The US Supreme Court has struck down Apple’s challenge against the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) filed in July 2021. The petition was filed as a part of Apple’s dispute with patent troll Optis Wireless Technology.
On January 18, it was confirmed that Apple’s petition to the Supreme Court had been denied. Optis is commonly known as a patent troll because it earns money without making products or services. It acquires patents for essential technologies and forces companies to cough up hefty sums to continue using said technology. It was awarded $10.6 million in damages in an unrelated lawsuit against Huawei.
To get you up to speed, the first trial’s jury ruled that Apple infringed five Optis-owned patents and should pay the troll $506 million in damages. Subsequently, District Judge Rodney Gilstrap ordered a new trial to determine damages payable. In August 2021, the jury ruled that Apple should pay Optis $300 million for the alleged infringements.
Apple’s petition sought that the country’s apex court rule in its favor and allow the Court of Appeals to review the USPTO’s decision to reject the inter partes patent reviews (IPR). The IPR framework is touted to be an alternative to litigation for examining the validity of granted patents. Apple’s petition states that the USPTO has “no authority” to decline the IPR. It accuses the PTO of sharply undermining access to the process over the last two years. The iPhone maker’s petition adds that the PTO’s denial for an inter partes review “rested on an agency rule that exceeds the PTO’s authority under the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act.”
“Through a pair of actions in the past two years, the Director of the Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) decreed a rule that has sharply undermined access to IPR, contrary to Congress’s express design… Referred to here as the NHK-Fintiv Rule.
The Rule often forecloses the availability of IPR in precisely the circumstances when Congress thought it would be most useful: when a patent holder asserts a dubious patent in a lawsuit claiming infringement.”
Apple believed the PTO’s actions endanger the integrity of the patent review system. The company’s court appeal to protect the integrity of an established system was shot down. It remains unknown how Apple will proceed after this apex court decision. Please share your thoughts about Apple’s possible plan of action with us in the comments section below!