Wrongly Affirmed Without Opinion
31 Pages Posted: 31 Jan 2017 Last revised: 16 May 2020
Date Written: January 31, 2017
Many see the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit as the patent court because of its national jurisdiction over patent cases and its congressional mandate to strengthen and bring uniformity to the patent system, presumably through precedential decision-making. Oddly, for the past few years most of the court’s merits decisions in Patent and Trademark Office appeals have not been released with precedential opinions – or even non-precedential opinions for that matter. Rather, most are filed as judgments without any opinion at all. The court’s approach is surprising considering the current high levels of uncertainty in the areas of patent law procedure (AIA Trials before the PTAB) and doctrine (eligibility under Alice and Mayo) that are being decided without opinion.
This short article raises a surprisingly simple but novel argument: the Federal Circuit is required by statute to issue an opinion in these PTO appeals. As I explain, the statute is plain and clear and is supported by strong policy goals. The court’s recent spate of hidden decisions is threatening its public legitimacy. I respect the members of this court so much, and I hope they will use this opportunity to take the next step in the right direction.
Keywords: Federal Circuit, patent, opinion, AIA, PTAB, PTO, Circuit, jurisdiction, Trademark, Alice, Mayo, appeal
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