When a patent or trademark applicant loses in front of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), they can either appeal to a court of appeals or develop a fuller record by starting a district court action. If the applicant goes to district court, then the applicable statute says that the applicant-appellant pays “[a]ll the expenses of the proceedings,” and everyone at one time agreed that those expenses did not include fees for the government’s attorneys. That changed in 2013, when the USPTO unilaterally started including its attorney and support staff fees amongst the expenses. On the first Monday of October—the first day of arguments in the Supreme Court’s 2019 term—the Court will hear argument in Peter v. NantKwest, No. 18-801. The question in that case is whether the word “expenses” includes the government’s attorneys’ fees. On July 22, we filed an amicus brief on behalf of the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) arguing that it does not.
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