(Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to rule on whether more than 100 technical disputes must be reconsidered because judges were constitutionally appointed to a U.S. patent and trademark authority in a case that arose on patent challenge for medical devices.
The judges said they would review a 2019 lower court decision that found a "constitutional defect" in how patent court judges are appointed. This decision came on appeal to the privately held Florida-based pharmaceutical company Arthrex by a decision of a patent court's panel of judges which annulled part of one of its patents which had been challenged by the British-based rival Smith & Nephew PLC.
The Tribunal, created by Congress in 201
tribunal has proven popular with large technology companies such as Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.'s Google LLC, which often ask it to suspend patents they have sued for infringement. Litigation before the tribunal is seen by many companies as a more effective alternative to resolving cases in federal court.
Unlike U.S. district courts, the court has more than 200 judges who are government employees appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce rather than nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
The U.S. Federal Court of Appeal, which specializes in patent litigation, ruled that these court judges have significant power and autonomy, making them the type of "chief officials" who must be appointed by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. the Constitution.
To remedy this constitutional problem, the Federal Circuit enacted part of a law on how these courts can be removed from power.
The Court's remedy allowed the board to continue operating. The Federal Circuit has nevertheless said that more than 100 technical disputes may need to be reconsidered before new panels of courts.
Arthrex, Smith & Nephew and the US Government all appealed the Federal Circuits' decision to the Supreme Court. U.S. Attorneys General has argued that the director of the Patent Office, who was confirmed by the Senate, leads and oversees court judges so that they are not the "principals" who require Senate approval. Catalog