November 2008 Vol. 107 No. 2 THE REVIEW

Practice Makes Perfect? An Empirical Study of Claim Construction Reversal Rates in Patent Cases

David L. Schwartz

This Article examines whether U.S. district court judges improve their skills at patent claim construction with experience, including the experience of having their own cases reviewed by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. In theory, higher courts teach doctrine to lower courts via judicial decisions, and lower courts learn from these decisions. This Article tests the teaching-and-learning premise on the issue of claim construction in the realities of patent litigation. While others have shown that the Federal Circuit reverses a large percentage of lower court claim constructions, no one has analyzed whether judges with more claim construction appeal experience fare better on subsequent appeals. Surprisingly, the data do not reveal any evidence that district court judges learn from prior appeals of their rulings. There is no suggestion of a significant relationship between experience and performance. The lack of evidence that Federal Circuit review aids district court judges is disconcerting. The Article explores three possible explanations for the lack of evidence: (1) that the nature of claim construction is indeterminate; (2) that district court judges are incapable of or not interested in learning how to perform claim construction; and (3) that Federal Circuit decisions do a poor job of teaching district court judges how to construe claims. These results shed critical light on the functioning of the patent system. Moreover, the results are relevant to a broader understanding of the relationship between higher and lower courts in general.

   //  VIEW PDF
& Other Current Events

Speedy Trial as a Viable Challenge to Chronic Underfunding in Indigent-Defense Systems

Across the country, underresourced indigent-defense systems create delays in taking cases to trial...

A Blended Approach to Reducing the Costs of Shareholder Litigation

Multiforum litigation and federal securities law class actions impose heavy costs on corporations and...

The Scope of Precedent

The scope of Supreme Court precedent is capacious. Justices of the Court commonly defer to sweeping rationales...

Reinventing Copyright and Patent

Intellectual property systems all over the world are modeled on a one-size-fits-all principle. However...

Protecting Whistleblower Protections in the Dodd-Frank Act

In 2008, the United States fell into its worst economic recession in over seventy years. In response,...
MAILING LIST
Sign Up to Join Our Mailing List