Expanding Standing in Patent Declaratory Judgment Actions to Better Air Public Policy Considerations
Nicholas D. Walrath
This Note argues that modern-day patent litigation lacks sufficient consideration of public policy concerns. In order to remedy this, I propose three potential solutions that would broaden standing in patent declaratory judgment actions, thereby allowing more plaintiffs who are likely to raise such arguments to have their day in court. First, I discuss expanding standing within the Supreme Court’s MedImmune framework, which requires courts to apply a broad all-the-circumstances test in determining patent declaratory judgment standing. Within this test, I urge courts to consider (1) the degree to which a potential infringer raises important public policy concerns and (2) the extent to which the potential infringer has a unique economic incentive to challenge the patent-at-issue. Second, I consider altering the framework for standing in patent declaratory judgment actions based on a reassessment of the fundamental justifications for standing doctrine generally. Observing that the traditional justifications for a standing requirement—and the separation of powers justification in particular—do not apply in the context of patent declaratory judgment actions, I suggest that the Supreme Court might craft a new standing framework. Third, I explore the extent to which Congress might statutorily expand standing in such cases. I conclude by noting that the post-grant opposition procedure created by the America Invents Act—the patent reform legislation signed into law in September 2011—is insufficient to assuage unease regarding the lack of public policy arguments in patent litigation. Courts might therefore look to standing in order to address this problem.