On October 15, 2014 The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument as to whether patent claims may be reviewed de novo, as the Federal Circuit requires, or only for clear error (as required by Rule 52(a)). Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. v. Sandoz, Inc., U.S., No. 13-854. The decision in this case will affect whether interpretation of patent claim construction involves questions of law.
The same question was taken up en banc by the Federal Circuit in Lighting Ballast Control LLC v. Universal Lighting Technologies, Inc. In that case, the standard was upheld as a matter of stare decisis.
Practitioners and patent owners hope that the Teva case will result in clear guidelines for appellate review of claim construction in patent cases. In any case, the decision has the potential to impact the balance of power apportioned between the district and appellate courts in patent interpretation.