Tafas & GSK v. Kappos (Fed. Cir. 2009) (En banc order)
After a two-year battle and under the new leadership of David Kappos, the PTO recently withdrew its proposed rules package that would limit the number of continuation applications and the number of claims-per-application. The PTO also asked that the Federal Circuit dismiss the now moot appeal and also vacate the district court judgment. All parties supported the dismissal, but Tafas opposed vacatur. The district court decision included strong language limiting the scope of PTO power, and vacatur would essentially eliminate that district court decision from the books.
In an en banc order, the Federal Circuit has now granted the dismissal, but denied the motion for vacatur. Following the Supreme Court's 1994 Bancorp Mortgage decision, the Federal Circuit held that vacatur is not appropriate when the "mootness" of an appeal "is due to a voluntary act by the losing party, such as a settlement."
"[This] is a case in which the agency itself has voluntarily withdrawn the regulations and thus set the stage for a declaration of mootness. The motion's statement that an intervening regulatory change is directly analogous to an intervening statutory change is not persuasive. The agency does not control Congress; but it does control the decision to rescind the regulations. Thus, it was the USPTO (the losing party in the district court action) that acted unilaterally to render the case moot, and vacatur is not appropriate
Denial of vacatur also provides Tafas with the opportunity of demanding recoupment of its costs under Fed. R. Civ. Pro. R. 54.