U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court upholds patent review procedure used by Apple and Google to invalidate patents

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U.S. Patent and Trademark Office seal

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday upheld regulations that enable quicker and cheaper challenges to patents outside of federal court.

The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) calls the decision (PDF) “a blow for companies that favor strong patent protections” and “a boost for technology companies” like Apple and Google, which have used the procedures to invalidate patents they believed to be weak. Reuters and Bloomberg News also have coverage.

The process, called inter partes review, allows the Patent Trial and Appeal Board to re-examine patents that have already been issued based on requests from third parties. The board has been called a “death squad” because it tends to invalidate patents, according to the Bloomberg News article.

The 8-0 decision by Justice Stephen G. Breyer said the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had the authority to adopt a standard that gives a patent claim its broadest reasonable construction. The standard helps protect the public, Breyer said, by tossing overly broad claims that would discourage inventions.

The court also ruled 6-2 that a patent holder can’t appeal the decision to hold an inter partes review proceeding.

The case is Cuozzo Speed Technologies v. Lee.

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