State universities rebuffed over patent challenges

The United States Supreme Court refused to shield state-run universities from having to appear before a federal administrative body to defend the validity of patents they own, writes Susan Decker for Bloomberg News.

The justices turned down an appeal by the University of Minnesota that argued it has state sovereign immunity from reviews by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. An appeals court said the reviews are administrative actions, so sovereign immunity doesn’t apply. The review boards, part of the US Patent and Trademark Office, are popular with companies accused of infringement because the agency is faster and more likely to invalidate patents than a district court.

The university filed lawsuits against Ericsson AB customers, Broadcom Inc’s LSI unit, and Gilead Sciences Inc, seeking royalties on patents it owned. Each of the companies sought review at the patent office. The review board refused to throw out the cases brought by Ericsson and LSI, saying that by filing the lawsuits, the university had exposed itself to the validity challenges. Gilead, seeking to challenge a patent for a cancer-fighting treatment, intervened in the university’s appeal alongside Ericsson and LSI.
Full report on the Bloomberg site