Archive for July, 2017

Celgard Urges Supremes to Condemn Judgments Without Opinions

July 13th, 2017

Previous posts (e.g., herehere and here) discussed the patent enforcement activity of Celgard, a North Carolina company that manufactures specialty membranes and separators for lithium ion batteries.

In these lawsuits, Celgard has asserted U.S. Patent No. 6,432,586 (’586 Patent).  The ’586 Patent is entitled “Separator for a high energy rechargeable lithium battery” and directed to a separator including a ceramic composite layer and a polyolefinic microporous layer.  The ceramic layer has a matrix material and is adapted to block dendrite growth and prevent electronic shorting.

A bunch of competitors challenged the ‘586 Patent in inter partes review (IPR) proceedings in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  After the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) of the USPTO found claims 1-11 of the ‘586 patent invalid as obvious in the proceedings brought by LG Chem, Celgard appealed.

In a one-line per curiam order handed down in December last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the PTAB decision.  The Federal Circuit denied Celgard’s subsequent petition for rehearing en banc.

Celgard has now appealed the case to the Supreme Court.  In its petition for certiorari, the company asks the Supremes to consider four questions.

First, are IPR proceedings unconstitutional?:

Whether inter partes review – an adversarial process used by the the Patent and Trademark Office (“Patent Office”) to analyze the validity of existing patents – violates the Constitution by extinguishing private property rights through a non-Article III forum without a jury?

Second, are the Federal Circuit’s judgments without opinions improper?:

Whether the Federal Circuit’s issuance of Rule 36 judgments without opinions for the disposition of appeals from the Patent Office violates 35 U.S.C. § 144’s requirement that the Federal Circuit “shall issue” its “mandate and opinion” for such appeals?

Third, and related to the second question, do the Federal Circuit’s judgments without opinions violate the principles of justice?:

Whether the Federal Circuit’s pervasive practice of issuing Rule 36 judgments without opinions to affirm more than 50% of appeals from the Patent Office has exceeded the bounds of reasonableness and is inconsistent with “principles of right and justice”?

Fourth, Celgard challenges the PTAB’s obviousness ruling:

Whether the Patent Office’s consistent practice of failing to consider the claimed invention “as a whole” and failing to consider whether the combination of elements would lead to “anticipated success” in an obviousness determination conflicts with 35 U.S.C. § 103 and this Court’s precedent in KSR Int’l Co. v. Teleflex Inc., 550 U.S. 398, 421 (2007)?

For more on the importance of the issues raised in this advanced battery case, see Patently-O’s post here.

For my part, I probably too frequently judge without opining.  Perhaps there’s a broader lesson for all of us here…