July 1, 2015
Earlier this year in Teva Pharmaceuticals USA v. Sandoz, Inc., 135 S. Ct. 831 (2015), the Supreme Court changed the appellate standard of review for claim construction decisions. The Court held that while claim construction is a legal question reviewed de novo on appeal, any underlying factual findings based on extrinsic evidence are reviewed for clear error. Since the decision, commentators have speculated about the significance of the Teva decision and the impact it would have on claim construction decisions in the future.
We now have a prime example of the kind of case in which the new standard of review will be outcome-determinative. In last week’s Lighting Ballast Control LLC v. Phillips Elecs. N. Am. Corp., No. 2012-1014 (Fed. Cir. June 23, 2015) decision, the Federal Circuit applied the new standard of review and reversed its prior ruling. This decision makes clear how important expert and inventor testimony will be under the new claim construction standard of review announced by the Supreme Court in the Teva v. Sandoz case. Additionally, by emphasizing that the extrinsic evidence did not contradict unambiguous claim meaning that was clear from the specification, the Federal Circuit made clear that there are limits on the use of extrinsic evidence in claim construction.

For additional analysis on the Lighting Ballast decision, please click here.