Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences
The Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI) is an administrative law body of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which decides issues of patentability. As of mid-2013, the Chief Administrative Patent Judge is James Donald Smith. Under the America Invents Act, the BPAI was renamed the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), effective September 16, 2012.
The BPAI is primarily made up of an Appeals Division and a Trial Division. The Appeals Division, with over 100 Administrative Patent Judges, handles appeals of patent examiner rejections, with sections adjudicating different technology areas. The Trial Division, with 11 Administrative Patent Judges as of 2008, handles contested cases or interference proceedings. The BPAI is headed by a Chief Administrative Patent Judge, currently James Donald Smith, with a Vice Chief, currently James T. Moore.
An applicant can appeal the examiner's decision to the BPAI. The appeal procedure is described in section 1200 of the U.S. Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP). Typically, appeals to the BPAI are conducted ex parte. Decisions of the BPAI are typically rendered as an opinion.
Decisions of the BPAI can be further appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) under 35 U.S.C. § 141. The decisions of the CAFC may also be reviewed on a discretionary basis by the United States Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court is the ultimate authority on the judicial standards for patentability.
The United States Congress, however, can change the patent laws and thus override a decision of the Supreme Court.
An alternative path is a civil action against the Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia under 35 U.S.C. § 145. Any appeal arising from such a case would then be directed to the CAFC under 28 U.S.C. § 1295.
In 2007, Professor John F. Duffy, a widely recognized patent law scholar, argued that, since 2000, the process of appointing judges to the BPAI has been unconstitutional, because the judges are appointed without approval by the U.S. Senate.
- USPTO Press Release 11-31
- Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences Organization Chart
- Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences
- USPTO, Chapter 1200 Appeal, Manual of Patent Examining Procedure.
- John F. Duffy, Are Administrative Patent Judges Unconstitutional?, 2007, Patently-O Patent L.J. 21, or Duffy, John F., "Are Administrative Patent Judges Unconstitutional?" . Available at ssrn.com
- Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI) on the USPTO web site