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Highmark Inc. v. Allcare Health Management System, Inc.

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: April 29, 2014
Case #: 12-1163
Sotomayor, J., delivered the Court’s unanimous opinion.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/12-1163_8o6g.pdf

Appellate Procedure: An appellate court should review all aspects of a district court’s §285 determination for abuse of discretion only.

Petitioner sued Respondent and moved for attorney fees under the Patent Act, which permits a district court to award fees to a successful party in an “exceptional” case. 35 U.S.C. §285.  The District Court determined Petitioner’s case to be exceptional and granted Petitioner’s motion for attorney fees.  The Federal Circuit reviewed the District Court’s determination de novo.  It affirmed judgment in favor of Petitioner, but reversed the District Court’s decision to grant Petitioner’s motion for attorney fees.

The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether an appellate court should accord deference to a district court’s determination that a case is “exceptional.”  Based on its decision in Octane Fitness, LLC v. ICON Health & Fitness, the Court states that an appellate court should only apply an abuse of discretion standard in reviewing all aspects of a district court’s §285 determination.  The Court emphasizes that the determination of whether a case is “exceptional” is a matter of discretion best left to a district court, and therefore holds that §285 determinations are not to be reviewed de novo on appeal.