List of United States patent law cases

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This is a list of notable patent law cases in the United States in chronological order. The cases have been decided notably by the United States Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) or the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI). While the Federal Circuit (CAFC) sits below the Supreme Court in the hierarchy of U.S. federal courts, patent cases only have the right of appeal to the Federal Circuit. The U.S. Supreme Court will only review cases on a discretionary basis and rarely decides patent cases. Unless overruled by a Supreme Court case, Federal Circuit decisions can dictate the results of both patent prosecution and litigation as they are universally binding on all United States district courts and the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Early cases (before 1900)[edit]

  • Tyler v. Tuel - Supreme Court, 1810. Held that an assignee of a geographically limited patent right could not bring an action in the assignee's own name. Now obsolete.
  • Hotchkiss v. Greenwood - Supreme Court, 1850. Introduced the concept of non-obviousness as patentability requirement in U.S. patent law.
  • Le Roy v. Tatham - Supreme Court, 1852. "It is admitted that a principle is not patentable. A principle, in the abstract, is a fundamental truth; an original cause; a motive; these cannot be patented, as no one can claim in either of them an exclusive right."
  • O'Reilly v. Morse - Supreme Court, 1853. Influential decision in the development of the law of patent-eligibility (Invalidating method claims for "abstract idea", where steps of method not tied to particular machine).
  • Rubber-Tip Pencil Co. v. Howard - Supreme Court, 1874. "An idea of itself is not patentable, but a new device by which it may be made practically useful is."
  • City of Elizabeth v. American Nicholson Pavement Co. - Supreme Court, 1878. "Prior use" does not include experimental use.
  • Egbert v. Lippmann - Supreme Court, 1881. Held that public use of an invention bars the patenting of it.
  • Schillinger v. United States - Supreme Court, 1894. Patent infringement against the United States.


  • Mast, Foos & Co. v. Stover Manufacturing Company. - Supreme Court, 1900.
  • Carnegie Steel Company v. Cambria Iron Company - Supreme Court, 1902.
  • Continental Paper Bag Co. v. Eastern Paper Bag Co. - Supreme Court, 1908. Established the principle that patent holders have no obligation to use their patent.
  • Leeds And Catlin Company v. Victor Talking Machine Company. - Supreme Court, 1909.
  • Expanded Metal Company v. Bradford General Fireproofing Company v. Expanded Metal Company. - Supreme Court, 1909.
  • Diamond Rubber Company of New York v. Consolidated Rubber Tire Company - Supreme Court, 1911.
  • Henry v. A.B. Dick Co. - Supreme Court, 1912. The Court found contributory infringement for the sale of the defendant's ink with patent owners machine.
  • Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company v. Wagner Electric and Manufacturing Company. - Supreme Court, 1912.
  • Bauer & Cie. v. O'Donnell - Supreme Court, 1913. Patent licensing terms do not include dictating the price of the product.
  • The Fair v. Kohler Die and Specialty Company - Supreme Court, 1913.
  • Dowagiac Manufacturing Company v. Minnesota Moline Plow Company & Dowagiac Manufacturing Company v. Smith - Supreme Court, 1915.
  • Minerals Separation v. Hyde - Supreme Court, 1916. Holding valid claims directed to critical proportions of oil to ore in a concentrating ore.
  • American Well Works Co. v. Layne and Bowler Co. - Supreme Court, 1916.




  • Gottschalk v. Benson - Supreme Court, 1972. Held that an algorithm is not patentable if the claim would preempt all uses of the algorithm.
  • Honeywell v. Sperry Rand - 1973. Invalidated the 1964 patent for the ENIAC, the world's first general-purpose electronic digital computer, thus putting the invention of the electronic digital computer into the public domain.
  • United States v. Glaxo Group Ltd. - Supreme Court, 1973. Relation between patent law and antitrust law.
  • Dann v. Johnston - Supreme Court, 1976. Patentability of a claim for a business method patent (but the decision turns on obviousness rather than patent-eligibility).
  • Sakraida v. Ag Pro - Supreme Court, 1976. Arranging old elements with each performing the same function it had been known to perform fell under the head of "work of the skillful mechanic, not of that of the inventor".
  • In re Wertheim - United States Court of Customs Appeals, 1976. Where a claim range overlaps or lies inside a range disclosed by the prior art, a prima facie case of obviousness exists.
  • In re Antonie - Federal Circuit, 1977. A parameter must be recognized as a result-effective variable before a determination of routine experimentation.
  • Parker v. Flook - Supreme Court, 1978. Ruled that a mathematical algorithm is not patentable if its application itself is not novel.






Since 2015[edit]

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