Supreme Court Smacks Down CAFC Again: Says Courts Have More Free Rein In Awarding Attorneys Fees
from the this-text-is-patently-clear dept
As Justice Sotomayor's ruling (representing a basically unanimous court -- Justice Scalia didn't want to be a part of some random footnotes) notes, the CAFC's rules are way too "rigid" and go beyond what the law says (and what Congress intended).
The framework established by the Federal Circuit in Brooks Furniture is unduly rigid, and it impermissibly encumbers the statutory grant of discretion to district courts.The problem, of course, is that CAFC redefined "exceptional" to mean something extreme -- when there was "material inappropriate" behavior -- which goes well beyond what "exceptional" means.
Our analysis begins and ends with the text of §285: “The court in exceptional cases may award reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party.” This text is patently clear. It imposes one and only one constraint on district courts’ discretion to award attorney’s fees in patent litigation: The power is reserved for “exceptional” cases.
The Federal Circuit’s formulation is overly rigid. Under the standard crafted in Brooks Furniture , a case is “exceptional” only if a district court either finds litigation-related misconduct of an independently sanctionable magnitude or determines that the litigation was both “brought in subjective bad faith” and “objectively baseless.” 393 F. 3d, at 1381. This formulation superimposes an inflexible framework onto statutory text that is inherently flexibleFee shifting is part of what's being fought over in the current attempts at patent reform. While it's good to see the Court make it slightly easier to get attorneys' fees, it would be much better if Congress went even further in making it abundantly clear that bogus patent suits will lead to awards of attorneys fees.