In Oil States Energy Services, LLC v Greene's Energy Group, LLC, the US Supreme Court held that Inter Partes Review (IPR) proceedings before the US Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) do not violate Article III or the Seventh Amendment of the US Constitution.
Oil States obtained a patent in 2001 for an apparatus and method for protecting wellhead equipment used in hydraulic fracturing and later sued Greene's Energy Group for infringing that patent. In response, Greene’s Energy Group challenged the patent’s validity by petitioning to the PTAB. The PTAB concluded that the claims were unpatentable and invalidated the patent. Oil States sought review of that decision by the Federal Circuit and challenged the constitutionality of IPRs.
The Federal Circuit affirmed the PTAB’s decision. On appeal, the Supreme Court concluded that Congress has significant latitude to assign adjudication of public rights to entities other than Article III Courts. The Court noted that patents are “public franchises” involving a matter "arising between the government and others". Since IPRs are simply a reconsideration of the grant of patents, they fall within the “public rights doctrine” and are constitutional.
Further, The Court concluded that IPRs do not violate the Seventh Amendment of the US Constitution, which preserves the “right of trial by jury”. Since Congress has properly assigned a matter to adjudication in a non-Article III Tribunal, “the Seventh Amendment poses no independent bar to the adjudication of that action by a nonjury factfinder”.
Summary By: Sumaiya Sharmeen