Federal Courts Have Jurisdiction Over Malpractice Claims That Relate to Patent Law

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The full Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has confirmed that where the outcome of a legal malpractice case turns on federal patent law, federal jurisdiction exists. Even though a claim arises under state law, it may be heard in U.S. District Court, with any appeal going to Federal Circuit.

In Byrne v. Wood, Herron & Evans, LLP, No. 2011-1012, Stephen Byrne sued his former attorneys in Kentucky state court for legal malpractice based on defendants’ representation of Byrne in prosecuting a patent for a lawn care device. Byrne alleged that the defendants negligently failed to secure broader patent protection for his invention from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), and, as a result, Byrne lost a patent infringement suit against Black & Decker Corporation. Even though Byrne’s claim was a purely state law claim, the defendants removed the case to federal District Court. The defendants claimed that federal jurisdiction existed because Byrne’s malpractice claim required resolution of an issue of patent law. The District Court denied Byrne’s motion to remand the case back to state court, agreeing with the defendants that federal jurisdiction did exist.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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