CAFC precedential case on patent claim construction

Boston Scientific Scimed et al. v. Cordis Corp. et al., __ F.3d __ (CAFC 2009)

This case, which deals with a drug-eluting stent that is implanted in a blood vessel to prop or widen the lumen of the vessel after a vascular incident, discusses the patent claim construction methodology used by the US District Courts. There is nothing particularly new here; the Court reminds us that they review claim construction de novo on appeal, and reminds us that “To determine the meaning of “[a particular term in the claim],” we begin by considering the language of the claims.” They reassert that the District Court correctly uses dictionary definitions of terms when the patentee has not provided, in the specification, a definition of a particular term to be used in constructing the claims.

This case also provides an application of the 2007 US Supreme Court case of KSR v. Teleflex, 50 U.S. 398, 127 S.Ct. 1727 (2007), a decision that redefined the 35 USC 103(a) obviousness standard in patents.

I think it’s important to keep an eye on how the Federal Circuit (aka CAFC) handles cases like this one, and to see how they interpret rulings of the higher court. The CAFC has a tendency to interpret things in its own way; indeed, the Supreme Court took the Festo case (FESTO CORP. v. SHOKETSU KINZOKU KOGYO KABUSHIKI CO., LTD., ET AL., 535 U.S. 722 (2004)), which dealt with the so-called Doctrine of Equivalents, to “slap” the CAFC back into line after they had ruled that the Doctrine of Equivalents was no longer valid in a really quite direct nose-thumbing at US Supreme Court precedent. The CAFC comprises a bunch of scientist-judges (Judge Gayarsa, for example, holds degrees in electrical engineering — from Rensselaer, one of my alma maters — and economics, as well as in law) who actually understand the patents that come before them on appeal. It is interesting, though, to watch the interplay between the CAFC’s scientist-judges and the n0n-scientist, traditional judges who sit on the US Supreme Court, which is the only court in the country with the power to overrule them.

I doubt Boston Scientific Scimed will get to the Supreme Court, but you never know…I wouldn’t have expected the Supremes to take Erie Railroad Co. vTompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938) either, and look what they did with that (Erie is not a patent case). So stay tuned!