Timeliness – The Devil Is in the Details (a.k.a. Rules)
GEA Process Engineering, Inc. v. Steuben Foods, Inc.
In an order issued by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB or Board), the Board expunged exhibits from the records of five related cases on the basis of timeliness. GEA Process Engineering, Inc. v. Steuben Foods, Inc., Case Nos. IPR2014-00041, IPR2014-00043, IPR2014-00051, IPR2014-00054, IPR2014-00055 (PTAB, Sept. 29, 2014) (Elluru, APJ).
In post-grant proceedings, it is important to note that there are two different deadlines for objecting to evidence. Prior to institution, a patent owner is required to object to evidence submitted to the PTAB with the petition within 10 business days of institution of a trial. Once the trial has begun, i.e., after institution, a party seeking to object to the introduction of evidence or an exhibit must raise its objection within five business days of service of the evidence or exhibit. The objections should be served on the offering party and not filed with the PTAB.
In GEA Process Engineering v. Steuben Foods, following the institution of trial, the petitioner filed what it characterized as exhibits entitled “Petitioner’s Objections” to the patent owner’s evidence. However, the PTAB expunged the exhibits from the records of all five cases. As the Board explained, the applicable rule, 37 C.F.R. § 42.64(b)(1), requires that “[o]nce a trial has been instituted, any objection [to evidence] must be served within five business days of service of evidence to which the objection is directed.” As such, the petitioner’s filingits objections to the patent owner’s evidence, at the Board was improper—a potentially costly mistake.