The sports technology industry is quickly growing, and more companies are finding themselves facing patent lawsuits. Inter partes review, a faster and less expensive alternative to litigation, provides benefits to companies involved in patent disputes. Inter partes review (IPR) is a trial proceeding conducted at the United States Patent and Trademark Office to review the patentability of claims in a patent. Typically, final determinations are issued within one year. IPR allows for less discovery than in district court and challenges may only be based on existing patents or publications, resulting in a cheaper streamlined process.
IPR provides relief for companies combating patent infringement lawsuits
Sports companies utilizing technology in new products are increasingly facing patent infringement lawsuits. IPR can help these companies fight back against lawsuits based on unwarranted patent infringement claims. Defendants in these cases can benefit from filing IPRs because district courts may grant stays on litigation proceedings while awaiting determinations through the IPR process. This shifts focus to the validity of a patent.
For example, an American company, KeeBinding, sued a German company, Völkl, over its patent on ski bindings. KeeBinding claimed that Völkl infringed its patent, and Völkl filed an IPR in response. The district court granted a motion to stay patent litigation until IPR proceedings were finalized. In the end, Völkl successfully defeated the patent through IPR, and the district court case was dismissed.
Stays and settlements
District courts do not automatically grant stays on litigation. A stay is granted based on a few factors, including details of the case and timing of the motion. For defendants in patent litigation cases hoping to stay litigation through IPR, timing is important. As with most patent matters, it is advantageous to get an early start. If your company is deep in the middle of a patent litigation case, the district court may be reluctant to stay the case.
Additionally, the IPR process promotes settlements. Patent challengers are often successful. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, over 73 percent of claims reviewed by the Patent Trial Appeal Board end up being canceled, typically ending in settlements between parties that resolve district court litigations.
Patent owners can also benefit
While most patent owners will want to avoid IPR, ultimately, proceedings can offer some benefits. Companies defending the validity of their patents can use IPR to accentuate weaknesses in invalidity arguments, close the wide scope of arguments available to the other party in district court litigation, and obtain statements regarding the interpretations of arguments made in IPR to use them against the other party in district court. Established in 2012, the IPR process offers a smart solution for sports tech companies and promotes innovation in the industry.