On June 20, 2016, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Cuozzo Speed Technologies v. Lee. On its face, it is a broad win for the Patent Office. The Supreme Court affirmed the use of the “broadest reasonable interpretation” standard for claim construction in Patent Office review proceedings and the limited reviewability of the Patent Office’s decision whether to institute a review. The decision should provide a degree of clarity for parties going forward in AIA review proceedings.
However, the opinion also leaves many questions unanswered. Specifically, the scope of issues that are reviewable on appeal concerning the institution decision appears far from settled. The Supreme Court specifically carved out three areas which may be appropriate for appellate review:
[W]e need not, and do not, decide the precise effect of § 314(d) on appeals that implicate constitutional questions, that depend on other less closely related statutes, or that present other questions of interpretation that reach, in terms of scope and impact, well beyond “this section.”
Slip. Op. at 11.
The Federal Circuit had previously held that it could review matters from the institution decision that related to the Patent Office’s ultimate authority to cancel patent claims. Versata Dev. Group, Inc. v. SAP Am., Inc., 793 F.3d 1306, 1320-21 (Fed. Cir. 2015). Whether the Cuozzo opinion represents a significant shift in the law is a matter that is likely to be extensively litigated. But regardless, going forward, it will be interesting to see how the Federal Circuit draws the line between those issues that are reviewable, and those that are not.