Oral Argument: Disability Benefits and Patents

To obtain Social Security disability benefits, an applicant must first establish that he has a disability. But he can be denied benefits if the Social Security Administration determines that there is work that he can do despite the disability. (See here for a more detailed explanation.) In Biestek v. Berryhill, argued on December 4, the applicant, Michael Biestek, was denied benefits because a vocational expert testified that there was other work that he could have done. The expert said her data was based on private data, job analyses, and personal discussions with employers. When Biestek asked for the underlying data that supported this expert’s conclusion, the expert refused and the Administrative Law Judge did not require her to hand over the data. Biestek appealed to the Sixth Circuit which affirmed. The technical issue in the case is whether the vocational expert’s testimony, in the absence of the underlying data, provides the requisite substantial evidence to deny benefits.

The second case the Court heard on Tuesday was Helsinn Healthcare v. Teva Pharmaceuticals. This is an appeal from a Federal Circuit decision which invalidated Helsinn Healthcare’s patent on an anti-nausea drug called Aloxi. The issue the Supreme Court will be deciding is whether under the America Invents Act, an inventor’s licensing of an invention to a manufacturer, where neither party discloses the details of the invention to the public, qualifies as prior art which would affect the patentability of the invention. Check out IPPro and The National Law Review for more information.

This post was written by ISCOTUS Fellow Breana Brill, Chicago-Kent Class of 2021, edited by Matthew Webber, ISCOTUS Editorial Coordinator, Chicago-Kent Class of 2019, and overseen by ISCOTUS Co-Director Carolyn Shapiro.





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