In recent years, the U.S. Supreme Court has greatly increased its focus on patent law, an area in which the justices once had little interest. Here is a ranking of the court’s 15 most important patent rulings since 2000, including new rules on what can be patented, when injunctions are warranted and what makes an invention obvious.
5. Octane Fitness LLC v. Icon Health & Fitness Inc., Highmark Inc. v. Allcare Health Management Systems Inc.
On the same day last year, the Supreme Court issued these two unanimous decisions making it easier for courts to award attorneys’ fees when patent cases are found to be meritless, ending long-standing Federal Circuit rules that set a high bar for winning fees.
In Octane, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that the Federal Circuit was wrong to hold that fees can only be awarded when the losing party’s position was “objectively baseless” and “brought in subjective bad faith.” Instead, she held that judges can award fees when the judge finds that a case simply “stands out from others.”
In Highmark, she wrote that the Federal Circuit can no longer review fee awards afresh on appeal and must instead give deference to such rulings.
The decisions, particularly Octane, have been cited repeatedly over the past year as prevailing parties in patent cases try to recover their fees.