Argument Forfeit in Remand Notwithstanding Modified Claim Construction
In the second appeal arising from an inter partes review (IPR), the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that its revised claim construction from the first appeal did not permit the patent challenger to raise a new argument in a remand proceeding at the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (Board) since the patent owner’s response in the original proceeding had sufficiently put the challenger on notice of the claim construction that was adopted in the first appeal. Wireless Protocol Innovations, Inc. v. TCT Mobile, Inc., Case No. 21-2112 (Fed. Cir. July 19, 2022) (Prost, Taranto, Chen, JJ.)
Wireless Protocol Innovations (WPI) owns a patent related to controlling data flow in a point-to-multipoint communications system. WPI filed a district court complaint in 2015 asserting the patent against TCT. In response, TCT filed IPR petitions challenging certain claims of the patent. The petition presented three grounds of unpatentability, one of which relied on a reference by Sen. TCT’s petition did not propose constructions for any claim terms and argued that Sen taught the “grant pending absent state” limitation of the challenged patent. WPI argued that Sen failed to disclose “transitioning” between the “grant pending absent” and “grant pending” states after a “subsequent bandwidth grant,” as required by the claims. In its reply, TCT maintained that Sen taught the limitation but never argued that Sen could be readily modified to include a “grant pending absent state.” The Board found all of the challenged claims to be unpatentable on two grounds, one of which relied on Sen. WPI appealed.
The Federal Circuit reversed the Board’s decision with respect to the first ground, vacated the Board’s decision relying on Sen because the Board applied a flawed claim construction of “grant pending absent state,” and remanded the IPR for the Board to reconsider in view of the Court’s new claim construction. The Court also specifically declined to “prejudge what arguments TCT has properly preserved or should now be permitted to advance or what determinations as to Sen, Rydnell, and admitted prior art are supported by the evidence.”
On remand, the Board allowed the parties to submit additional briefing and expert testimony limited to the issue of whether Sen described operating a consumer premises equipment (CPE) in a “grant pending absent state” as interpreted by the Federal Circuit. TCT maintained its argument that Sen disclosed a grant pending absent state and argued for the first time that, in the alternative, it would have been obvious to a person skilled in the art to modify Sen to meet the limitation. The Board issued a remand decision finding the challenged claims unpatentable. Again, WPI appealed.
The Federal Circuit found that TCT had failed to preserve its new claim construction and obviousness argument and that “failure to timely assert a right or raise an argument constitutes forfeiture.” The Court explained that TCT acknowledged that it understood, prior to its reply, that WPI sought to distinguish the claimed “grant pending absent state” from Sen because Sen involved some active data transmission. The Court found that its prior decision on claim construction did not depart from WPI’s understanding of the claim and that under those circumstances, if TCT wanted to raise the obvious to modify its argument, it needed to at least try to introduce the argument to the Board no later than its reply during the original IPR proceeding. The Court, therefore, reversed the Board’s remand decision finding the challenged claims as unpatentable.