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Federal Circuit Remands Because PTAB’s Claim Construction Was “Unreasonably Broad”

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The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) administers post-grant patent proceedings under the America Invents Act. The PTAB has invalidated many patent claims, and has been referred to as a patent “death squad.” But a recent Federal Circuit decision reversed the PTAB’s holding that claims owned by Proxyconn, Inc., were invalid, delivering encouraging news to patent owners.

The Federal Circuit held that the PTAB’s claim construction was “unreasonably broad,” which lead to the PTAB invalidating certain claims of Proxyconn’s patent in an inter partes review (IPR). The Federal Circuit reaffirmed the PTAB’s “broadest reasonable interpretation” standard for construing claims in IPRs, but held that the PTAB applied the standard too broadly in this case, and remanded for further proceedings. The PTAB construed the claims in such a way that they became “divorced from the specification and the record evidence,” and were not “consistent with the [interpretation] that those skilled in the art would reach.”

As of April 30, 2015, the USPTO reports that, for IPRs, only 10% of claims challenged and instituted have been found patentable. This decision from the Federal Circuit should give some comfort to patent owners facing an IPR, that “reasonable” is indeed significant in the PTAB’s “broadest reasonable interpretation” standard.