Oil States Energy Svcs., LLC v. Greene's Energy Group, LLC
In Oil States, petitioner Oil States Energy Services, LLC obtained a patent relating to technology for protecting wellhead equipment used in hydraulic fracturing. Oil States sued Greene's Energy Group, LLC for infringement and Greene's Energy challenged the validity in district court and also filed an IPR petition. The district court issued a claim construction order favoring Oil States while the PTAB concluded that the patented claims were invalid. Oil States appealed to the Federal Circuit challenging the PTAB decision and the constitutionality of IPR. While the appeal was pending, the Federal Circuit rejected the constitutionality of IPR in a separate case and summarily affirmed the PTAB's decision involving Oil States.
On appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the inter partes review does not violate Article III. Writing for the majority, Justice Thomas reasoned that IPR falls squarely within the public-rights doctrine and that patents are "public franchises." According to the Court, IPR involves the same basic matter as the grant of a patent subject to the Board's authority and that the Court has recognized that franchises can be qualified in this manner. Addressing the petitioner's arguments, the Court found that the three decision recognizing patent rights are private property were decided under a different statutory scheme, historical practice where courts have adjudicated patent validity does not foreclose Congress from assigning matters governed by public-rights doctrine to the Executive, and that the similarities between the various procedures used in IPR and in courts does not lead to the conclusion that IPR violates Article III. The Court went on to to say that the holding is narrow and does not address whether patents are property for the purposes of Due Process Clause or the Takings Clause.
In his dissent, Justice Gorsuch joined by Chief Justice Roberts, stated that the decision signaled a retreat from Article III's guarantees that "suits at the common law, or in equity, or admiralty" must be heard by independent judges.
Full text of the Oil States opinion is available here.
SAS Institute Inc. v. Iancu
In SAS, petitioner SAS Institute sought an inter partes review of ComplementSoft's software patent alleging that all 16 of the claims were unpatentable. The Director instituted review of only claims 1 and 3-10 and denied review on the rest. At the end of litigaton, PTAB issued a final written decision finding claims 1, 3 and 5-10 to be unpatentable while upholding claim 4. PTAB's decision did not address the remaining claims on which the Director had refused review. SAS appealed to the Federal Circuit which affirmed the Board's decision and dismissed SAS's argument that 35 USC 318(a) required the Board to decide the patentability of every challenged claim in the petition. SAS filed a writ of certiorari.
On appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, held that the Patent Office must decide the patentability of all of the claims the petitioner has challenged in an IPR instituted by the PTAB.
Full text of the SAS opinion is available here.