Judges have dismissed American Axel’s appeal against a lower court ruling that invalidated Detroit’s patent in a legal battle with Michigan – based rival Nepco Holdings. Critics say the court’s precedent for patent eligibility has produced unpredictable results and undermined the U.S. patent process.
In May, President Joe Biden’s administration urged the Supreme Court to hear the case, saying it was a prime example of an industrial process by which American Axis invention could be patented.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Alice Corp. in a 2014 judgment. CLS Bank International, which helped introduce the two-part patent test. Under that test, the courts must determine whether an invention contains an unlicensed abstract idea, event, or law of nature, and if so, it includes an invention concept.
Defendants in patent infringement cases oppose the validity of patents in an effort to expedite these cases. Protesters say the outcome of Alice’s case and its aftermath created confusion and controversy, leading to the courts revoking patents for inventions that should be protected.
American Axil sued Neapco in federal court in Delaware in 2015, accusing the company of infringing on the patent system for producing low-vibration drive shafts. The Nipco drive shafts developed for the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon pickup trucks were in trouble.
After a judge in Delaware ruled in favor of Neapco, he appealed to the Washington-based Court of Appeals for a federal circuit that specializes in American axle patent law, but again failed. A panel of three federal circuit judges voted 2-1 to invalidate American Axil’s patent, after finding that it was related to the simple application of Hooke’s rule of thumb.
The Federal Circuit, thanks to position 6-6, decided not to rehearse the case with all its judges. The dissenting judges said the panel’s decision could threaten “all patented inventions so far” and that the court’s rulings on patent eligibility had turned the patent system into a “gamble”.
The dispute “bitterly divided” the federal circuit and, as one judge put it, “frustrated” at how the law was applied. The then 12 judges of the Federal Circuit asked the Supreme Court to hear the case that would cause the 2019 separation, but the Supreme Court dismissed it despite then-President Donald Trump’s recommendation to hear the case.
The Supreme Court has dismissed several patent petitions from the Alice case.
A Neapco attorney said the decision confirms its position that there is no need to amend the current patent structure.
American Axis and its leading lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office declined to comment.
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