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Oil States Energy Services LLC v. Greene’s Energy Group LLC

Why We Fight:

A property right may not be extinguished by the federal government without a trial before an Article III (federal district) court heard by a jury of one’s peers.

Summary:

After a company, which hold a patent, alleged infringement before a federal district court, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office invalidated the patent in administrative proceeding.

Legal Question:

Whether inter partes review—an adversarial process used by the [Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office] to analyze the validity of existing patents—violates the Constitution by extinguishing private property rights through a non-Article III forum without a jury?

Petitioner

Oil States Energy Services, LLC

Respondents

Greene’s Energy Group, LLC; Joseph Matal, Interim Director, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Amicus Curiae:

Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) and professor James W. Ely, Jr.

Court:

Supreme Court of the United States
A decision by the Supreme Court of the United States

In 2012, Oil States—a Texas company, that holds a patent that allows wellheads during oil and gas drilling operations to withstand the continuous pressure and abrasiveness of hydraulic fracturing fluid and thus protects them from severe damage, shut downs, and delays in energy production—filed an infringement suit against Greene’s Energy Group, LLC in Texas federal district court alleging that Greene’s Energy was infringing on its patent.  Green’s Energy countered that the patent was invalid.  Subsequently, Greene’s Energy petitioned the Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board to invalidate, or cancel, the patent, a process that the Board began on June 10, 2014.

On June 23, 2014, the Texas federal district court ruled that “the claims … [in patent] easily inform those skilled in the art about the scope of the invention with reasonable certainty” and, thus, “the claims [by Greene’s Energy] are not invalid.”  Nonetheless, the Board continued to conduct its own review.  On May 1, 2015, the Board concluded, “by a preponderance of the evidence,” that the patent is “unpatentable” and should never have been issued.

On June 12, 2015, Oil States appealed the Board’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, arguing, in part, that the Board’s decision must be set aside because the Constitution requires patent invalidation to be determined by a jury in an Article III court.  On May 4, 2016, a panel of the Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s decision without issuing an opinion.  On November 23, 2016, Oil States filed a timely petition for writ of certiorari.  On June 12, 2017, the Supreme Court granted the petition.

On August 31, 2017, MSLF and Professor James W. Ely, Jr., filed a friend of the court brief arguing that property rights may only be invalidated by an Article III court after a trial by jury.  Oral argument was held on November 27, 2017.

 
No Status Updates
  • Western Group and Property Rights Expert Disappointed with Supreme Court Ruling

    Apr 24, 2018
    A western nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation with decades of experience defending private property rights and a renowned legal historian and property rights expert today expressed their disappointment with the failure of the Supreme Court of the United States to restore the full constitutional rights of private property owners by ruling those rights can be invalidated only by an Article III court, that is, a federal district court, after a trial by jury.
  • Western Group and Property Rights Expert Urge Supreme Court: Protect Property Rights

    Aug 31, 2017
    A western nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation with decades of experience defending private property rights and a renowned legal historian and property rights expert today urged the Supreme Court of the United States to restore the full constitutional rights of private property owners by ruling those rights can be invalidated only by an Article III court, that is, a federal district court, after a trial by jury.


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