Declare Development and Due Course of: Analyzing NST International v. Sig Sauer Inc. within the Supreme Court docket

by Dennis Crouch

NST Global, LLC, dba SB Tactical v. Sig Sauer Inc. (Supreme Court 2023)

This case has a low probability of being granted certiorari, nevertheless it nonetheless has some attention-grabbing parts concerning declare development and process.  This can be a good case for the Supreme Court docket to difficulty a GVR (Grant-Vacate-Remand) with an order to the Federal Circuit to clarify its reasoning.

The setup is frequent. Tactical sued Sig Sauer for patent infringement; Sig Sauer responded with an IPR petition that was finally profitable.  Tactical appealed based mostly upon the PTAB’s sua sponte declare development that discovered the preamble to be limiting, however the Federal Circuit Affirmed with out opinion.

The Supreme Court docket petition asks three questions:

  1. Whether or not the declare development discovering the preamble limiting was improper.
  2. Whether or not the PTAB violated due course of by construing the time period sua sponte and failing to offer the patentee with discover or a chance to current proof.
  3. Whether or not the Federal Circuit’s use of Rule 36 violates constitutional ensures  of due course of and the statutory protections of 35 U.S.C. 144.

The Tactical patents cowl a forearm stabilizing brace that may be connected to a pistol. U.S. Patent Numbers 8,869,444 and 9,354,021. Sig Sauer initially was a distributor of Tactical’s product, however later started making its personal competing product. At that time Tactical sued.

Within the IPR petition, Sig Sauer didn’t request any declare development. Likewise, the petition determination granting the IPR said that no declare phrases wanted any specific development.  “We agree—we want not expressly construe any declare time period
to resolve the events’ dispute.”  Throughout briefing, neither social gathering requested development of any side of the declare preambles.  Ultimately although, in its ultimate written determination, the PTAB interpreted the preambles as limiting after which used that development to conclude that the claims had been invalid as apparent.

Sure, I mentioned that the slim development led to the claims being discovered invalid.  That’s uncommon — normally the addition of limitations helps to keep away from the prior artwork. On this case although the main target was on goal indicia of non-obviousness. NST’s gross sales; copying by Sig; reward; and so forth.  However, by giving weight to the preamble phrases, the PTAB was capable of destroy the presumed nexus between the claims and NST’s product.  The consequence, these secondary indicia had been discovered wanting as a result of NST had not supplied further proof “commensurate with the claims” as newly construed.

For context, the claims are directed to the attachment, however the preamble recites “a handgun” and “a assist construction extending rearwardly from the rear of the handgun:”

1. A forearm-gripping stabilizing attachment for a handgun, the handgun having a assist construction extending rearwardly from the rear finish of the handgun, the forearm-gripping stabilizing attachment, comprising: . . .

The PTAB dominated that the claims require the handgun and likewise the assist construction  as recited within the preamble together with the forearm attachment described within the physique.  The issue for the patentee is that its goal indicia proof centered on the forearm attachment, not the entire package deal.  Thus, no nexus and no weight given to these secondary components.  In its determination, the PTAB when by the entire life and which means evaluation: “we conclude that the preambles of claims 1, 3, and 5 are ‘mandatory to offer life, which means, and vitality to the declare[s],’ and, as such, are limiting.”

The case was already shut as a result of there’s a lengthy historical past of this kind of stabilizer going again to the nineteenth Century, and so the absence of secondary issues led to the obviousness conclusion.

Throughout the IPR trial, Sig Sauer had argued that the excessive gross sales had been on account of an odd regulatory scheme towards semi-automatic rifles, and the pistol attachment was truly widespread primarily as a result of it allowed the pistol to be shouldered.  On enchantment, that was raised instead justification for the judgment. However, in my opinion, the PTAB didn’t truly rule on that difficulty within the first place.

The patentee appealed, however the Federal Circuit panel of Judges Reyna, Schall, and Chen affirmed with out opinion.