By Matthew L. Cutler, Principal
The Federal Circuit, today, denied a petition seeking rehearing en banc of its application of the “substantial evidence” standard of review in post-grant administrative proceedings, in the case of Merck & Cie v. Gnosis S.P.A., Appeal No. 2014-1779 (from IPR2013-00117). Writing a concurring opinion (in which Judges Wallach and Stoll joined), Judge O’Malley recognized the appeal of a change in the standard, such that the Federal Circuit would apply a less deferential “clear error” standard of review in AIA proceedings. But, Judge O’Malley felt compelled by Supreme Court precedent to maintain the “substantial evidence” standard. In short, Judge O’Malley signaled that the issue should be left to Congress to change, finding that, because Congress failed to expressly change the standard when it created IPR proceedings, the Court is not free to make that change now.
In dissent, Judge Newman wrote that it was inappropriate for the Federal Circuit to continue to apply the highly deferential standard of review and, instead, a full and fair review is more appropriate to the America Invents Act. More specifically, because PTAB proceedings are intended to be an alternative to district court proceedings on the issue of validity/patentability, the “substantial evidence” standard “does not assure the intended identity of result for these PTAB and district court determinations.”
Consider the baton officially passed to Congress to decide whether PTAB proceedings should be reviewed using a less deferential standard. For the foreseeable future, the Board will continue to receive high deference in its factual determinations.