High Court Will Take Up Standard of Review of Factual Findings in Claim Construction


Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc. et al. v. Sandoz Inc. et al.

In a case that will likely determine the standard of review used by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit over lower court claim constructions, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Teva Pharmaceuticals’ appeal of a decision by the Federal Circuit invalidating several patents covering its multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone, Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc. et al. v. Sandoz Inc. et al., Case No 13-854 (Supr. Ct., Mar. 31, 2014).

The question presented to the high court is whether a district court’s factual finding in support of its construction of a patent claim term may be reviewed de novo, according to current Federal Circuit practice, or only for clear error.

In its cert petition Teva argued that the Federal Circuit’s decision to invalidate its patents was the result of its long-standing practice of not giving deference to district court claim construction rulings.

Teva argued that even though “[t]he district court took evidence from all sides and devoted considerable time to understanding the science and the invention. The court of appeals undid that effort based purely on its own oversimplified reading of the record de novo.”

While Teva’s cert petition was pending, the Federal Circuit, in a 6-4 en banc ruling on Feb. 21 in the Lighting Ballast Control case (IP Update, Vol. 17, No. 2), invoked the doctrine of stare decisis and ruled that it would continue to review district court claim constructions based on the 15-year-old Cybor v. FAS Technologies de novo standard of review.

Less than two weeks after the Federal Circuit ruling in Lighting Ballast, Teva urged the Supreme Court to take its case to correct what it argued was an incorrect en banc decision in Lighting Ballast.

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