Fee ShiftingLitigationPatent

SCOTUS Holds in NantKwest that USPTO Cannot Be Reimbursed for Salaries of Legal Personnel

The Supreme Court ruled in Peter v. NantKwest today that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) cannot recover the salaries of USPTO attorneys and paralegals who work on civil actions against the USPTO Director in the Eastern District of Virginia. The Court held that the language of Section 145 of the Patent Act, which says that applicants must pay all the expenses of the proceedings for a civil action, “does not overcome the American Rule’s presumption against fee shifting.” The USPTO argued that the Federal Circuit’s en banc 2018 decision holding “all expenses” does not include “expenses that the USPTO incurs when its employees, including attorneys, defend the agency in Section 145 litigation,” is inconsistent with the ordinary meaning of  “expenses” and Section 145’s “history and purpose.”

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