The Federal Circuit essentially has had the last word on IP issues for more than two decades. Since Congress created the specialized court in 1982, the Supreme Court has rarely granted cert on patent cases. But as IP becomes an increasingly important part of business, the Court is taking a more active role in shaping the direction of patent law.
Nowhere is that trend more apparent than in the Court's January decision in MedImmune v. Genentech. Reversing a long-standing Federal Circuit precedent, the High Court ruled that patent licensees have standing to file declaratory judgment actions to invalidate licensed patents.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court's ruling gives scant clues about how the lower courts should strike the balance between the rights of patent owners and antitrust concerns.