Apple Seeks Rehearing from a Third PTAB Panel After Partial Grant of Sanctions over Improper Ex Parte Communications

January 10, 2019

Apple has filed—with a third panel assigned to the proceeding—a request for rehearing of its inter partes review (IPR) of two patents held and asserted by publicly traded VoIP-Pal.com, Inc. The original panel was replaced midstream after Dr. Thomas E. Sawyer, VoIP-Pal’s former CEO and chairman, sent the first of a series of letters to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) (also copying various other government officials), letters that the Board now agrees were improper ex parte communications. The replacement panel issued final written decisions sustaining all of the claims that Apple had challenged. Apple then learned about all six, improperly sent letters and asked for permission to file a motion seeking sanctions against VoIP-Pal. That permission was granted. Apple sought entry of judgment in its favor or, in the alternative, vacatur of those final written decisions. Just before Christmas, the third panel—comprising the Board’s Acting Chief Administrative Patent Judge (APJ), its Acting Deputy Chief APJ, and its Vice Chief APJ—agreed that VoIP-Pal’s communications violated Board rules but stopped short in its sanctions, leaving Apple to file with that third panel its current request for rehearing of the replacement panel’s final written decisions.

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