The Supreme Court of the United States has issued an Opinion affirming the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in the case of Laura Peter, Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, versus NantKwest, Inc. (“NantKwest”).
Following an adverse decision by the USPTO, an applicant may either appeal directly to the Federal Circuit, 35 U.S.C. § 141, or may file a new civil action against the USPTO Director in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, 35 U.S.C. § 145. In this case, NantKwest filed a new civil action in the District Court. Under § 145, the applicant is required to pay “[a]ll the expenses of the proceedings.”
The District Court granted summary judgment for the USPTO affirming the denial of NantKwest’s patent application. The Federal Circuit then affirmed the decision of the District Court. Following this affirmation, the USPTO moved for the reimbursement of its expenses, “including the pro rata salaries of PTO attorneys and a paralegal who worked on the case.” The District Court denied the motion finding “that the statutory language referencing expenses was not sufficient to rebut the ‘American Rule’ presumption that parties are responsible for their own attorney’s fees.” That decision was affirmed by the en banc Federal Circuit.