PublishedJanuary 23, 2014

Tell Me Again Why We Have a Federal Circuit?

SCOTUS v. CAFCThe Supreme Court just issued a decision in the Medtronic case, and it was a unanimous reversal of the Federal Circuit. Since the Supreme Court first reviewed a patent decision by the Federal Circuit in 1996 (the Federal Circuit was formed in 1982, but it was 14 years before the first review by the Supreme Court), the Federal Circuit has been affirmed a fraction of the time and reversed unanimously a majority of the time.

Has any court’s reasoning ever been so soundly and consistently rejected by the Supreme Court?

If the purpose of the Federal Circuit was to make life easier by unifying patent law, it’s arguably done that. It might be nice if that “unified” court actually got most of the important patent questions right, but I guess you can’t have everything. (To be fair, the Federal Circuit did get affirmed 3 times in the 2010-11 term, but the reversals started again the next term with Mayo v. Prometheus, which was unanimous.)

I get that there’s a certain sense of prestige that comes with having a specialized court for one’s area of law. But wouldn’t it be better to have the courts of appeals get it right more of the time?

Matt Levy

Previously, Matt was patent counsel at the Computer & Communications Industry Association

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