The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has been actively shaping patent law this year with a total of 30 precedential opinions issued in the first five months of 2024. These opinions cover various areas of patent law and provide valuable insights for patent practitioners, prosecution attorneys, and litigators.

One significant area of focus is the issue of obviousness, with the KSR Int’l Co. v. Teleflex Inc. decision remaining relevant after seventeen years. Recent Federal Circuit decisions have highlighted the importance of adhering to the KSR mandate and the impact it has on assessing design patent obviousness. Additionally, the court has emphasized the need to consider multiple references’ interrelated teachings and a person of ordinary skill’s ordinary creativity when evaluating prior art in the context of an obviousness analysis.

Equitable defenses such as unclean hands and inequitable conduct have seen a resurgence in recent cases, with the Federal Circuit taking a more flexible approach to these defenses. The court’s rulings in cases like Luv N’ Care, Ltd. v. Laurain demonstrate the potential reach and impact of unclean hands and inequitable conduct findings in patent litigation.

The Federal Circuit has also addressed the issue of tying the economic prong of the domestic industry requirement to the scope of the asserted patents in cases like Roku v. ITC and Zircon v. ITC. These cases highlight the complexities involved in demonstrating a domestic industry with respect to the articles protected by the patent and the need to establish separate domestic industries for different groups of products covered by different patents.

Furthermore, the Federal Circuit’s decisions on patent eligibility for data manipulation patents continue to reflect the challenges of applying the Alice framework. Recent cases like AI Visualize, Inc. v. Nuance Commc’ns, Inc., Brumfield, Trustee for Ascent Trust v. IBG LLC, and Chewy, Inc. v. IBM Corp. demonstrate the court’s continued scrutiny of computer-implemented patents directed to abstract ideas lacking inventive steps.

Lastly, the court’s approach to assessing adequate written description in cases like RAI Strategic Holdings, Inc. v. Philip Morris Products S.A. emphasizes the context-specific nature of the inquiry. The court’s analysis in these cases underscores the importance of conveying the narrower claimed range in the patent specification to satisfy the written description requirement.

In conclusion, the Federal Circuit’s evolving jurisprudence in patent law underscores the need for practitioners to stay informed about new decisions that could impact their clients and practices significantly. These rulings provide valuable guidance on various aspects of patent law and highlight the complexities involved in patent litigation and prosecution.