IPR Statistics – Success Is Sector Specific

Yesterday, I published an extensive analysis of Senator Coons’ STRONGER Patents Act.  As I said then, the bill would neuter the IPR process, removing any real reason to ever pursue one (assuming you could even file one after the changes to the estoppel, real party in interest, and standing provisions.)

One of the reasons I’ve heard for why we should change IPRs is the perception of IPRs as a “death squad” for patents.  The statistics simply don’t bear out the idea that IPRs invalidate all (or even a majority of) patents.  But last week, I ran across an interesting study from Fitzpatrick Cella1 showing that not only is that untrue in general, it’s also particularly untrue in some industries.  There are a lot more bad patents in the software and business methods worlds than in biotech, and the rates of success at the PTAB show it.

Biotech Patents Less Likely To See Institution, Fare Better When They Do

From the start of an IPR, a drug patent2 IPR is less likely to even be instituted.  Overall, the PTAB institutes roughly 53% of IPR petitions.  But the PTAB only institutes 44% of drug patent IPR petitions.  So you’re 20% less likely to even have a PTAB trial on a drug IPR.

The differences continue after institution.  When you look at the final written decisions, there are significant differences between IPRs as a whole and drug patent IPRs.Drug patents twice as likely to have all instituted claims found patentable in a final written decision. A drug patent is more than twice as likely to have all of its claims found patentable!  If you combine the 19% of petitions with final written decisions confirming all claims with the 38% of petitions which are denied, in 57% of drug patent IPRs, the patent emerges completely unchanged without a settlement.  (For all IPRs, that number is around 36%, showing that drug patents again do around 50% better.)

PTAB Judges Get It Right

I’ll note that one constant criticism of IPRs coming from the STRONGER Patents lobby is the idea that the judges who make decisions on institution shouldn’t make the final decision because they’ve already made a decision and won’t change their mind.  The Coons bill, as I noted yesterday, would change this so that different judges decide on institution and the final written decision.

But the Fitzpatrick study is proof in and of itself that this criticism is completely without merit.  For a drug patent, you’re just as likely to have the PTAB judges change their minds and decide the claims they instituted on aren’t valid as you are to have them decide they’re invalid.  In other words, this alone is proof that PTAB judges are perfectly willing to uphold a valid patent even if they initially felt it was invalid.  When they aren’t changing their minds, it’s because the patent should never have issued in the first place and their second look at the patent confirmed that fact.

End Results

So, what’s the summary?

Drug patents 50% more likely to have at least some claims patentable after an IPR.Across all technologies, 41% of challenges wind up with at least some claims found patentable.  36% of those wind up with all claims patentable.  But in drug patents, it’s 60% patentable, with 57% having all claims patentable.  Two thirds of drug patents survive.  (As Meat Loaf once said, “two out of three ain’t bad.”)

Fitzpatrick’s study shows pretty clearly that if the PTAB is trying to be a “death squad” for patents, they aren’t doing a very good job of it.  The better reading of the facts is that the PTAB is getting it right—bad patents are invalidated, and innovative ones remain valid.

  1. My thanks to Fitzpatrick Cella for allowing me to reuse the images from their study in this post.
  2. The Fitzpatrick study also looks at biologics, which are complex chemicals produced by biotechnology, as opposed to drugs, which are simpler chemicals produced by chemical synthesis.  However, there have been so few biologics IPRs that drawing conclusions from the ones filed so far seems premature.

Joshua Landau

Joshua Landau is the Patent Counsel at the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), where he represents and advises the association regarding patent issues.  Mr. Landau joined CCIA from WilmerHale in 2017, where he represented clients in patent litigation, counseling, and prosecution, including trials in both district courts and before the PTAB.

Prior to his time at WilmerHale, Mr. Landau was a Legal Fellow on Senator Al Franken’s Judiciary staff, focusing on privacy and technology issues.  Mr. Landau received his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and his B.S.E.E. from the University of Michigan.  Before law school, he spent several years as an automotive engineer, during which time he co-invented technology leading to U.S. Patent No. 6,934,140.

Follow @PatentJosh on Twitter.


  6 comments for “IPR Statistics – Success Is Sector Specific

  1. Daniel Dobkin
    June 24, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Sir: A bit of TLA (three-letter acronym) excess in this piece. I presume IPR = inter partes review. What is FWD? And (acronym-less) what is the “Orange Book”? I appreciate that it might be possible to find these by search, but it seems appropriate for the poster to provide expansions of terms at least once in a piece. Thanks.

    • Joshua Landau
      June 27, 2017 at 11:38 am

      My apologies! You’re absolutely right, the context is important.

      – IPR is inter partes review, as you guessed.
      – FWD is “final written decision”, which is the end product of an IPR. The PTAB (IPR judges) writes a final written decision after the entire IPR procedure is complete to memorialize their decisions on patentability.
      – The “Orange Book” is the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) database which tracks approved drugs and related patent information. It used to be published with an orange cover, hence the name, but now is available online. If a FDA-approved drug has a related patent, it will be listed in the Orange Book, so “Orange Book” patent is an alternative way of saying “patent related to an FDA-approved drug.”

      • Jonathan
        November 13, 2017 at 4:22 pm


        Would you say techs companies will support the Stronger Bill?

  2. Jonathan
    November 13, 2017 at 4:24 pm


    Amazing article!

    Do you believe are Big Tech, as opposed to Pharmas, take on the Bill?

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