21 January 2015

Law in Plain English: Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc.

This is one in a series of posts designed to describe court decisions in plain English. For more detail and background on the legal issues, see the link to the case below. For similar posts, click here.

SCOTUSblogTeva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc.

Argument: Oct 15 2014 (Aud.)

Background: Teva, which manufactures Copaxone® (a drug used in treating multiple sclerosis), sued Sandoz and Mylan, for patent infringement. Sandoz and Mylan sought approval to market generic versions of Copaxone®. The district court concluded that Teva's patents had been infringed. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment with respect to one group of claims, but reversed the district court's judgment with respect to a second group of claims. In doing so, the panel reviewed de novo the district court's factual finding in support of its construction of a patent claim term. On the other hand, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a) requires that a district court's factual findings should only be reviewed for clear error.

Issue: The question before the 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 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a) requires.

Holding: In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that when reviewing a district court’s resolution of subsidiary factual matters made in the course of its construction of a patent claim, the Federal Circuit must apply a “clear error,” not a de novo, standard of review.
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