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What is PTAB?


The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB or Board) is a tribunal within the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that reviews rejections made by examiners in proceedings called “ex parte appeals” and decides patentability questions for issued patents raised by third parties in proceedings called “AIA trials.”  "AIA" stands for America Invents Act, which created the PTAB (previously known as the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences or BPAI). The Board includes statutory members and administrative patent judges.  The statutory members of the Board are the USPTO director, deputy director, commissioner for patents, and commissioner for trademarks.  

Administrative patent judges are appointed by the secretary of commerce and are legally and technically trained.  Judges have extensive patent legal experience prior to their appointment on the Board, for example, in private practice, in government practice (e.g. at Department of Justice or International Trade Commission) and/or as in-house counsel in companies.  Many also have served as USPTO examiners and/or judicial law clerks.  

The Board also includes patent attorneys, law clerks, and paralegals along with support staff to administer proceedings and hearings.

Learn more about the Board, its composition, history, and areas of jurisdiction.


What are ex parte appeals?

If a patent examiner twice rejects or issues a final rejection in a  patent application, the applicant can seek review of the rejection by the Board.  The Board calls such an applicant by the title “appellant.”  An appellant and the examiner may submit written papers called “briefs” to explain their respective positions.  The appellant also may request to make an oral presentation to the Board in what is called an “oral hearing”.  The Board will review the briefs, attend the oral hearing, and then render a decision.  The Board will either affirm or reverse, in part or whole, the examiner’s rejection.  If the appellant is not successful in securing reversal of the examiner’s rejection from the Board, the appellant may seek reconsideration by the Board or federal court review or both.

The appeal process involves nine steps and is explained in the videos below:

INVENTOR CHAT (Appealing a Final Rejection to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board: What you need to know, August 15, 2019) 

BOARDSIDE CHAT (Appeals Made Easy, November 7, 2019)

Find out more information about ex parte appeals on the PTAB's Appeal webpage.


What are AIA proceedings? 

A third party who is not the patent owner, called a "petitioner", may challenge the validity of the claims in an issued patent in an AIA proceeding before the Board.  There are three main types of AIA proceedings, called inter partes review, post grant review, and covered business method review.  A patent owner may respond to the petition, and then the Board will determine whether to institute an AIA trial.  

If the Board institutes a trial, the petitioner and the patent owner will have opportunities to gather evidence and present additional briefing to the Board.  The parties also may request an oral hearing before the Board.  At the conclusion of the trial, the Board will issue a final written decision, determining whether the challenged claims are unpatentable.  An unsatisfied party may seek reconsideration by the Board or federal court review or both.

The AIA process involves two phases: an institution phase and trial phase.  The institution phase runs from the filing of a petition to the Board’s decision on institution.  The trial phase involves nine steps is explained in the video below:

BOARDSIDE CHAT (The Basics of AIA Trials, November 21, 2019)

Find out more information about AIA trials on the PTAB's Trial webpage.


What can I expect from a hearing?

An appellant in an ex parte appeal and the parties in an AIA trial may request an oral hearing before the Board.  An oral hearing enables the parties to orally explain their position to the Board.  Additionally, an oral hearing gives the Board an opportunity to ask questions of the parties to aid the Board in deciding the case.  An oral hearing may be held in a courtroom with a court reporter present to prepare a transcript of the proceeding.  

Find out more information about oral hearings on the PTAB's Hearings webpage.


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