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Government agencies are barred from challenging patents

In many cases, an intellectual property dispute only affects the parties involved. One company wins and one loses. However, in a recent intellectual property case, the Supreme Court made a decision that will have a greater effect.

A fifteen-year dispute between the U.S. Postal Service and Return Mail ended this week in the U.S. Supreme Court. The 6-3 decision will have wide-reaching implications for intellectual property law, as it established that government agencies were not allowed to appeal patents filed by private individuals and companies.

Government agencies barred from challenging patents

The dispute started when Return Mail Inc. filed a lawsuit against the Postal Service over the use of their patented process for handling undeliverable mail. The Postal Service struck back with a challenge of the patent’s legitimacy at the Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Return Mail Inc., overturning a Court of Appeals decision. In their decision, the Supreme Court determined that a government agency is not considered a person and therefore cannot appeal a patent. Going forward, this interpretation will apply to both federal and state government agencies.

Looking forward

Intellectual property litigation can cause a significant amount of damage to a business. Thus, the decision will benefit any companies who may be under scrutiny from government agencies.

While government agencies may no longer be able to challenge patents, businesses must still contend with a complicated body of intellectual property law. Businesses that rely on trade secrets, processes and technology to compete in the marketplace should always stay vigilant when it comes to intellectual property.

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