The Supreme Court of the United States granted, in part, Return Mail’s petition for certiorari to address whether the federal government has standing to challenge patents using post-grant proceedings under the America Invents Act (AIA). Return Mail, Inc. v. United States Postal Serv., Case No. 17-1594 (Supr. Ct. Oct. 26, 2018). The question presented is:
Whether the government is a “person” who may petition to institute review proceedings under the AIA.
Return Mail owns a patent directed to processing mail that is undeliverable due to an inaccurate or obsolete address for the intended recipient. Return Mail sued the US Postal Service for patent infringement. The Postal Service subsequently filed a petition for covered business method review of the patent. Return Mail opposed, arguing that the Postal Service lacked standing because it was a government entity and not a person as required by the relevant statutory provisions. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) disagreed, finding that the Postal Service was not statutorily barred from filing the petition. On the merits, the PTAB determined that the challenged patent claims were directed to ineligible subject matter. Return Mail appealed, and the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the PTAB’s decision (IP Update, Vol. 20, No. 9). Return Mail appealed to the Supreme Court, which granted certiorari in part.