenging invalidity are so broad during post-grant review, estoppel can severely handicap any subsequent litigation. Unlike inter partes reexamination, estoppel applies not only to district court litigation, but also to all USPTO and International Trade Commission proceedings.
Post-grant review is currently only available for “covered business-method patents,” and it will be some time before it expands to all patents. Therefore, the full impact of the new process will likely not become evident for several years.
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