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10 September 2020AmericasSarah Morgan

Fed Circ grants Arthrex remand, rejects Iancu conflict

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit granted the owner of an artificial heart valve patent a remand under Arthrex, but shot down the company’s attempt to escape an inter partes review (IPR) by citing a conflict.

In a precedential decision handed down yesterday, September 9, the Federal Circuit concluded that Snyders Heart Valve was entitled to a redo of an inter partes review, brought against the company by medical device company St Jude Medical.

Last October, the Federal Circuit in Arthrex ruled that Patent Trial and Appeal Board administrative patent judges were appointed unconstitutionally and severing the portion of US patent law blocking the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) director from removing board judges from office.

However, Synders went on to argue that it was entitled to greater relief than that afforded to the appellant in Arthrex, because Andrei Iancu, director of the USPTO, had previously served as counsel for St Jude in a parallel proceeding. St Jude was acquired by Abbott in 2017.

Even though Iancu had recused himself from the case, Snyders argued that his conflict should be “imputed to all USPTO employees and that his recusal should impact the remedy available to Snyders”.

But the court concluded that argument was without merit, noting that the USPTO’s deputy director has the authority to step into the shoes of director in the event of the director’s “incapacity”. A conflict requiring recusal qualifies as an ‘incapacity’.

“The deputy director’s role sufficiently removes any potential taint of the director’s conflict. We see no reason why, moreover, the director’s lack of participation otherwise impacts the Arthrex remedy analysis,” said the Federal Circuit.

It concluded that Snyders was entitled to the same relief given to the Arthrex appellant “and no more”.

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