Federal Circuit Holds the PTAB Must Apply Narrower Phillips Claim Construction Standard to Patents that Expire During Pendency of Re-exam

Pillars and Brick Wall

In In re CSB-System Int’l, Inc., No. 15-1832 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 9, 2016), the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently held that patents that expire during a pending re-examination before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) should be examined under the Phillips standard of claim  construction, and not the broadest reasonable interpretation (“BRI”) standard.  Typically, in District Court litigation claims in issued patents are construed using the framework set forth in Phillips v. AWH Corp., which considers the plain meaning of the claim terms themselves in light of the intrinsic record.  However, during re-examination proceedings for unexpired patents, the PTAB uses the BRI standard.  The reason for using the broader BRI standard in re-examinations is that a patent owner before the Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) with an unexpired patent may amend the claims to narrow their scope, thus negating any unfairness that may otherwise result from adopting the broader BRI standard.

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