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Intellectual Property Litigation Patent Licensing and Transactions

Say What? Are PTAB Judges Really ‘Inferior Officers’?

United States v. Arthrex, Inc.

Proving that even the driest of constitutional issues can have significant practical effect, the U.S. Supreme Court recently heard argument in United States v. Arthrex. Before the Court was whether administrative judges of the PTAB have been appointed unconstitutionally.

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Proving that even the driest of constitutional issues can have significant practical effect, the United States Supreme Court recently heard argument in United States v. Arthrex, Inc., et al., No. 19-1434. Before the Court was whether administrative judges (APJs) of the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) have been appointed unconstitutionally under the America Invents Act (2011), particularly in view of their adjudicatory function in connection with inter partes review proceedings (IPRs). More specifically, are such judges “principal officers” under the Appointments Clause of Article II, Section, Two, Clause Two of the U.S. Constitution such that, to pass muster, they must be appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate? Or are they instead “inferior” officers, properly appointed by the Commerce Secretary in consultation with the Director of the USPTO (Director)?

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