In re: Dominion Dealer Solutions, LLC, No. 14-109 (Fed. Cir. 2014)

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Justia Opinion Summary

AutoAlert sued Dominion, alleging infringement of five patents that claim systems and methods that involve alerting a car dealership when a new lease or sale opportunity seems a good fit for a past customer. After being served the complaint in that California action, Dominion timely petitioned the Director for inter partes reviews of the five patents under 35 U.S.C. 311-319. The district court stayed the case. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board denied the petition, deciding not to institute any of the requested inter partes reviews, for failure to show “a reasonable likelihood that the petitioner would prevail with respect to at least 1 of the claims challenged.” Dominion filed in a Virginia district court, invoking jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1331 & 1338 and seeking relief from the non-institution decision under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 701-706, the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. 2201-2202, and a mandamus statute, 28 U.S.C. 1361. Dominion then sought a writ of mandamus in the Federal Circuit under 28 U.S.C. 1651, challenging the Director’s non-institution decision. The Federal Circuit denied relief, stating that the relevant statutory provisions make clear that it may not hear an appeal from the Director’s decision not to institute an inter partes review.

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United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ______________________ IN RE DOMINION DEALER SOLUTIONS, LLC., Petitioner. ______________________ Miscellaneous Docket No. 109 ______________________ On Petition for Writ of Mandamus to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. ______________________ STEVEN J. ROCCI, Woodcock Washburn LLP, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for petitioner. With him on the petition were HENRIK D. PARKER and JEFFREY W. LESOVITZ. NATHAN K. KELLEY, Solicitor, United States Patent and Trademark Office, of Alexandria, Virginia, for respondent United States Patent and Trademark Office. With him on the response were FRANCES M. LYNCH and MEREDITH H. SCHOENFELD, Associate Solicitors. CRAIG S. SUMMERS, Knobbe, Martens, Olson & Bear, LLP, of Irvine, California, for respondent AutoAlert, Inc. With him on the response were PAUL A. STEWART, DAVID G. JANKOWSKI and CHERYL T. BURGESS. ______________________ ON PETITION ______________________ Before PROST, O MALLEY, and TARANTO, Circuit Judges. 2 IN RE DOMINION DEALER SOLUTIONS, LLC TARANTO, Circuit Judge. ORDER Dominion Dealer Solutions, LLC, petitioned the Director of the United States Patent & Trademark Office to institute inter partes reviews of five patents owned by AutoAlert, Inc. The Director, through her delegee, denied the petitions. Dominion now petitions this court to issue a writ of mandamus that would vacate the non-institution decisions and order the Director to institute an inter partes review for each of the five AutoAlert patents. As we decide today in St. Jude Medical, Cardiology Div., Inc. v. Volcano Corp., No. 2014-1183, however, the relevant statutory provisions make clear that we may not hear an appeal from the Director s decision not to institute an inter partes review. Based on that decision, we deny Dominion s petition for mandamus relief. BACKGROUND This dispute began in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where AutoAlert sued Dominion, alleging infringement of five patents. The patents claim systems and methods that involve alerting a car dealership when a new lease or sale opportunity seems a good fit for a past customer. AutoAlert, Inc. v. Dominion Dealer Solutions, LLC, No. 8:12cv-1661 (C.D. Cal. filed Oct. 1, 2012). After being served the complaint in the California action, Dominion timely petitioned the Director for inter partes reviews of those five patents under 35 U.S.C. §§ 311-319. The California district court then stayed the case pursuant to section 315(a)(2). The Director, through the Patent Trial and Appeal Board as her delegee, denied the petition, deciding under section 314(a) & (b) not to IN RE DOMINION DEALER SOLUTIONS, LLC 3 institute any of the requested inter partes reviews. 1 The Board explained that none of Dominion s petitions showed, as required to launch such a review, that there is a reasonable likelihood that the petitioner would prevail with respect to at least 1 of the claims challenged. Id. § 314(a). Dominion filed requests for rehearing, arguing that unrebutted evidence demonstrated a reasonable likelihood that the challenged claims are invalid. The Board denied rehearing. In October 2013, Dominion sued the PTO in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, invoking that court s jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 & 1338 and seeking relief from the non-institution decision under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 701-706, the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201-2202, and a mandamus statute applicable to district courts, 28 U.S.C. § 1361. In November 2013, Dominion filed the present petition for a writ of mandamus in this court under 28 U.S.C. § 1651, challenging the Director s non-institution decision directly in this court. DISCUSSION The remedy of mandamus is a drastic one, to be invoked only in extraordinary situations. Kerr v. U. S. Dist. Court for N. Dist. of Cal., 426 U.S. 394, 402 (1976). Accordingly, three conditions must be satisfied before it may issue. Cheney v. U.S. Dist. Court for D.C., 542 U.S. 367, 380 (2004). The petitioner must show a clear and Section 314 assigns the decision to institute an inter partes review to the Director. § 314(a), (b). The Director, by regulation, has delegated that decision to the Board. 37 C.F.R. §§ 42.4 & 42.108. The Board, in making the review-instituting decision, is exercising the Director s section 314 authority. 1 4 IN RE DOMINION DEALER SOLUTIONS, LLC indisputable right to relief. Id. at 381 (quoting Kerr, 426 U.S. at 403). The petitioner must lack adequate alternative means to obtain the relief it seeks. Mallard v. United States District Court, 490 U.S. 296, 309 (1989); Cheney, 542 U.S. at 380; Kerr, 426 U.S. at 403. And even if the first two prerequisites have been met, the issuing court, in the exercise of its discretion, must be satisfied that the writ is appropriate under the circumstances. Cheney, 542 U.S. at 381. In another Order issued today, we dismiss an appeal by a patent challenger seeking review of the Director s decision not to institute an inter partes review. See Order Dismissing Appeal, St. Jude Med., Cardiology Div., Inc. v. Volcano Corp., No. 2014-1183 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 24, 2014). We explain that such a challenger may not appeal the non-institution decision to this court. We conclude that such an appeal is precluded by the statutory provisions addressing inter partes review, including section 314(d) s broad declaration that the Director s decision whether to institute an inter partes review under this section shall be final and nonappealable, and by our jurisdictional statute. See St. Jude, slip op. at 5-6. Those conclusions require denial of Dominion s petition for mandamus relief. At a minimum, given our conclusions about the statutory scheme, Dominion has no clear and indisputable right to challenge a noninstitution decision directly in this court, including by way of mandamus. That is all we need to decide. As we have noted, Dominion has a challenge to the Director s non-institution decision pending in district court. The government s position is that section 314(d) s broad language precludes judicial review of the noninstitution decision in that proceeding. The district court in Virginia has recently agreed. Dominion Dealer Solutions, LLC v. Lee, No. 3:13CV699 (E.D. Va. Apr. 18, 2014). We need not decide that issue here. IN RE DOMINION DEALER SOLUTIONS, LLC Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED THAT: The petition is denied. FOR THE COURT April 24, 2014 Date /s/ Daniel E. O Toole Daniel E. O Toole Clerk of Court 5