U.S. Supreme Court justices on Monday said they will rule on constitutionality of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office tribunal used by Apple and other. SCOTUS may rein in the power of in-house judges serving on a who have the ability to cancel patents in a case involving a dispute between surgical device makers.
Justices raised questions during arguments in the case about the constitutionality of the agency’s selection of the judges and grappled over how to address the issue. Their ruling, due by the end of June, could jeopardize the work of a tribunal called the Patent Trial and Appeal Board that adjudicates the validity of hundreds of patents annually.
The tribunal, created by Congress in 2011, is an administrative court run by the patent office. It takes a second look at patents issued by the agency and often cancels them, much to the dismay of some inventors.
At issue is whether the agency’s more than 250 patent judges were appointed in violation of the Constitution’s so-called appointments clause, which requires certain high government officials – known as “principal officers” – to be named by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Other “inferior officers” with lesser authority may be appointed and supervised by department heads, who are themselves named by the president…
In recent years the tribunal’s reviews have become a quick and cheap way for companies that are prime targets for infringement suits, such as such as Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google, to try to invalidate patents.
MacDailyNews Take: One thing’s for sure: The U.S. Patent “system” is a mess and patent trolls have long been and remain out of control, but any tribunal making decisions with sometimes very large monetary implications should ultimately be accountable to voters, perhaps via Senate approval.