Noteable case: Oil States Energy Services v. Greene’s Energy Group

Noteable case: Oil States Energy Services v. Greene’s Energy Group

A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor for a limited period of time in exchange for detailed explanation of how an invention works. The purpose of a patent is encourage the sharing of knowledge by rewarding inventors with the right to control their invention for a few years if they teach the public all the details of their invention. In the United States the authority to grant patents is granted to congress by the United States Constitution. The United States Patent and Trademark Office is an agency in the United States Department of Commerce that has been authorized to issue patents to inventors for their inventions.

Modern United States patent law was passed in 1951. Patent law remained relatively unchanged for the rest of the century, but as technology progressed and the world advanced issues began to develop with the 1951 Patent Law. The America Invents Act was passed in 2011. The America Invents Act was law intended to update United States patent law and bring harmony to the system. The America Invents Act introduced a number of new innovations to United States Patent law, the most notable innovation being the inter partes review.

Inter partes review is intended to fight bad patents. Bad patents are patents which should not have been granted. Stated differently, inter partes review are a way to ask the United States Patent and Trademark Office to correct a mistake.

Before inter partes review the only way to get a granted patent invalidated was to litigate the issue in federal court. Litigation in United States Federal Court is a slow, expensive process. When the America Invents Act introduced inter partes review the intention was to create a fast and inexpensive way for patent validity to be reviewed. The primary motivation for creating a faster less expensive way to review patents was public dissatisfaction with non-practicing entities, or patent trolls.

Non-practicing entities are companies that do not actually manufacture products, instead, patent trolls are shell companies that license patents to companies that do produce products. Patent trolls are considered a blight to the american economy, patent trolls demand payments which are just small enough to make it better to pay the patent troll instead of fighting the troll in federal court. The inter partes review process has made it much easier for companies to resist the demands of patent trolls.

In the case Oil States Energy Services v. Greene’s Energy Group, Oil States sued a Greene for infringing on a patent Oil States owned. Greene requested that Oil States’ patent be revked through inter partes review. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the United States Patent and Trademark Office revoked Oil State’s patent. Now Oil States is arguing before the United States Supreme Court that the whole process of inter partes review is unconstitutional. Oil States argues that administrative agencies cannot revoke property such as patents because administrative agencies like that United States Patent and Trademark Office are not courts and that the United States constitution requires a jury trial to revoke patents. Greene’s argument is that if an administrative agency grants a property right, like a patent, that administrative agency had the right to revoke the property right.

The United States Supreme Court has listened to the arguments of the attorneys for both sides and will issue a ruling on the issue in the next year. The decision of the United States Supreme Court will have far reaching results not just for patent law but all rights controlled by administrative agencies in the United States.

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