This Article explores and evaluates a controversial practice that the Patent Office undertook beginning early in the post-AIA regime: the practice of denying otherwise meritorious requests for review because of what the Office termed “redundant” grounds. The controversy over redundancy-based rejections had several sources. One was that making such rejections required the Patent Office to decide petitions piecemeal—and, indeed, the agency claimed that power for itself—even though it was not clear that this power lay within the statute. Another source was that the Patent Office persistently declined to explain what, in the agency's view, did or did not constitute redundancy. Still another was that the Patent Office resisted Federal Circuit oversight of this practice by claiming unreviewable discretion as part of a larger campaign of self-immunization. This confluence of problematic agency choices has generated other, related controversies with AIA review as well, with a mixed record of success for the Patent Office. Yet while redundancy-based rejection now seems to be ebbing as a matter of agency policy, the underlying structural conditions that gave rise to the practice still persist and repay closer analytical and doctrinal scrutiny. This Article offers that scrutiny and discusses ways forward for AIA review.
The Non-Doctrine of Redundancy,
33 Berkeley Tech. L.J. 777