Intellectual Property Law

New Matter SUMMER 2015 Volume 40, Number 2

Patently "Wrong:" SCOTUS rules that the Federal Circuit has Misused the "De Novo" Standard when Reviewing Claim Construction Determinations

JADE K. SMARDA Faruki Ireland & Cox PLL

"[T]he Federal Circuit was wrong," wrote Justice Breyer for the majority in Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc.,1 in which the United States Supreme Court’s vexation with the Federal Circuit was thinly veiled at best.

The Supreme Court might have seemed cross in this opinion, from January of 2015, because Teva was yet another in a long line of recent cases in which the Supreme Court has had to overturn interpretations of patent law by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.2 The Federal Circuit, of course, has nationwide appellate jurisdiction over actions arising under federal patent laws.3 In fact, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Teva partly because "[t] he Federal Circuit reviews the…decisions of federal district courts throughout the Nation," making it "important to clarify the standard of review that it must apply when doing so."4

Criticized over the years for giving the decisions of district courts too little deference,5 the Federal Circuit again did just that in Teva, causing the Supreme Court to vacate the Federal Circuit’s judgment with orders to apply the proper standard of review on remand with respect to the claim construction process that occurs during patent litigation.

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