Friday, December 13, 2019

Supreme Court - Applicant Not Obligated to Pay USPTO under 35 USC §145

If an applicant cannot convince the USPTO (i.e., PTAB) to grant a US patent, it can appeal the adverse decision to the Federal Circuit (35 USC §141) or file a lawsuit against the USPTO director in the US district court for the Eastern District of Virginia (35 USC §145). However, because a §145 lawsuit permits discovery, experts reports, and motions, it can be very expensive for both parties.

In Peter v. NantKwest, the US Supreme Court held that an applicant is not obligated to pay the USPTO legal personnel (e.g., attorneys and paralegals) under §145.

See the opinion for all the reasons for this holding, but some of the reasons were (1) the term “expenses” alone has never authorized an award of attorney fees to overcome the American Rule (each litigant pays his own attorney fees), (2) the term “all” in §145 cannot transform “expenses” to reach an outlay it wouldn't otherwise include, and (3) Congress has distinguished “expenses” and “attorney’s fees” in the past. Finally, history didn’t seem to help the USPTO as it was the first request for attorney fees in the 170-year history of §145.

Not a case likely to reach many, but it may help applicants faced with an adverse PTAB decision when the benefit outweighs the increased cost of your attorney fees for the lawsuit over an appeal to the Federal Circuit.

Copyright © 2019 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.