District Courts Must Conduct De Novo Review of Patent Claims Denials in Actions Under Section 145 of U.S. Patent Act

Section 145 of the U.S. Patent Act grants a patent applicant whose claims are denied by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) the opportunity to challenge the USPTO’s decision by filing a civil action against the Director of the USPTO in federal district court. In such a proceeding, the applicant may present evidence to the district court that he did not present to the USPTO. In a decision issued today, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a district court hearing a Section 145 proceeding must conduct a de novo review of the USPTO’s decision denying the applicant’s claims, and that the only limitations on the applicant’s ability to introduce new evidence in such a proceeding are the generally applicable provisions of the Federal Rules of Evidence and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Kappos v. Hyatt, No. 10–1219 (U.S. Sup. Ct. April 18, 2012).

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