US patent judges aren't actually patent judges — "catastrophic" mistake

Mutant Rob sez, "This is a NY Times article that refers to a paper which says 'Since 2000, patent judges have been appointed by a government official without the constitutional power to do so.' This could 'undo thousands of patent decisions concerning claims worth billions of dollars.'

Big news."

Charles Miller, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said the government had no comment. "There is really nothing we can say at this time," he said.

But the Justice Department has already all but conceded that Professor Duffy is right. Given the opportunity to dispute him in a December appeals court filing, government lawyers said only that they were at work on a legislative solution.

They did warn that the impact of Professor Duffy's discovery could be cataclysmic for the patent world, casting "a cloud over many thousands of board decisions" and "unsettling the expectations of patent holders and licensees across the nation." But they did not say Professor Duffy was wrong.

If it was a legislative mistake, it may turn out to be a big one. The patent court hears appeals from people and companies whose patent applications were turned down by patent examiners, and it decides disputes over who invented something first. There is often a lot of money involved.


(Thanks, Mutant Rob!)