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Supreme Court Upholds 'Death Squad' Patent System

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

U.S. Inventor is not your typical protest group, yet there they were protesting outside the U.S. Supreme Court as it heard arguments in Oil States Energy Services v. Greene's Energy Group.

The eclectic group has made headlines before over the sometimes esoteric issues of patent law. Earlier in the year, they burned patents outside the Patent and Trademark Office.

After the Supreme Court upheld the PTO's controversial inter partes review, the protesters were out in force again. In a dissent, Justice Neil Gorsuch had their backs.

Inter Partes Review

IPR allows third parties to ask the PTO to re-examine claims in issued patents and to change its mind. Proponents say it helps clear out low-quality patents, as well as "patent trolls" who sue over patents rather than use them to make products.

Rejecting arguments that such disputes should be limited to the courts, the Supreme Court basically approved the IPR process. In a nutshell, the majority said the PTO issues patents and it may take them away.

Justice Gorsuch, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts in fiery dissent, said the majority missed the point. He said their decision "signals a retreat from Article III's guarantees" to judicial protection.

"Just because you give a gift doesn't mean you forever enjoy the right to reclaim it," he wrote, invoking Alexander Hamilton's warning against intrusions on judicial independence.

"Pro-Patent Jurisprudence"

"Whether it is the guarantee of a warrant before a search, a jury trial before a conviction -- or, yes, a judicial hearing before a property interest is stripped away -- the Constitution's constraints can slow things down," Gorsuch wrote. "But economy supplies no license for ignoring these -- often vitally inefficient -- protections."

Ars Technica, which has long chronicled IPR issues, said the Supreme Court decision is part of a continuing "smack-down of pro-patent jurisprudence."

"The new Supreme Court ruling puts that process on a firm constitutional footing, which should make life difficult for patent trolls for years to come," Timothy Lee wrote for the ezine.

Josh Malone, an outspoken critic of the court, said inventors, aspiring inventors, and "patriots of all kinds" are devastated by the Supreme Court ruling.

"Now if a big corporation wants your patents or your land, they only need to convince their friends in the administrative tribunal or city council to do the job," he said. "No judge, no jury, no America."

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