Following the decades-long debate about the proper standard of review for claim construction determinations, the Supreme Court this morning in Teva v. Sandoz upended long-standing rule of de novo review of claim construction by the Federal Circuit.

In a 7-2 decision (Alito, Thomas dissenting), the Supreme Court held that when reviewing a district court's resolution of subsidiary factual matters made in the course of its construction of a patent claim, the Federal Circuit must apply a clear error standard of review, not a de novo standard of review.

Recall that the present version of the de novo standard originated with the Cybor decision in 1997. In 2004, the Federal Circuit reheard en banc the Phillips case, and certified the question of whether or not Cybor should be reconsidered. After extensive briefing in Phillips, the Federal Circuit declined to revisit Cybor.

Over the years, the Federal Circuit has repeatedly left Cybor alone :

  • 2006 – Amgen v. Hoechst (en banc review of Cybor denied)
  • 2011– Retractable Techs. v. Becton Dickinson (en banc review of Cybor denied)
  • 2014 - Lighting Ballast Control LLC v. Philips Electronics N.A. Corp. (en banc -Federal Circuit reconfirmed the longstanding rule that claim construction is an issue of law reviewed de novo on appeal.

Legislative attempts to undo the de novo standard of review have also been unsuccessful

  • 2007 – S.1145 (Sen. Leahy (D.Vt.))
  • 2009 -- S.515, §8(b)   

Today's decision represents a substantive change in our law.  To view a copy of the decision, please click here.