Claim Re-Construction: The Doctrine of Equivalents in the Post-Markman Era

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Thomas, John R.
patent suits; patent practice; intellectual property; Intellectual Property Law
article description
In the post-Markman era, the Federal Circuit has focused attention on the public notice function of patent claims in equivalents cases, and it has come to emphasize precision and accuracy in claim drafting. This Article argues that recent judicial emphasis on the public notice function of patent claims is an inappropriate innovation policy. The demand for highly refined patent claims increases patent acquisition expenditures that are unlikely to increase social welfare, cause patent rights to be distributed unevenly, and are inconsistent with the structural features of the patent system. This Article presents two mechanisms to accommodate the doctrine of equivalents in the post-Markman era. One is the reinvigoration of the reissue proceeding. The other is allowing judicial amendment of patent claims during infringement litigation proceedings, much like the longstanding British practice. This shift would allow courts to pursue the policy goals of Markman for literal and equivalent infringement alike.