Over the last decade or more, the U.S. Supreme Court has taken great interest in patent cases. Presently, the Supreme Court has four pending patent cases, for which oral arguments will be completed by the end of April 2014, with decisions to be issued by the end of June. These cases address issues that arise in varying degrees in patent cases. But there is one issue that will come up before the Supreme Court because it applies in virtually all such patent cases — claim construction.

At the end of February 2014, in Lighting Ballast v. Phillips Electronics, a deeply-divided, en banc Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a 15-year-old doctrine, from Cybor v. FAS Technologies, which permits de novo review of claim construction in patent cases. In short, Lighting Ballast confirmed that no deference should be given to district courts when they construe patent claims (even for underlying issues of fact, including “historical fact”).

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