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By Peter Leung
March 29 — The Patent and Trademark Office has accepted Seadrill Americas Inc.'s administrative challenges to three of Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc.'s patents.
The PTO's Patent Trial and Appeal Board instituted trial on all three inter partes review petitions, on March 28, meaning that the board finds that Seadrill has a reasonable chance at invalidating at least one of the challenged claims.
Many practitioners consider the decision to institute to be potentially more important than the final written decision, because the likelihood of invalidation is high once trial is instituted, according to PTO data.
Seadrill is arguing that the three patents are invalid because they are obvious in light of prior art.
Transocean has sued Seadrill alleging infringement of the three challenged patents. In October, the trial court stayed the case, pending the resolution of these patent validity challenges .
Transocean has also asserted the patents against several other companies, including Pacific Drilling Inc., Stena Drilling Ltd. and Maersk Drilling USA Inc.
Since the inter partes review program started in 2012, 828 trials ended with a final written decision. Of those, 600 resulted in the invalidation of all the challenged patent claims, and 119 ended with the invalidation of some of the challenged claims.
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