Most Cited Supreme Court Patent Cases Since 1952

by Dennis Crouch

Lots of the new learning in patent law over the past decade has focused on patent eligibility.  But, none of the eligibility cases (new or old) show up in my list of the most cited Supreme Court cases.

  1. Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370 (1996) (claim construction);
  2. Christianson v. Colt Industries Operating Corp., 486 U.S. 800 (1988) (arising under jurisdiction);
  3. eBay Inc. v. MercExchange, L.L.C., 547 U.S. 388 (2006) (injunctive relief in accordance with the principles of equity);
  4. Graham v. John Deere Co. of Kansas City, 383 U.S. 1 (1966) (obviousness);
  5. Zenith Radio Corp. v. Hazeltine Research, Inc., 401 U.S. 321 (1971) (antitrust – patent pools – waiver of defenses);
  6. MedImmune, Inc. v. Genentech, Inc., 549 U.S. 118 (2007) (licensee standing for declaratory judgment action);
  7. Blonder-Tongue Laboratories, Inc. v. University of Illinois Foundation, 402 U.S. 313 (1971) (non-mutual issue preclusion in patent cases);
  8. Zenith Radio Corp. v. Hazeltine Research, Inc., 395 U.S. 100 (1969) (antitrust – patent pools);
  9. Holmes Group, Inc. v. Vornado Air Circulation Systems, Inc., 535 U.S. 826 (2002) (arising under jurisdiction – patent assertions in counterclaims, overruled by AIA);
  10. Gunn v. Minton, 568 U.S. 251 (2013) (arising under jurisdiction for patent attorney malpractice);
  11. Warner-Jenkinson Co., Inc. v. Hilton Davis Chemical Co., 520 U.S. 17 (1997) (element-by-element, even for doctrine of equivalents);
  12. Hoffman v. Blaski, 363 U.S. 335 (1960) (change of venue under 1404(a));
  13. College Sav. Bank v. Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Educ. Expense Bd., 527 U.S. 666 (1999) (sovereign immunity for patent infringement);
  14. KSR Intern. Co. v. Teleflex Inc., 550 U.S. 398 (2007) (obviousness); and
  15. Kerotest Mfg. Co. v. C-O-Two Fire Equipment Co., 342 U.S. 180 (1952) (declaratory judgment and district court discretion).

The citation ranking here is based upon the cite by other cases.  If we add in PTAB decisions, Briefs, and Articles, then the top four are KSR, Graham v. Deere, Markman, and Alice Corp.

Most of the cases in this list decide some trans-substantive principle and so are being cited outside of the patent context.  The only core patent cases are Markman, Graham v. Deere, Warner-Jenkinson, and KSR.



9 thoughts on “Most Cited Supreme Court Patent Cases Since 1952

  1. 6

    It might be interesting to normalize this list by the age of the case involved. In other words, divide the number of total citations by the age of the case, such that a case that is 2 years old and cited 20 times would rank just as high as a case 10 years old and cited 100 times. I think this would be more revealing regarding the true significance of specific cases on patent jurisprudence, since it is frequency-of-citation not total-citation (the latter of which skews results in favor of older cases).

  2. 5

    Thanks for sharing, David. It will be very interesting to see this list five or ten years from now. I suspect Alice and Mayo will be prominent. Sorry not to see Sperry v. Florida, the patent attorney’s best friend case for UPL claims! Very surprised that Gunn v. Minton has been cited so frequently.

  3. 4

    MM: The republi, err, I mean democrats, are collapsing!

    link to

    Lol, what’s the matter MM? Can’t even get a lil welfare passed? Shoulda just bent the knee to the turtle man himself and got some votes that way. You guys would have liked an article I saw about Manchin and his situation out in WVa. Turns out the man is a miracle in and of himself, getting a dem elected where it would certainly otherwise be a republican. And the only way he can stay in is to constantly show himself off to his electorate as being “against the dems in washington”. And here they gave him an excuse to do so. Also of note, the man drives a literal Maserati, alleged by protestors to be bought with fossil fuel moneys.

  4. 3

    Re: “Most of the [most cited Sup. Ct. patent cases since 1972] in this list decide some trans-substantive principle and so are being cited outside of the patent context.”
    I believe this is a reflection of the fact that the Sup. Ct. is more likely to have taken cert on patent cases with legal issues that could have such applicability Beyond just patent law? [Like the several more recent cert takes on administrative law issues?]

  5. 2

    Claim construction and obviousness: the hard core of most every genuine dispute about a duly issued parent. So, no surprise, that Markman, Graham and KSR come out top. It is as it should be, isn’t it?

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