burden of proof : CAFC Alert

Burden of Proof does not shift to Patent Owner upon institution of an Inter Partes Review

| August 1, 2016

In Re: Magnum Oil Tools International, LTD.

July 25, 2016

Before Newman, O’Malley, and Chen. Opinion by O’Malley


McClinton Energy Group, LLC (“McClinton”) filed a petition for inter partes review (“IPR”) of U.S. Patent No. 8,079,413 (“the ‘413 patent”) owned by Magnum Oil Tools International, Ltd. (“Magnum”). McClinton based the petition on two combinations of prior art references: (1) Alpha in view of Cockrell and Kristiansen, and (2) Lehr in view of Cockrell and Kristiansen. The petition primarily focused on the combination of Alpha, Cockrell and Kristiansen, and merely “incorporated by reference” the arguments based on Alpha for the arguments based on Lehr. The IPR was instituted based only on Lehr in view of Cockrell and Kristiansen, and in a final decision, the claims were found unpatentable. The CAFC reversed the PTAB decision stating that the arguments “incorporated by reference” are not sufficient for meeting the burden of proving obviousness by a preponderance of the evidence. Conclusory statements cannot satisfy the petitioner’s burden of demonstrating obviousness, and thus the PTAB did not have sufficient evidence on which to base its legal conclusion of obviousness. The PTAB improperly shifted the burden to Magnum to disprove obviousness without requiring McClinton to prove its assertion of obviousness. The CAFC also stated that it was improper for the PTAB to rely on an unpatentability theory that was not included in the petition.

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