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July 8, 2013

Separation of Powers

Fresenius sought a DJ against Baxter that backfired, at least at first. The district court found the patent (5,247,434) valid and infringed. The CAFC affirmed. Meanwhile, in reexamination, the PTO found '434 invalid. The CAFC affirmed the PTO, even as the district court entered an infringement finding against Fresenius. To resolve the conundrum, the CAFC 2-1 sided with the PTO over its own court system. The dissent finds this a breach in the constitutional separation of powers.

Fresenius v. Baxter (CAFC 2012-1334, -1335) precedential; Judges Newman (dissent), Dyk (author), Prost

Judge Newman, in dissent:

The court today authorizes the Patent and Trademark Office, an administrative agency within the Department of Commerce, to override and void the final judgment of a federal Article III Court of Appeals. The panel majority holds that the entirety of these judicial proceedings can be ignored and superseded by an executive agency's later ruling.
This holding violates the constitutional plan, for "Judgments, within the powers vested in courts by the Judiciary Article of the Constitution, may not lawfully be revised, overturned or refused faith and credit by another Department of Government." Chi. & S. Air Lines, Inc. v. Waterman S.S. Corp., 333 U.S. 103, 113 (1948). This holding violates the rules of finality, for judgments of Article III courts are "final and conclusive upon the rights of the parties," Gordon v. United States, 117 U.S. 697, 702 (1864); Plaut v. Spendthrift Farm, Inc., 514 U.S. 211, 226 (1995) (same).

Posted by Patent Hawk at July 8, 2013 3:15 PM | Case Law