Court of Appeals to Address Standard of Review for Claim Interpretation

March 18, 2013 | Intellectual Property News

For nearly twenty years, the federal courts have addressed the interpretation of the claims in a patent as a question of law, rather than a question of fact. This standard has meant that the court of appeals owed no deference to the findings of the trial courts on matters of claim interpretation, and the lack of deference is widely believed to contribute to an inordinately high reversal rate on appeal. Now the Federal Circuit has decided to take a closer look at whether it should give deference to the lower court rulings.

In Lightning Ballast v. Philips Electronics, the Federal Circuit has asked the parties to submit briefing specifically directed to the question of whether the court should abandon the prior practice of affording no deference to claim construction rulings. It further invites input regarding the particular aspects, if any, of a lower court ruling that should be given deference. The court has also decided to consider the matter en banc, rather than in a panel. Additional briefing from nonparties are likely to be submitted, and the court expressly invited an amicus brief from the USPTO.