Argentum Pharmaceuticals LLC v. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.
In Re Rudy

Thryv, Inc. v. Click-To-Call Technologies, LP

Inter partes review is an administrative process that permits a patent challenger to ask the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office to reconsider the validity of earlier granted patent claims. For inter partes review to proceed, the agency must agree to institute review. See 35 U. S. C. §314. Among other conditions set by statute, if a request comes more than a year after suit against the requesting party for patent infringement, “[a]n inter partes review may not be instituted.” §315(b). The agency’s “determination . . . whether to institute an inter partes review under this section shall be final and nonappealable.” §314(d).

Entities associated with petitioner Thryv, Inc. sought inter partes review of a patent owned by respondent Click-to-Call Technologies, LP. Click-to-Call countered that the petition was untimely under §315(b). The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (Board) disagreed and instituted review. After proceedings on the merits, the Board issued a final written decision reiterating its §315(b) decision and canceling 13 of the patent’s claims as obvious or lacking novelty. Click-to-Call appealed the Board’s §315(b) determination. Treating the Board’s application of §315(b) as judicially reviewable, the Court of Appeals concluded that the petition was untimely, vacated the Board’s decision, and remanded with instructions to dismiss.

Held: Section 314(d) precludes judicial review of the agency’s application of §315(b)’s time prescription. Pp. 6–14.

(a) A party generally cannot contend on appeal that the agency should have refused “to institute an inter partes review.” §314(d). That follows from §314(d)’s text and Cuozzo Speed Technologies, LLC v. Lee, 579 U. S. ___. In Cuozzo, this Court explained that §314(d) “preclud[es] review of the Patent Office’s institution decisions”—at least “where the grounds for attacking the decision to institute inter partes review consist of questions that are closely tied to the application and interpretation of statutes related to the Patent Office’s decision to initiate inter partes review.” Id., at ___. Pp. 6–7.

(b) The question here is whether a challenge based on §315(b) ranks as an appeal of the agency’s decision “to institute an inter partes review.” §314(d). There is no need to venture beyond Cuozzo’s holding that §314(d) bars review at least of matters “closely tied to the application and interpretation of statutes related to” the institution decision, 579 U. S., at ___. A §315(b) challenge easily meets that measurement. Section 315(b), setting forth a circumstance in which “[a]n inter partes review may not be instituted,” expressly governs institution and nothing more. Pp. 7–8.

(c) This conclusion is strongly reinforced by the statute’s purpose and design. Congress designed inter partes review to weed out bad patent claims efficiently. Allowing §315(b) appeals, however, would unwind agency proceedings determining patentability and leave bad patents enforceable. Pp. 8–10.

(d) In Click-to-Call’s view, §314(d)’s bar on judicial review is limited to the agency’s threshold determination under §314(a) of the question whether the petitioner has a reasonable likelihood of prevailing. Cuozzo is fatal to that interpretation, for the Court in that case held unreviewable the agency’s application of a provision other than §314(a). Contrary to Click-to-Call’s contention, §314(d)’s text does not limit the review bar to §314(a). Rather than borrowing language from related provisions that would have achieved Click-to-Call’s preferred meaning, Congress used broader language in §314(d). Click-to-Call also insists that Congress intended judicial supervision of the agency’s application of §315(b), but the statute instead reflects a choice to entrust that issue to the agency. Finally, SAS Institute Inc. v. Iancu, 584 U. S. ___, offers Click-to-Call no assistance. Unlike the appeal held reviewable in SAS Institute, Click-to-Call’s appeal challenges not the manner in which the agency’s review proceeds once instituted, but whether the agency should have instituted review at all. Pp. 10–13.

(e) Click-to-Call argues in the alternative that its §315(b) objection is authorized as an appeal from the Board’s final written decision, which addressed the §315(b) issue. Even labeled that way, Click-to-Call’s appeal is still barred by §314(d) because Click-to-Call’s contention remains, essentially, that the agency should have refused to institute inter partes review. P. 14.

899 F.3d 1321, vacated and remanded.

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