There's little debate about the fact that America's patent system has its share of problems. Especially in recent decades, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has "rubber stamped" too many patent applications, effectively issuing patents that would not hold up under careful scrutiny. Usually, these patents are for broad concepts or vague business processes.
Challenging or defending the validity of a patent in court can be time-consuming and expensive, which is why the USPTO began offering an alternative procedure called an inter partes review (IPR). But many allege that this system, which has been in place since 2012, invalidates far too many patents and that the patent office improperly interprets the patents that it is asked to review. Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to weigh in on a challenge to the IPR procedure.
The case to be heard was originally filed by Cuozzo Speed Technologies LLC. In 2012, Cuozzo had its speedometer patent invalidated after rival company Garmin Ltd filed the first-ever IPR petition. Cuozzo alleges that of all the cases which have come under inter partes review, nearly 85 percent have ended with some or all or the challenged claims being cancelled. The company calls the review procedure "surprisingly lethal."
A ruling is expected sometime in June. And no matter how the Court rules, the decision will have big implications for large and small businesses alike. This includes companies like Google and Apple, who currently use the IPR procedure frequently.
If you are a small business owner in need of a patent, you could benefit greatly from the help of an experienced intellectual property attorney. Thoroughly vetting your patent before filing for patent protection could significantly improve the chances that the patent will be approved and upheld if challenged.