What is the "Federal Circuit?"

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is a federal court that has special importance in patent law. 

A party that loses a case in federal district court or in a federal agency can file an appeal asking one of the thirteen federal circuit courts to review the district court or agency decision.  Twelve circuits are regional circuits – they have jurisdiction over all appeals originating from district courts in a particular geographic region.

The Federal Circuit does not have jurisdiction over a particular region.  Instead, it has jurisdiction over all appeals in cases that “arise under” the patent laws.  It also reviews decisions of the Patent and Trademark Office, the International Trade Commission, the Court of Federal Claims, and the Merit Systems Protection Board. 

The Federal Circuit’s jurisdiction over appeals in patent cases is exclusive.  Other circuit courts cannot review decisions in those cases.  However, not all cases involving patents “arise under” the patent laws.  Disputes over patent licenses, for example, are deemed contract cases, and are reviewed in a regional circuit court.   

Congress created the Federal Circuit in 1982 to be a court with specialized expertise in patent law.  In giving it exclusive jurisdiction over patent cases, Congress aimed to ensure that the interpretation of the patent laws, and applicable legal precedent, would be uniform throughout the nation, and not vary among regional circuits.

Consistent with that, the Federal Circuit has developed a large body of precedent governing patent cases: how to interpret patent claims, how infringement must be proved, how invalidity must be established, and how damages must be calculated.  Successful patent litigation in the district courts requires assiduously following the Federal Circuit’s pronouncements on those issues.    

To learn more about intellectual property, go to www.mololamken.com and follow us on LinkedIn.  “Brilliant lawyers with courtroom savvy” – Benchmark Litigation.  Copyright MoloLamken LLP 2021.

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