PTAB Should Have Resolved Dispute Among Authors of a Reference to Determine Whether They All Made Contributions to the Ultimately Claimed Subject Matter

In Google LLC, v. IPA Technologies Inc, [2021-1179, 2021-1180, 2021-1185] (May 19, 2022), the Federal Circuit vacated the PTAB decision that Google had not shown the challenged claims in U.S. Patent Nos. 6,851,115 and 7,069,560 to be unpatentable.

During the prosecution of the ’115 patent, various claims were rejected based on the Martin reference, which the examiner identified as being prior art. In response, SRI contested the prior art status of the reference by submitting inventor declarations by Martin and Cheyer under 37 C.F.R. §1.132, asserting that Dr. Moran was “not a co-inventor of the subject matter described in the subject matter disclosed and claimed in the instant application[s].”
If Dr. Moran was not a co-inventor of the Martin reference, the Martin reference was not prior art because it was made by the same inventive entity as the ’115 and ’560 patents and not “by others.” 35 U.S.C. § 102(a) (pre-AIA).1 After receiving the declarations, the examiner withdrew the rejections based on the Martin reference and continued examining the applications. The patents were granted and ultimately assigned to appellee IPA
Technologies, Inc. (“IPA”).

Google petitioned the Board for inter partes review of various claims of the ’115 and ’560 patents, relying the same Martin reference, and contending that the Martin reference was prior art as work “by others” because it described the work of an inventive entity (Martin,
Cheyer and Dr. Moran) different from the inventive entity of the challenged patents (Martin and Cheyer). The Board instituted IPR, but concluded that Google had not provided sufficient support that Moran was a co-inventor, and dismissed the Petition. On appeal, Google argued that the Board improperly put the burden on Google to provide that the Martin reference had a different inventive entity than the challenged patents.

The Federal Circuit noted that the term “burden of proof” has been used to describe two distinct concepts: the burden of persuasion and the burden of production. The burden of persuasion is “the ultimate burden assigned to a party who must prove something to a specified degree of certainty.” In an IPR, “the burden of persuasion is on the petitioner
to prove ‘unpatentability by a preponderance of the evidence,’ and that burden never shifts to the patentee.” In contrast, the burden of production, or “going forward with evidence,” is a shifting one, “the allocation of which depends on where in the process of trial the issue arises.” The burden of production may be met either by “producing additional evidence” or by “presenting persuasive argument based on new evidence or evidence already of record.”

The Federal Circuit said that Google, as the petitioner, had the ultimate burden of persuasion to prove unpatentability by a preponderance of the evidence and this burden never shifted. It found no error with the Board’s requiring that Google establish the Martin reference was prior art “by another” by showing that Dr. Moran made a significant enough contribution to the portions relied on to invalidate the challenged patents to qualify as a joint inventor of those portions.

Turning to the question of whether Google satisfied its burden, the Federal Circuit said that it is evident that Dr. Moran made general technical contributions to the project, but that that was not the relevant inquiry. To be a joint inventor of the Martin reference, Dr. Moran must have made an inventive contribution to the portions of the reference relied upon and relevant to establishing obviousness. The Federal Circuit said that the testimony of Dr. Moran, if credited, might well establish that he was a co-inventor of the particular portions of the Martin reference relied on by Google. The Federal Circuit found, however, that the Board
did not complete the full Duncan analysis. Instead, it appeared to the Federal Circuit that the Board concluded that Dr. Moran’s testimony was insufficiently corroborated.

The Federal Circuit found that although coauthorship does not presumptively make a co-author a coinventor, it is significant corroborating evidence that a co-author contributed to the invention. Thus, the Federal Circuit said, the issue was not lack of corroboration for
Dr. Moran’s testimony, but rather whether his testimony should ultimately be credited over Cheyer and Martin’s conflicting testimony during the IPR proceedings. The Federal Circuit said that instead of resolving the conflicts, the Board stated that it found the testimony of Dr. Moran, Mr. Martin, and Mr. Cheyer credible. The Federal Circuit thus vacated the Board’s decision, and remanded,

The Proper Claim Construction of a Term is Not Necessarily the Sum of its Parts

In Intel Corp. v. Qualcomm Inc., [2020-1664] (December 28, 2021), the Federal Circuit affirmed the final written decision of the originally challenged claims of U.S. Patent No. 8,229,043, but vacated and remanded as to the substitute claims.

The Federal Circuit addressed first considered the phrase “radio frequency input signal” in ’043 patent claims 17, 19, and 21. Intel argued that the term should be given its ordinary meaning, while Qualcomm argued for a more specific construction. The Federal Circuit noted that ‘[e]ven without considering the surrounding claim language or the rest of the patent document, . . .it is not always appropriate to break down a phrase and give it an interpretation that is merely the sum of its parts.” The Federal Circuit said that the surrounding language points in favor of Qualcomm’s construction, adopted by the Board. The Federal Circuit said the linguistic clues suggested that “radio frequency input signal,” to the relevant audience, refers to the signal entering the device as a whole, not (as Intel proposes) to any radio frequency signal entering any component. The Federal Circuit said that the specification provides further support for the Board’s reading.

The Federal Circuit concluded that in sum, while Intel’s interpretation may have superficial appeal, Qualcomm’s better reflects the usage of “radio frequency input signal” in the intrinsic record, and affirmed it.

On the question of obviousness, the Federal Circuit concluded that substantial evidence does not
support the Board’s determination that a skilled artisan would have lacked reason to combine the prior art to achieve substitute claims 27, 28, and 31. The Federal Circuit rejected the Board’s rationale for determining that it would not have been obvious to combine the references. The Federal Circuit noted that a rationale is not inherently suspect merely because it’s generic in the sense of having broad applicability or appeal.

IPR’s Survive More Constitutional Challenges

In Mobility Workx, LLC v. Unified Patents, LLC, [2020-1441] (October 13, 2021), the Federal Circuit concluded that Mobility’s constitutional arguments were without merit, and without reaching the merits of the Board’s decision, in light of Arthrex, it remanded to the Acting Director to determine whether to grant rehearing.

Mobility argued that the structure and funding of the Board violates due process.  First, because “the fee-generating structure of AIA review[] creates a temptation” for the Board to institute AIA proceedings in order to collect post institution fees (fees for the merits stage of the AIA proceedings) and fund the agency.  Second, because individual APJs have an unconstitutional interest in instituting AIA proceedings because their own compensation in the form of performance bonuses is favorably affected.  The Federal Circuit found no merit to these defenses.

Mobility raised several additional constitutional challenges not raised before the agency that have been previously rejected by this court in other cases.  Mobility argued that the Director’s delegation of his authority to institute AIA proceedings violates due process and the Administrative Procedure Act because the Director has delegated the initial institution decision to “the exact same panel of Judges that ultimately hears the case.” Mobility additionally argued that subjecting a pre-AIA patent to AIA review proceedings “constitutes an unlawful taking of property.”  The Federal Circuit rejected these challenges.


Finally, Mobility raised an Appointments Clause challenge. The Federal Circuit agreed that a remand is required under the Supreme Court’s decision in Arthrex to allow the Acting Director to review the final written decision of the APJ panel pursuant to newly established USPTO procedures, and remanded the case.

THIS forum selection clause in THIS NDA agreement did not bar the IPRs

In Kannuu Pty Ltd. v. Samsung Electronics Co., [2021-1638] (October 7, 2021) the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court denial of Samsung’s motion for a preliminary injunction compelling Samsung to seek dismissal of Samsung’s petitions for inter partes review at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (Board).

In 2012, Samsung contacted Kannuu, an Australian start-up company that develops various media-related products (including Smart TVs and Blu-ray players), inquiring about Kannuu’s
remote control search-and-navigation technology. Kannuu and Samsung entered into a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), to protect confidential business information while engaging in business discussions and the like. Among other things, the agreement provided:

Any legal action, suit, or proceeding arising out of or relating to this Agreement or the transactions contemplated hereby must be instituted exclusively in a court of competent jurisdiction, federal or state, located within the Borough of Manhattan, City of New
York, State of New York and in no other jurisdiction.

Following over a year of discussions, the parties ceased communications. No deal (i.e., intellectual property license, purchase, or similar agreement) over Kannuu’s technology was made. Six years later, Kannuu sued Samsung for patent infringement and breach of the NDA.
Samsung then filed petitions for inter partes review of the patents. Kannuu argued that the that review should not be instituted because Samsung violated the NDA’s forum selection
clause in filing for such review. When the Board institued proceedings as to some of the petitions, Kannuu sought rehearing, which was denied. Kannuu then sought a preliminary injunction to compel Samsung to seek dismissal of the instituted inter partes reviews. The
motion was denied, and Kannuu appealed.

The issue before the district court, and before the Federal Circuit on appeal, was whether the forum selection in the non-disclosure agreement prohibited Samsung from petitioning for inter partes review of Kannuu’s patents at the Board. The District Court found it did not, and the Federal Circuit found no abuse of discretion.

Though the district court held the forum selection clause was valid and enforceable, it concluded that the plain meaning of the forum selection clause in the NDA did not encompass the inter partes review proceedings. Specifically, the district court found that the inter partes review proceedings did not “relate” to the Agreement or transactions contemplated under it. The Federal Circuit said that the district court correctly concluded that the inter partes review proceedings “do not relate to the Agreement itself.” The connection between the two—the inter partes review proceedings and the NDA—is too tenuous for the inter partes review proceedings to be precluded by the forum selection clause in the NDA, which is a contract
directed to maintaining the confidentiality of certain disclosed information, and not related to patent rights.

Neither the district court nor the Federal Circuit said that a forum selection clause in an NDA could not bar an IPR, rather they both held that this forum selection clause in this NDA agreement did not bar the IPRs. Under appropriate circumstances, a properly drafted forum selection cause in an NDA could bar an IPR between the parties, just as such clauses in a license agreement can bar challenges to the licensed patents before the PTAB.

Broad, Functional Claims Made it Hard to Presume Nexus for Commerical Succes

In Teva Pharmaceuticals International GmbH v. Eli Lilly and Company, [2020-1747, 2020-1748, 2020-1750] (August 16, 2021), the Federal Circuit affirmed that Board’s determination that the claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 9,340,614, 9,266,951, and 9,890,210 are unpatentable because they would have been obvious over the cited prior art. The patents are directed to humanized antagonist antibodies that target calcitonin gene-related peptide (“CGRP”), that has been shown to be a potent vasodilator in the periphery.

Teva raised three challenges to the Board’s decision. First, Teva contended that the Board erred as a matter of law in its motivation to combine analysis by deviating from the motivation asserted by Lilly in its petitions for inter partes review. Second, Teva contended that even under the motivation to combine that the Board did analyze, substantial evidence does not support the Board’s factual findings. And third, Teva contended that the Board erred in its analysis of secondary considerations of nonobviousness.

Lilly asserted that a skilled artisan would have been motivated to combine the teachings of the references to make a humanized anti-CGRP monoclonal antibody for therapeutic use in humans, but the Board instead considered whether a skilled artisan would have been motivated to make the antibody merely to study or use it. Teva insists that by not requiring Lilly to support its therapeutic motivation, the Board incorrectly discounted important safety and efficacy concerns that would have been demotivating factors—i.e., reasons why a skilled artisan would have been motivated not to make a humanized anti-CGRP monoclonal antibody. The Federal Circuit held that the Board did apply the motiviation that Lilly asserted. The Federal Circuit said that “common sense and scientific reality dictate that scientists do not “study or use” humanized anti-bodies with an end goal of treating diseases in test tubes or in rats. At bottom, the prior art supports a motivation to humanize antibodies with the goal of treating human disease.”

Teva also argued that the substantial evidence did not support the Board’s factual findings. The Federal Circuit agreed with Lilly that substantial evidence supports a motivation to make a humanized anti-CGRP antibody to study its therapeutic potential for use in treatment of human disease, noting that Lilly identified evidence that supports the Board’s reasonable readings of each reference. Under the deferential standard of review, the Federal Circuit could not replace the Board’s reasonable interpretation of references with Teva’s interpretation.

Finally, with respect to secondary considerations, the Board found that the commercial products and the license lacked sufficient nexus to the challenged claims. Teva argued that the Board made two legal errors: first, in finding no presumption of nexus between the claims and the secondary considerations based on the commercial products; and second, with regard to the asserted licenses, Teva argued that the Board erred by focusing on the licensee’s products rather than the scope of the license.

The Federal Circuit found that the Board erred in its articulation of the standard for presuming nexus, but nonetheless conducting the necessary factual analysis of the unclaimed features of the commercial products, and reached the correct conclusion that no presumption of nexus applied. The Federal Circuit noted that the claims at issue used functional language, and that a claim to “anything that works” hardly has a nexus to any particular product. Because the claims in this case have a broad scope due to their lack of structural limitations, the unclaimed features in the commercial products cited here are of particular importance to the coextensiveness analysis. The Federal Circuit thus found that the Board’s factual findings regarding unclaimed features are thus supported by substantial evidence, and Teva has not shown otherwise.

Teva also argued that the Board erred by requiring a direct nexus between the challenged claims and the licensee’s products. The Federal Circuit found that the Board’s conclusion that the license lacked nexus to the challenged claims was supported by substantial evidence. The significance of licensing a patent as a secondary consideration in enhancing the nonobviousness of an invention is that an independent party with an interest in being free of the patent has chosen to respect it and pay a royalty under it rather than litigate and invalidate it. Such action tends to support its validity. The Federal Circuit said that given that 188 patents were licensed, the nexus between the license and the validity of any particular claim is rather tenuous to say the least. The Federal Circuit noted that Teva failed to show anything more than the existence of the license. Teva did not present direct evidence that the licensee’s motivation for entering into the license was related to the validity or enforceability of the patents at issue.

PTAB Departure from Agreed Claim Construction Required Notice and Opportunity to be Heard

In Qualcomm Inc. v. Intel Corp., [2020-1589, 2020-1590, 2020-1591, 2020-1592, 2020-1593,
2020-1594] (July 27, 2021), the Federal Circuit vacated and remanded six inter partes review final written decisions determining that claims 1–15, 17–25, and 27–33 of U.S. Patent
No. 9,608,675 would have been obvious.

The ’675 patent relates to techniques for generating a power tracking supply voltage for a circuit that processes multiple radio frequency signals simultaneously, using one power amplifier and one power tracking supply generator. During the IPR’s the parties never disputed that the signals were required to increase user bandwidth, and in the International Trade Commission, the Commission’s construction of the term also included the increased
bandwidth requirement.

The Board issued six final written decisions concluding that all challenged claims were unpatentable. In reaching its conclusion, the Board construed the term “a plurality of carrier aggregated transmit signals” in each asserted claim to mean “signals for transmission on multiple carriers,” omitting any requirement that the signals increase or extend bandwidth.

Qualcomm argued that it was not afforded notice of, or an adequate opportunity to respond to, the Board’s construction of “a plurality of carrier aggregated transmit signals,” and the Federal Circuit agreed. The Federal Circuit began by noting that “[a] patent owner in [an IPR] is undoubtedly entitled to notice of and a fair opportunity to meet the grounds of rejection,”
based on due process and Administrative Procedure Act (APA) guarantees.

The Board may adopt a claim construction of a disputed term that neither party proposes
without running afoul of the APA. Parties are well aware that the Board may stray from disputed, proposed constructions, however, but in the instant case the issue of whether increased bandwidth was a required part of the claim construction was not in dispute. The Federal Circuit noted that the patent owner owner agreed with the increased bandwidth requirement proposed by the petitioner. While the Board did not change theories midstream or depart from a construction it previously adopted, it is still difficult to imagine either party anticipating that this agreed-upon matter of claim construction was a moving target. The Federal Circuit said that unlike with disputed terms, it is unreasonable to expect parties to brief or argue agreed-upon matters of claim construction. Thus the Federal Circuit found that in the
the circumstances of this case, the Board needed to provide notice of, and an adequate opportunity to respond to, its construction. The Federal Circuit further found that Qualcomm did not receive notice or an opportunity to be heard regarding the Board’s construction that departed from the agreed-upon increased bandwidth requirement, and thus, the Board violated Qualcomm’s procedural rights under the APA.

Federal Circuit Ignores Forum Selction Clause Allowing IPR to Proceed

In New Vision Gaming & Development, Inc., v. SG Gaming, Inc., [2020-1399, 2020-1400](May 13, 2021) the Federal Circuit vacated PTAB decisions that U.S. Patent Nos. 7,451,987 and 7,325,806, as well as proposed substitute claims, are patent ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101, and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with Arthrex.  The Federal Circuit said that because Arthrex issued after the Board’s final-written decisions and after New Vision sought Board rehearing, New Vision had not waived its Arthrex challenge by raising it for the first time in its opening brief before the Court.

.

Judge Newman agreed that Arthrex applied but dissented because the Court did not address the forum selection clause in the license between the parties.  The parties agreed that “any dispute between any of the parties that cannot be resolved amicably” should be resolved in the state and federal courts in the State of Nevada, and thus Judge Newman argued that the forum question requires resolution, for if the parties are committed to a Nevada forum instead of the PTAB, there is no basis for new PTAB proceedings on remand.

Thus, while I Judge Newman agreed that the Board’s decision must be vacated under Arthrex, she respectfully dissented from remand without resolving the issue of forum selection.

Proper Claim Construction is Essential to a Determination of Patentabilty

In Intel Corp. v. Qualcomm Inc., [2020-1828, 2020-1867] (December 28, 2021), the Federal Circuit vacated the Board’s decision that claims 1–9 and 12 of U.S. Patent No. 8,838,949 were not unpatentable, because the PTAB failed to tie its construction of the phrase “hardware buffer” to the actual invention described in the specification. The Federal Circuit also vacated the Board’s decision that claims 16 and 17 were not unpatentable, because the Board failed to determine for itself whether there is sufficient corresponding structure in the specification to support the means-plus-function limitations in those claims to determine whether they are sufficiently definite to consider their validity. The ‘949 patent addresses a system with multiple processors, each of which must execute its own “boot code” to play its operational role in the system.

The Federal Circuit said that it was clear from the claim language that “hardware buffer” has meaning, but it is unclear what that meaning was. The Federal Circuit said that there is no definition to be found in the intrinsic evidence, and the determination of that meaning depends on understanding what the intrinsic evidence makes clear is the substance of the invention—what the inventor “intended to envelop.” The Federal Circuit concluded that the Board did not do enough to reach and articulate that understanding, and its claim construction is therefore wanting. The Federal Circuit explained that what was needed, then, was an analysis of the specification to arrive at an understanding of what it teaches about what a “hardware buffer” is, based on both how it uses relevant words and its substantive explanations. In this crucial respect, the Board fell short in its analysis here, and we think the Board is better positioned
than we are to correct the deficiencies.

The Federal Circuit noted that the Board’s construction was entirely a negative one—excluding “temporary” buffers. The Federal Circuit said that although there is no per se rule against negative constructions, which in some cases can be enough to resolve the relevant dispute, the Board’s construction in the present case was inadequate. It was not clear what precisely constitutes a
“temporary buffer” as recited in the Board’s construction.

With respect to claims 16 and 17, there is no dispute that claim 16 (and hence dependent claim 17) contains terms that are in means-plus-function format governed by 35 U.S.C. § 112(f). Because Intel agreed with the Board’s suggestion in the institution decision that two of the means-plus-function terms
in claim 16 were indefinite for lack of supporting structure, the Board concluded that Intel’s statement necessarily meant that Intel, as the petitioner, had not met its burden to demonstrate the unpatentability of those claims.

The Federal Circuit held that this was error and that a remand was required, because the Board did not
decide for itself whether required structure is present in the specification or whether, even if it was not, the absence of such structure precludes resolution of Intel’s prior-art challenges. The Federal Circuit added that to avoid confusion going forward, the Board should, in IPRs where Impossibility because indefiniteness applies, clearly state that the final written decision does not include a determination of patentability of any claim that falls within the impossibility category.

IPR Estoppel: It’s Not A Second Bite at the Apple, if You Didn’t Get a First Bite

In Network-1 Technologies, Inc. v. Hewlett-Packard Co., [2018-2338, 2018-2339, 2018-2395, 2018-2396] (September 24, 2020), the Federal Circuit affirmed-in-part and reversed-in-part the district court’s claim construction and remanded, vacated the district court’s JMOL on validity and remanded, and affirmed the district court’s decision with respect to improper claim broadening.

U.S. Patent No. 6,218,930, titled “Apparatus and Method for Remotely Powering Access Equipment over a 10/100 Switched Ethernet Network,” discloses an apparatus and methods for allowing electronic devices to automatically determine if remote equipment is capable of accepting remote power over Ethernet.

On appeal Network-1 argued that the district court incorrectly construed the claim terms “low level current” and “main power source,” and that this error entitled it to a new trial on infringement. The Federal Circuit agreed that the district court erred in its construction of “main power source,” and as a result of that error, Network-1 was entitled to a new trial on infringement.

On appeal HP argued that the district court erroneously granted JMOL with respect to the ’930 patent’s validity based on its determination that HP was estopped under 35 U.S.C. § 315(e) from presenting obviousness challenges as a consequence of its joinder to the Avaya IPR. The district court reasoned that HP reasonably could have raised” its invalidity arguments during the IPR that HP joined. The district court stated that allowing HP to raise arguments “that it elected not to raise during the IPR would give it a second bite at the apple and allow it to reap the benefits of the IPR with-out the downside of meaningful estoppel.

The Federal Circuit began by point out that under 35 U.S.C. § 315(e) party is only estopped from challenging claims in the final written decision based on grounds that it “raised or reasonably could have raised” during the IPR. However, the Federal Circuit noted, because a joining party cannot bring with it grounds other than those already instituted, that party is not statutorily estopped from raising other invalidity grounds.

In fact, HP initially tried to join the IPR and raise additional grounds, which the PTAB correctly denied, it was HP’s second attempt to join the IPR based only on the grounds already instituted, that was granted.

Thus, since party like HP that joins an IPR cannot raise any additional grounds, it is not estopped as to any ground not actually raised in the IPR. The Federal Circuit observed that its not a second bite at the apple, when the first bite was denied. The Federal Circuit remanded the case rather than simply reversing because there was an outstanding request for a new trial.

On appeal HP argued that by adding two dependent claims during reissue, the Network-1 improperly broadened the original claim from which they depend. The Federal Circuit rejected the idea that adding dependent claims broadens the underlying independent claim, and thus affirmed the district court’s determination that claim 6 was not improperly broadened.

§315(c) Does Not Allow Board to Join IPRs or to Add Issues to an IPR via Joinder

In Facebook, Inc. v. Windy City Innovations, LLC, [2018-1400, 2018-1401, 2018-1402, 2018-1403, 2018-1537, 2018-1540, 2018-1541] (September 4, 2020), the Federal Circuit affirmed-in-part, vacated-in-part, and remanded the Board’s final written decisions on the ’245 and ’657 patents in IPR2016-01156 and IPR2016-01159, affirmed the Board’s final written decision on the ’552 patent in IPR2016-01158, and affirmed-in-part the Board’s final written decision on the ’356 patent in IPR2016-01157; and dismissed as moot Facebook’s appeal of the Board’s final written decision on the ’356 patent with respect to claims 14 and 33.

Windy City Innovations filed a complaint accusing Facebook of infringing U.S. Patent Nos. 8,458,245, 8,694,657, 8,473,552, and 8,407,356 (“the ’356 patent”). The ’245, ’657, ’552, and ’356 patents share a common specification, claim priority to the same parent application, and generally relate to methods for communicating over a computer-based network.

Exactly one year after being served with Windy City’s complaint Facebook timely petitioned for inter partes review (“IPR”) of several claims of each patent (IPR2016-01156, IPR2016-01157, IPR2016-01158, IPR2016-01159). At that time, Windy City had not yet identified the specific claims it was asserting. The PTAB instituted IPR of each patent. After Windy City identified the claims it was asserting in the district court, Facebook filed two additional petitions for IPR (IPR2017-00659, IPR2017-00709) of additional claims of the ’245 and ’657 patents, along with motions for joinder to the already-instituted IPRs on those patents. By the time of these filings, the one-year time bar of §315(b) had passed, but the PTAB nonetheless instituted Facebook’s two new IPRs, granted Facebook’s motions for joinder, and terminated the new IPRs.

The Board delivered a mixed result, holding that Facebook had shown by a preponderance of the evidence that some of the challenged claims are unpatentable as obvious but had failed to show that others were unpatentable as obvious. Many of the claims the Board found unpatentable were claims only challenged in the late-filed petitions. Facebook appealed, and Windy City cross-appealed on the Board’s obviousness findings and challenging the Board’s joinder decisions allowing Facebook to join its new IPRs to its existing IPRs and to include new claims in the joined proceedings.

The Federal Circuit held that the Board erred in its joinder decisions in allowing Facebook to join itself to a proceeding in which it was already a party, and also erred in allowing Facebook to add new claims to the IPRs through that joinder. Because joinder of the new claims was improper, it vacated the Board’s final written decisions as to those claims. However the Federal Circuit lacked authority to review the Board’s institution of the two late-filed petitions, so it remanded them to the Board to consider whether the termination of those proceedings finally resolved them.

The Federal Circuit began by rejecting Facebook’s argument that the Board’s joinder decision was not reviewable. The Federal Circuit said that the plain language of § 315(c) requires two different decisions. First, the statute requires that the Director determine whether the joinder applicant’s petition for IPR “warrants” institution under § 314. The Federal Circuit said that it may not review this decision, whether for timeliness or to consider whether the petitioner is likely to succeed on the merits. Second, to effect joinder, § 315(c) requires the Director to exercise his discretion to decide whether to “join as a party” the joinder applicant. The statute makes clear that the joinder decision is made after a determination that a petition warrants institution, thereby affecting the manner in which an IPR will proceed. The joinder decision is a separate and subsequent decision to the intuition decision. Nothing in § 314(d), nor any other statute, overcomes the strong presumption that the Federal Circuit has jurisdiction to review that joinder decision.

Windy City argued that § 315(c) does not authorize same-party joinder and that it does not authorize joinder of new issues material to patentability, such as new claims or new grounds. Facebook disputed both points, arguing that § 315(c) authorizes same-party joinder and that it does not prohibit joinder of new issues. The Federal Circuit agreed with Windy City on both points. The clear and unambiguous text of § 315(c) does not authorize same-party joinder, and does not authorize the joinder of new issues. Beginning with the statutory language, § 315(b) articulates the time-bar for when an IPR “may not be instituted.” 35 U.S.C. § 315(b). But § 315(b) includes a specific exception to the time bar. By its own terms, “[t]he time limitation . . . shall not apply to a request for joinder under subsection (c).” Subsection (c) provides that after an inter partes review has been instituted, the Director, in his or her discretion, “may join” “as a party to that inter partes review” “any person” who has filed “a petition under section 311 that the Director . . . determines warrants the institution of an inter partes review under section 314.

The Federal Circuit held that the clear and unambiguous meaning of § 315(c) does not authorize joinder of two proceedings, and does not authorize the Director to join a per-son to a proceeding in which that person is already a party. The Federal Circuit found the Board’s interpretation of § 315(c) is contrary to the unambiguous meaning of the statute for a second reason. The Federal Circuit said that the language in §315(c) does no more than authorize the Director to join 1) a person 2) as a party, 3) to an already instituted IPR. This language does not authorize the joined party to bring new issues from its new proceeding into the existing proceeding. §315(c) authorizes joinder of a person as a party, not “joinder” of two proceedings.