The Biotechnology Industry Organization, along with AUTM and CropLife International, filed an amicus brief in the Microsoft v. i4i Supreme Court case.
This case is widely viewed as one of the most fundamental and important patent cases to reach the Supreme Court in probably a decade. Most basically, this case is about the level of certainty a jury or judge must have before finding a patent invalid in litigation. Historically, the law has required a high level of proof, “clear and convincing evidence,” before a patent that has been examined and issued by the US Patent and Trademark Office can be declared invalid by a court. In the Microsoft v. i4i case, the Supreme Court is now being asked to adopt a lower burden of proof, under which patents can more easily be found invalid by a lower “preponderance of the evidence.”
In our joint brief, BIO, AUTM and CLI explain that the current high burden of proof has deep historic roots in Supreme Court law, and has been consistently applied by the lower courts for many decades. Under the current standard, issued patents benefit from a clear and meaningful presumption of validity that cannot be easily overcome. In this way, patents play their intended role as enduring legal instruments that confer real rights, and that developers and investors can rely on for investment and product development decisions. The importance of being able to rely on patent rights is illustrated very clearly in the biotech industry, which would not be able to make large investments over very long development times without assurances that the fruits of their investments are protected by robust patent rights. Lowering the standard for patent validity would frustrate decades of investment-backed reliance interests and would negatively impact biotechnology innovation going forward. Our brief explains that the existing high burden of proof to invalidate a patent is entirely consistent with other instances where the law imposes high burdens of proof to protect the public’s reliance on existing property rights.
In our brief, we also point out that Congress permits patents to be invalidated on a lower burden of proof only by the expert Patent Office, and then only on certain kinds of reliable evidence. Litigants who prefer to argue to a lay jury or generalist judge, or who want to use less reliable evidence, can do so only under a higher burden of proof. Any change to this carefully-crafted balance would have to be made by Congress, not the courts.
The United States’ brief in this case forcefully argues against changing the current standard of patent validity.