Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), by and through his designees, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), has the unchallengeable authority to institute inter partes review (IPR) proceedings even when they are brought outside the statute of limitations. Thus, the PTAB is now the most important patent court in the United States. This begs an important question that Congress must soon wrestle with regarding access to the PTAB. We have been told over and over again just how essential the PTAB is to the patent system. How necessary the PTAB is with respect to rooting out bad patents that never should have issued. And, honestly, the PTAB has been very, very good at killing patent claims and patents. But there is a fundamental unfairness at the PTAB. If the PTAB is so important, why are the fees so high? If the PTAB plays such a vital role in correcting the egregious mistakes of patent examiners (of which there are apparently many given the number of valuable patents that die upon review), why should only those patents that are owned by independent inventors, universities, start-ups and research and development companies be the targets? What about the truly ridiculous, idiotic patents that are issued to large entities?
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