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Apple, Google again lose lawsuit challenging US patent-review policy

Post Time:2024-04-02 Source:Reuters Author:Blake Brittain Views:

April 1 (Reuters) - Apple (AAPL.O) Google (GOOGL.O) and other major tech companies have failed to convince a California federal court that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office unlawfully implemented a rule that reduced the number of patent-validity reviews the office considers.

U.S. District Judge Edward Davila in San Jose said late Sunday that the USPTO was not required to hold a notice-and-comment period before creating the rule, rejecting a lawsuit from Apple, Google, Intel (INTC.O), Cisco (CSCO.O) and Edwards Lifesciences (EW.N) for a second time.

Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda said the company was disappointed with the decision and evaluating its options, and that the ruling "leaves industry operating in an uncertain and unstable environment."

Representatives for Apple, Cisco and Edwards did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday. Representatives for Intel and the USPTO declined to comment on the decision.

The USPTO's Patent Trial and Appeal Board conducts inter partes reviews (IPR), in which it reconsiders the validity of patents by request. The process is often used by big tech companies that are frequently targeted with patent lawsuits to contest patents they are accused of infringing.

An internal rule gave the agency's judges greater discretion to deny IPR petitions. Tech companies sued the USPTO in the California federal court in 2020, arguing the rule undermined the role IPR plays in "protecting a strong patent system" and violated federal law.

Davila dismissed the case in 2021, citing U.S. Supreme Court rulings that PTAB decisions on whether to review IPR petitions cannot be appealed. But the Federal Circuit said last year that the USPTO may have been required to hold a period of public notice and comment before making the rule and revived the companies' challenge based on that argument.

Davila ruled for the PTO again on Sunday and said that the rule was a "general statement of policy" instead of a substantive rule that required public notice and comment period.

The case is Apple Inc v. Vidal, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 5:20-cv-06128.