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Supreme Court Decision Could Impact Future of Patent Law

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision has complicated one of the cornerstones of patent law, forcing lawyers to consider whether it will affect future innovation. The Supreme Court unanimously decided April 30 in KSR International, Co. v. Teleflex, Inc., et al., that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit needs to apply a less rigid approach when determining an important aspect of patent validity -- obviousness. This case acts as one important example of the Supreme Court's increased involvement in patent law cases. In the last couple years a handful of significant patent cases reached the Supreme Court, which in the past the Court had largely left to the Federal Circuit.

Today, more patent cases are being filed and more patent cases are going to jury trials rather than bench trials, said Russell E. Levine, a partner in the intellectual property group at Kirkland & Ellis.

"We are seeing, I think, a better understanding by patent practitioners, corporations, and courts about what patent law is," Levine said. "There is a greater understanding about the issues in patent litigation. And while there is increased certainty, there still are issues that need to be resolved."

Levine anticipates continued interest by the Supreme Court in patent law because intellectual property has become a key aspect of the global economy. As it becomes more important to corporations and the economy, the Supreme Court may find it necessary to keep an eye on it, he said.

This article appeared in its entirety in the July 11, 2007 edition of Chicago Lawyer.