US: Estoppel Attaches Even If Dismissed Without Prejudice

On August 16, 2018, the U.S. Federal Circuit addressed when the inter partes review (IPR) time bar clock begins to tick.  See Click-to-Call Tech. LP v. Ingenio, Inc., Slip Op. 2015-1242 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 16, 2018).  The en banc Federal Circuit addressed whether the one year estoppel clock begins for a properly served complaint when the complaint is subsequently dismissed without prejudice.  The panel found that the § 315(b) time bar applies.  The filing of such a complaint, though later voluntarily dismissed, has previously formed the basis for declaratory judgment jurisdiction where the initial defendant later brings a validity challenge. See TransWeb, LLC v. 3M Innovative Props. Co., 812 F.3d 1295, 1300 (Fed. Cir. 2016).

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) previously held that “because [the filed complaint] was dismissed without prejudice, Federal Circuit precedent interprets such a dismissal as leaving the parties in the same legal position as if the underlying complaint had never been served.”  The Federal Circuit panel reasoned that the “Board misunderstood that the text of § 315(b) is agnostic as to the ‘effect’ of the service—i.e., what events transpired after the defendant was served.”

When a complaint has been served, a defendant should be cognizant that its one year bar begins to run regardless of the disposition of the complaint.

By Jason Engel, Benjamin Weed, Katy Hoffee and Erik Halverson

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