The Federal Circuit’s recent decision in Hill-Rom Services, Inc. v. Stryker Corp. shows the continued existence of diverging claim construction philosophies at the Court. (The Hill-Rom opinion is nicely summarized here by my colleagues, Craig Countryman and Joanna Fuller.) The Court tried to harmonize its then-competing claim construction approaches in the 2005 en banc Phillips decision, but many believe it was unsuccessful. And, although the Court’s composition has evolved significantly in recent years, as Hill-Rom reveals, continued uncertainty remains.
“Proceduralist” v. “Holistic”
By the early 2000s, most Federal Circuit’s claim construction decisions could be categorized as either proceduralist or holistic. “Proceduralist” constructions are those where the “primary focus [is] on ‘ordinary meaning’ of claim language; [finding the] specification only useful if it provides a clear definition . . . .’” Polk Wagner & Lee Petheridge, Did Phillips Change Anything? Empirical Analysis of the Federal Circuits Claim Construction Jurisprudence (Oct. 27, 2006).
The “holistic” approach, on the other hand, Continue Reading »