Strategic Decision Making in Dual PTAB and District Court Proceedings

79 Pages Posted: 15 Feb 2016 Last revised: 24 Sep 2016

See all articles by Saurabh Vishnubhakat

Saurabh Vishnubhakat

Yeshiva University - Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law; Duke University School of Law

Arti K. Rai

Duke University School of Law; Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative

Jay P. Kesan

University of Illinois College of Law

Date Written: July 22, 2016


The post-grant review proceedings set up at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent and Trial Appeal Board by the America Invents Act of 2011 have transformed the relationship between Article III patent litigation and the administrative state. Not surprisingly, such dramatic change has itself yielded additional litigation possibilities: Cuozzo Speed Technologies v. Lee, a case addressing divergence between the manner in which the PTAB and Article III courts construe patent claims, will soon be decided at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Of the three major new PTAB proceedings, two have proven to be popular as well as controversial: inter partes review and covered business method review. Yet scholarly analysis of litigant behavior in these proceedings has been limited thus far to descriptive data summaries or specific policy perspectives on these types of post-grant challenges, such as their impact on the well-rehearsed patent troll debate. In this article, we present what is to our knowledge the first comprehensive empirical and analytical study of how litigants use these inter partes review and covered business method review proceedings relative to Article III litigation.

A major normative argument for administrative ex post review is that it should be an efficient, accessible, and accurate substitute for Article III litigation over patent validity. We assess the substitution hypothesis, using individual patents as our general unit of analysis as well as investigating patent-petitioner pairs and similar details in greater depth. Our data indicate that the “standard model” of explicit substitution — wherein a district court defendant subsequently brings an administrative challenge to patent validity — occurs for the majority (70%) of petitioners who bring inter partes review challenges. An important implication of this effect is that the PTAB should use a claim construction standard that mirrors that of the district court. With a uniform standard, PTAB claim constructions could be used by district courts in any subsequent proceedings, and the benefits of substituting administrative process for judicial process would thereby be most fully realized.

Notably, however, standard substitution is not the only use of the PTAB: particularly in the area of inter partes reviews, we also see a surprising percentage of cases (about 30%) where the petitioner is not the target of a prior suit on the same patent. The frequency of these nonstandard petitioners, as well as their tendency to join the same petitions as an entity that has been sued, varies by technology. Our data on nonstandard petitioners provide some insight into the extent to which patent challengers are engaging in collective action to contest the validity of patents. Depending on the details of how nonstandard petitioning and collective action are being deployed, this activity could provide a social benefit or constitute a form of harassment.

Keywords: patent, administrative, empirical, inter partes review, covered business method, collective action, America Invents Act, IPR, CBM, PTAB, USPTO, AIA

JEL Classification: D23, D73, K23, K41, O31, O34, O38

Suggested Citation

Vishnubhakat, Saurabh and Rai, Arti Kaur and Kesan, Jay P., Strategic Decision Making in Dual PTAB and District Court Proceedings (July 22, 2016). Berkeley Technology Law Journal, Vol. 31, 2016, Duke Law School Public Law & Legal Theory Series No. 2016-14, Texas A&M University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 16-34, Available at SSRN:

Saurabh Vishnubhakat (Contact Author)

Yeshiva University - Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law ( email )

55 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10003
United States


Duke University School of Law

Durham, NC

Arti Kaur Rai

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative ( email )

215 Morris St., Suite 300
Durham, NC 27701
United States

Jay P. Kesan

University of Illinois College of Law ( email )

504 E. Pennsylvania Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820
United States
217-333-7887 (Phone)
217-244-1478 (Fax)


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