The Supreme Court this week sent several patent infringement cases back to a federal appeals court for reexamination in light of a ruling the justices issued in late January on a similar dispute.
In one case, the high court vacated a decision the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit made last year that biofuels maker Gevo had infringed on technology-related patents belonging to rival Butamax, a joint venture of DuPont and BP.
The justices also set aside a March 2014 ruling by the Federal Circuit that a district court erred in determining that Actavis’s Watson unit had infringed on Shire’s patent covering Lialda, its drug for inflammatory bowel disease.
The Supreme Court’s actions come on the heels of its recent ruling that the Federal Circuit used the wrong standard of review in a similar patent dispute between Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and several generic drug makers (C&EN, Jan. 26, page 26).
In that case, the justices said that when the Federal Circuit weighs an appeal, it must accept the factual findings of the trial court unless there is evidence of “clear error.” The Federal Circuit previously used a standard of review that gave no deference to the lower court’s findings.
“The Supreme Court is trying to get the Federal Circuit to mainstream its handling of appeals consistent with how other appellate courts hear and decide appeals,” says Kendrew H. Colton, a patent attorney with Fitch, Even, Tabin & Flannery, an intellectual property law firm.