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Arthrex, Inc. v. Smith & Nephew, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

August 21, 2019

ARTHREX, INC., Appellant
v.
SMITH & NEPHEW, INC., ARTHROCARE CORP., Appellees UNITED STATES, Intervenor

          Appeal from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Patent Trial and Appeal Board in No. IPR2016-00918.

          Anthony P. Cho, Carlson, Gaskey & Olds, PC, Birmingham, MI, argued for appellant. Also represented by David J. Gaskey, Jessica E. Zilberberg.

          Nathan R. Speed, Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, PC, Boston, MA, argued for appellees. Also represented by Richard Giunta; Michael N. Rader, New York, NY.

          Dennis Fan, Appellate Staff, Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC, argued for intervenor. Also represented by Scott R. McIntosh, Joseph H. Hunt, Katherine Twomey Allen; Thomas W. Krause, Joseph Matal, Farheena Yasmeen Rasheed, Office of the Solicitor, United States Patent and Trademark Office, Alexandria, VA.

          Before Dyk, Chen, and Stoll, Circuit Judges.

          STOLL, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         In an inter partes review, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board ruled claims 10 and 11 of Arthrex, Inc.'s U.S. Patent No. 8, 821, 541 invalid. In doing so, the Board employed different language than Smith & Nephew, Inc.'s petition to explain why a person of ordinary skill in the art would have been motivated to combine the teachings of the prior art. Arthrex asserts that this warrants reversal, but the Board's minor variation in wording does not violate the safeguards of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and did not deprive Arthrex of an opportunity to be heard. Accordingly, we hold that the Board did not violate Arthrex's procedural rights. And because the Board's findings have substantial evidence support, its claim constructions are correct, and Arthrex has not articulated a cognizable constitutional challenge to IPR for its patent, we affirm the Board.

         Background

         I

         The '541 patent describes a surgical suture anchor used to reattach soft tissue to bone. '541 patent col. 1 ll. 25-35. The disclosed "fully threaded suture anchor" includes "an eyelet shield that is molded into the distal part of the biodegradable suture anchor." Id. at col. 2 ll. 31-35. The eyelet shield acts as a rigid support for the sutures needed to hold the soft tissue, "provid[ing] the strength necessary to secure the sutures." Id. at col. 5 11. 41-42, 51-57. The patent explains that because the support is molded into the anchor structure (as opposed to being a separate component), it "provides greater security to prevent pull-out of the suture." Id. at col. 5 11. 52-56.

         Figure 5 of the '541 patent illustrates the helical threading on body 3 and the integral rigid support (eyelet shield 9) of the suture anchor 1:

         (Image Omitted.)

         Independent claims 10 and 11 are at issue here. They recite:

10. A suture anchor assembly comprising:
an anchor body including a longitudinal axis, a proximal end, a distal end, and a central passage extending along the longitudinal axis from an opening at the proximal end of the anchor body through a portion of a length of the anchor body, wherein the opening is a first suture opening, the anchor body including a second suture opening disposed distal of the first suture opening, and a third suture opening disposed distal of the second suture opening, wherein a helical thread defines a perimeter at least around the proximal end of the anchor body; a rigid support extending across the central passage, the rigid support having a first portion and a second portion spaced from the first portion, the first portion branching from a first wall portion of the anchor body and the second portion branching from a second wall portion of the anchor body, wherein the third suture opening is disposed distal of the rigid support;
at least one suture strand having a suture length threaded into the central passage, supported by the rigid support, and threaded past the proximal end of the anchor body, wherein at least a portion of the at least one suture strand is disposed in the central passage between the rigid support and the opening at the proximal end, and the at least one suture strand is disposed in the first suture opening, the second suture opening, and the third suture opening; and
a driver including a shaft having a shaft length, wherein the shaft engages the anchor body, and the suture length of the at least one suture strand is greater than the shaft length of the shaft.
11. A suture anchor assembly comprising:
an anchor body including a distal end, a proximal end having an opening, a central longitudinal axis, a first wall portion, a second wall portion spaced opposite to the first wall portion, and a suture passage beginning at the proximal end of the anchor body, wherein the suture passage extends about the central longitudinal axis, and the suture passage extends from the opening located at the proximal end of the anchor body and at least partially along a length of the anchor body, wherein the opening is a first suture opening that is encircled by a perimeter of the anchor body, a second suture opening extends through a portion of the anchor body, and a third suture opening extends through the anchor body, wherein the third suture opening is disposed distal of the second suture opening;
a rigid support integral with the anchor body to define a single-piece component, wherein the rigid support extends across the suture passage and has a first portion and a second portion spaced from the first portion, the first portion branching from the first wall portion of the anchor body and the second portion branching from the second wall portion of the anchor body, and the rigid support is spaced ...

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