Supreme Court Grants Cert. on Standard of Review for Patent Claim Terms

On March 31, 2014, the Supreme Court granted Teva Pharmaceutical’s petition for writ of certiorari in the case Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. v. Sandoz Inc., 723 F.3d 1363 (Fed. Cir. 2013). The issue on appeal for the Supreme Court is whether a district court’s factual finding in support of its construction of a patent claim term may be reviewed de novo, as the Federal Circuit requires (and as the panel explicitly did in this case), or only for clear error, as Rule 52(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires.

This case was a patent dispute involving the infringement of Teva’s multi-billion dollar drug Copaxone. The drug was arguably covered by a set of nine different patents owned by Teva which the district court held were all infringed. However, on appeal, the Federal Circuit on de novo review overturned the district court’s claim construction and indefiniteness determination which invalidated several of the patents. The Federal Circuit affirmed in part, and reversed in part upholding only four patents which are due to expire May 2014. One of the patents invalidated by the Federal Circuit would have blocked generic competition until September 2015. Teva subsequently petitioned for writ of certiorari to clarify the correct standard of review.