Return Mail: Government is Not a “Person” and Therefore Cannot File AIA Review Petitions

Return Mail, Inc. v. United States Postal Service (Supreme Court 2019) [Return Mail, Inc. v. Postal Service]

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court has decided the U.S. Government is not a “person” capable of petitioning for institution of AIA review proceedings.

Under the statute, a “person” other than the patent owner may petition for AIA Review (IPR, PRG, or CBM). See 35 U.S.C. 311 (for IPR).

In the case, Return Mail sued the US Postal Service (part of the US Federal Government) for infringing its address processing patent and USPS petitioned for CBM review.   The PTO agreed that the patent claimed ineligible subject matter and cancelled the claims. On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed. Now, the Supreme Court has reversed – holding that the Government is not a person under the statute and therefore cannot petition for AIA review.

The overall outcome here is that the Federal Government is more likely to have to pay royalty fees when it uses someone’s patented invention. 


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