The U.S. Supreme Court had its plate full of noteworthy cases for last week’s oral arguments. Among the most newsmaking were a potential re-interpretation of the Fifth Amendment’s double jeopardy clause and a case considering the reach of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s anti-fraud provisions. But also lurking on the docket was a patent case from the Federal Circuit asking the Supreme Court to clarify whether a wording change by the America Invents Act to an existing patent law also amounts to a substantive change.
Helsinn Healthcare S.A. v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc. deals with the question of whether the AIA changed the on-sale bar in patent law — which requires an inventor to file for a patent within a year after offering their invention for sale — to no longer include confidential sales. Patent lawyers have their eyes on the eventual outcome to provide clarity in how they’ll advise their clients. And depending how the ruling comes down, it could raise questions about the validity of patents filed while the case has worked its way through the courts.
“Anytime you change statutory language … you have an entire nation full of attorneys interpreting what that change means,” said Ryan Fletcher, a Merchant & Gould patent attorney. “Ambiguity is not a friend of attorneys when it comes to statutes.”