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Construing claims that use the process by which a product is created to define the invention — that is, product-by-process claims — was not made any easier by the Federal Circuit’s recent decision in SmithKline Beecham Corp. v. Apotex Corp., 439 F.3d 1312 (Fed. Cir. 2006). The Federal Circuit again declined to resolve the long-standing conflict between two decisions — the 1991 decision in Scripps Clinic & Res. Foun. v. Genentech Corp., 927 F.2d 1565 (Fed. Cir. 1991), which held that product-by-process claims should not be limited by the process steps in the claims, (i.e., such claims cover an identical end-product regardless of the steps used) and the 1992 decision in Atlantic Thermoplastics Co. v. Faytex Corp., 970 F.2d 834 (Fed. Cir. 1992), which held that product-by-process claims should be construed to only cover the end-product if produced by the specifically claimed process steps. As explained below, this state of affairs warrants that patent applicants and litigants stay tuned to the case law and adjust their respective claim drafting and analysis strategies accordingly.

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