Supreme Court Patent Decisions

by Dennis Crouch

The chart below shows the number of Supreme Court patent decisions broken-up by decade. The ramp-up in the late 1800s is tied to the “second industrial revolution” in the US.  The drop in cases after 1890 is largely procedural. Congress created the regional circuit courts of appeals as a buffer between the trial courts & Supreme  Court.  Subsequently, the Court limited the number of patent cases it heard via the certiorari process.  Read more about this transition in my Kessler Cat paper (with Homayoon Rafatijo).

We are 2 years into the 2020s and have 5 decisions thus far (counting Google v. Oracle, which discusses substantive patent issues).  If that trend continues, then the  final figures for the 2020s would be similar to that of the 2010s.  Of course, thus far in the 2021-22 term, the Supreme Court has not yet granted certiorari in any patent cases.

To get this data, I used Westlaw’s case search and limited the results to Supreme Court decisions identified as “patent” decisions by Westlaw and that have a patent law related WL KeyCite headnote.  Reasonable minds will differ on what counts as a “patent case.”

7 thoughts on “Supreme Court Patent Decisions

  1. 2

    Off topic, but an interesting mandamus decision arrived today, In re Amperex Tech Ltd. (ATL). ATL sued Maxwell for declaratory judgment in DNJ one day before Maxwell sued ATL for infringment in WD Tex. Maxwell moved the DNJ to transfer the DJ suit to WD Tex, which the DNJ granted. ATL sought mandamus to prohibit the case transfer, but the CAFC (not surprisingly) denied the mandamus.

    Denial of mandamus is more of a “dog bites man” story than “man bites dog,” but it is useful to take notice of all the mandamus decisions, so that one does not get a skewed perspective by paying attention to only the (unusual) WD Tex mandamus grants.

    1. 2.1

      Greg – on the facts of that case (which I just read), I agree that it was not surprising that the petition for mandamus was denied. The DJ plaintiff had “feigned” cooperation with the patent owner during negotiation, only to allow them time to file a DJ complaint right before the patent owner filed its lawsuit (which it had said it would do if no license was taken).

      1. 2.1.1

        Exactly. Bad behavior was punished, as seems only right and fair.

    2. 2.2

      From the decision: “The legal standard for mandamus is demanding.”*

      *Unless you’re Judge Albright

      1. 2.2.1

        It’s demanding for him as well. He is evidently more fit than his fellow judges, and thus manages to clear that high bar many times per year, while so many of his colleagues go whole careers without clearing it.

        1. 2.2.1.1

          … talk about your stone walls…

  2. 1

    The chart confirms the long “dry spell” for few Sup. Ct. patent decisions 1950s-2000s. Now that most of the dust has settled over challenges to, and interpretations of, the last major patent statute – the AIA – I wonder if we are in for another such long dry spell?

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