And just like that, the number of inter partes reviews filed since the inception of the proceedings (exactly 2 months ago), took a big jump with the filing of eight IPR petitions by Corning against patents owned by Netherlands-based Royal DSM NV. The filings, from November 15 and 16, are interesting given that none of the patents has ever been involved in patent litigation, with Corning or otherwise. Further, the patents appear to cover coatings that are already sold by DSM to Corning for the production of coated fiber optics. To that end, in April 2011, DSM and Corning announced the extension of a 30-year relationship in between the companies related to the sale of such coatings. Thus, it remains to be seen what has caused Corning to go on the attack after such a long term business relationship with DSM.
Given the high cost of inter partes review, and the attendant estoppel provisions, it has been anticipated that these Patent Office proceedings will only be used in the event of pending, threatened, or expected litigation. If these suppositions are correct, we should keep an eye on the district court litigation dockets for DSM’s patent infringement lawsuits against Corning, marking the next battle in this new high-tech war.