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  • Federal circuit reversed – yet again – in patent cases

    National Law Journal - 06/02/2014

    The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday unanimously slapped down the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, rejecting two of its patent rulings just over a month after hearing oral arguments in both cases.

    Monday’s decisions in Limelight Networks Inc. v. Akamai Technologies Inc. and Nautilus Inc. v. Biosig Instruments were the fourth and fifth patent cases in which the Supreme Court reversed the Federal Circuit during the current term. One patent case, possibly the most important, is yet undecided: Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, testing the patentability of “computer-implemented” inventions. The six patent cases on the docket this term are a record number for the high court since the Federal Circuit opened in 1982.

    What’s more, the high court’s opinions on Monday used pointed language in rejecting positions taken by the circuit court, which has nationwide jurisdiction over patent and trademark appeals among other subject areas.

    In Nautilus, which sought to define when a patent claim is invalid for being too indefinite, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that the Federal Circuit’s rulings on the subject “can leave district courts and the patent bar at sea without a reliable compass.”

    In Limelight, which limited liability for inducing patent infringement, Justice Samuel Alito Jr. said the Federal Circuit “fundamentally misunderstands what it means to infringe a method patent.”

    Northeastern University School of Law professor Michael Bennett said the Supreme Court’s language in Limelight “slaps the Federal Circuit’s reasoning quite hard. … Those are practically fighting words.”

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