The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday gave its stamp of approval to a government review process prized by high technology companies as an easy and cheap way to combat “patent trolls” and others who bring patent infringement lawsuits. In a 7-2 decision in favor of the USPTO’s review process, known as inter-parties review or “IPR”, the Court held that it does not violate a defendant’s constitutional right to have a case adjudicated by a federal court and jury.
The court ruled against Oil States International Inc, a Houston-based oilfield services company that had challenged the legality of the process. Dissenting from the decision were conservative Justices John Roberts and Neil Gorsuch.
While the ruling gave Silicon Valley reason to celebrate, it was sure to displease name-brand drugmakers such as AbbVie, Inc., and Allergan PLC, which had called the IPR process a threat to innovation. Other industries dominated by the likes of Apple and Samsung who are easy targets for patent infringement suits, favor the review process due to its efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
Congress initially created the reviews as part of a 2011 law to deal with the ostensibly high number of flimsy patents issued by the USPTO in prior years. Since then, the patent office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board has canceled all or part of a patent in about 80 percent of its final decisions. In 2015, it canceled an Oil States patent on protecting wellhead equipment after an IPR proceeding.
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