Supreme Court’s Federal Circuit Reversal Streak Continues

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Supreme Court’s Federal Circuit Reversal Streak Continues


The 2016 Term of the Supreme Court has not been kind to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, the specialized appellate court that handles all patent appeals. In each of the six patent cases from the Federal Circuit decided by the Supreme Court, reversal was the result.

Specifically, the high court:

  • Reversed the Federal Circuit on the proper way to calculate damages in cases involving multicomponent products (Samsung v. Apple);
  • Reversed the Federal Circuit on whether the supply of a single component of a multicomponent invention can give rise to liability under a provision that prohibits supplying all or a substantial portion of a patented invention for combination overseas (Life Tech. v. Promega);
  • Reversed the Federal Circuit on whether the equitable doctrine of laches applies in patent cases (SCA Hygiene Prods. v. First Quality Baby Prods.);
  • Reversed the Federal Circuit on whether an authorized sale outside the United States exhausts all rights under the Patent Act (Impression Prods. v. Lexmark Int’l);
  • Reversed the Federal Circuit on the proper venue for patent litigation (TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods Group Brands); and
  • Reversed the Federal Circuit on the question of when a competitor can market a “biosimilar” version of a complex drug. (Sandoz v. Amgen).

These results only reinforce the perception that the Supreme Court views the Federal Circuit as a court that needs to be reined in—prone to reaching results that, from the Supreme Court’s perspective, favor expanding the power of the patent system at the expense of the requirements of the law. The Federal Circuit’s unusual jurisdictional grant has resulted in an unusually high degree of high court skepticism.

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