Patent Law—Appellate Review of Claim Construction: Supreme Court Holds That Federal Circuit Must Review Factual Findings on Claim Construction for Clear Error, Not De Novo

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP - January 21, 2015

In Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc., the Supreme Court reversed a ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that invalidated a patent based on its de novo review of the district court’s construction of the patent’s claims.  The Court held that the Federal Circuit must apply a deferential “clear error” standard when reviewing factual determinations made by district courts in construing patent claims.  The decision is likely to shift the focus of litigants and district courts to the evidentiary aspects of claim construction, and result in fewer Federal Circuit reversals where fact-finding is employed by the district court.