In Return Mail v. US Postal Service, the Supreme Court held that the United States Government does not qualify as a “person” in the organic statutory provisions that created the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) in the American Invents Act of 2011. The patent statutes provide that a “person” may file petitions in the various administrative review programs at the PTAB, i.e., inter partes review, post-grant view, and covered business methods. Thus, governmental agencies may not file petitions to cancel patents at the PTAB. The PTAB has been a flashpoint of controversy in the patent system. It was created to provide efficient and quick cancelation of mistakenly issued patents that hampered the innovation economy. Since it began operations in 2012, the PTAB has been accused by judges, lawyers, and commentators of engaging in procedural and substantive “shenanigans.” With very high cancelation rates, one federal judge has called it a “death squad[] killing property rights.” This Courthouse Steps teleforum will review Return Mail v. US Postal Service and discuss its legal and policy implications for the patent system, the PTAB, the innovation economy, and limitations on federal executive power.
Prof. Adam MacLeod, Professor of Law, Faulkner University
Matthew J. Dowd, Founder and Partner, Dowd Scheffel PLLC

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