patent reexamination

The Independence of the Patent Office and the Courts

Patent litigation may have replaced polo as the sport of kings because of its costly nature and drain on a party’s resources.  However, once engaged in a patent litigation, like any dispute, if a party too intensely focuses on any one front, it may lose the opportunity to win the war. 

In the recent decision In re Trans Texas Holdings Corp., 498 F.3d 1290 (2007), the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) provided a useful reminder that the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is an independent governmental body that is not secondary in importance to the courts, and any client that finds itself engaged in a patent dispute or potential patent dispute would be remiss if it did not keep in mind the powerful, but often under-used reexamination procedures that the PTO offers the public to challenge the validity of patents. 

In particular, the PTO is not bound by a prior court ruling on a patent’s meaning and scope, but rather is free to reach its own, perhaps contrary interpretation.