Claim Construction

Today, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Teva v. Sandoz regarding the standard of review on claim construction. A majority held that rather than a de novo review, the Court of Appeals must review claim construction for ‘clear error’.

The Court split 7-2, with Justice Thomas and Alito dissenting. A copy of the decision is available from the US Supreme Court website (PDF).

After discussing the Supreme Court’s Markman decision, Justice Breyer wrote:

Today’s case involves claim construction with “eviden­tiary underpinnings.” See Part III, infra. And, it requires us to determine what standard the Court of Appeals should use when it reviews a trial judge’s resolution of an underlying factual dispute. Should the Court of Appeals review the district court’s factfinding de novo as it would review a question of law? Or, should it review that factfinding as it would review a trial judge’s factfinding in other cases, namely by taking them as correct “unless clearly erroneous?” See Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 52(a)(6). We hold that the appellate court must apply a “clear error,” not a de novo, standard of review.

Accordingly, when we held in Markman that the ultimate question of claim construction is for the judge and not the jury, we did not create an exception from the ordi­nary rule governing appellate review of factual matters.