Federal Circuit Dispositions, Part I

By Jason Rantanen

The Federal Circuit's statistics page contains an array of information on both patent and non-patent appeals.  One of the court's most interesting visuals is a pie chart showing dispositions of appeals in patent infringement cases.  Below is the chart for the year ending on September 30, 2010.  (Note that, as one commenter pointed out, this chart shows only appeals in patent infringement cases (i.e.: appeals from district court determinations), an observation that is consistent with the data available here).

Federal Circuit Patent Terminations FY 2010

As the court's graph illustrates, the vast majority of patent appeals result in some form of substantive opinion, in many cases a precedential one.  Although the CAFC uses Rule 36 summary affirmances at about the same frequency when disposing of both patent and non-patent cases, it issues precedential opinions far more often when patents are involved in the appeal as the below chart illustrates:

Fed Cir Merits Terminations Excluding Patents Data sources: "Caseload Analysis" and "Pie chart for merit and non-merit dispositions, in a 12-month period," available at http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/the-court/statistics.html.

Tomorrow I will dig deeper into the Federal Circuit's use of Rule 36 summary affirmances in connection with patent appeals.

7 thoughts on “Federal Circuit Dispositions, Part I

  1. 5

    What I like in particular is the way the CAFC almost always writes a non-precedential opinion in pro se civil servant appeals. All but a handful of those are meritless and a substantial number are frivolous. Still, someone at the court sits down and writes a short explanation for why the appellant loses. Losing is no fun in any case, but at least these employees (usually former employees who were fired) know that the system took their case seriously.

  2. 4

    I agree, but think the court would do better to toss Rule 36 entirely and give the losing party some explanation of why s/he lost in every case.

    They do get an explanation. They get the same explanation they got the first time around.

  3. 3

    “[T]his chart apparently contains only appeals from district court proceedings, and does not appear to include appeals from the PTO or ITC”

    The PTO part makes sense, as the chart is for patent “infringement” cases. I suppose an ITC case is nominally an investigation by an administrative agency into potential violations of the customs laws.

    In response to Mr. Dhuey, I agree, but think the court would do better to toss Rule 36 entirely and give the losing party some explanation of why s/he lost in every case. If that seems like too much work, the court could also get rid of the 10- and 20-page nonprecedential opinions.

    Other federal appellate courts also have habeas corpus cases and immigration appeals that the CAFC does not. To the CAFC’s credit, though, the court offers oral argument in 99% of cases with counsel on both sides and doesn’t have staff attorneys draft opinions.

  4. 2

    What are the chances of getting such clear data from the USPTO on matters of Appeals and Petitions?

  5. 1

    It’s really remarkable that the Federal Circuit issues an opinion in 75% of the cases. That is very much to the court’s credit. Most other federal and state appellate courts have much higher rates of summary affirmances.

    I have my gripes about certain rules and practices of the CAFC, but this is one where I have strong praise.

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