For more than four decades, Fenwick & West LLP has helped some of the world’s most recognized companies become, and remain, market leaders. From emerging enterprises to large public corporations, our clients are leaders in the technology, life sciences and cleantech sectors and are fundamentally changing the world through rapid innovation.  MORE >

Fenwick & West was founded in 1972 in the heart of Silicon Valley—before “Silicon Valley” existed—by four visionary lawyers who left a top-tier New York law firm to pursue their shared belief that technology would revolutionize the business world and to pioneer the legal work for those technological innovations. In order to be most effective, they decided they needed to move to a location close to primary research and technology development. These four attorneys opened their first office in downtown Palo Alto, and Fenwick became one of the first technology law firms in the world.  MORE >

From our founding in 1972, Fenwick has been committed to promoting diversity and inclusion both within our firm and throughout the legal profession. For almost four decades, the firm has actively promoted an open and inclusive work environment and committed significant resources towards improving our diversity efforts at every level.  MORE >

FLEX by Fenwick is the only service created by an AmLaw 100 firm that provides flexible and cost-effective solutions for interim in-house legal needs to high-growth companies.  MORE >

Fenwick & West handles significant cross-border legal and business issues for a wide range of technology and life sciences who operate internationally..  MORE >

At Fenwick, we are proud of our commitment to the community and to our culture of making a difference in the lives of individuals and organizations in the communities where we live and work. We recognize that providing legal services is not only an essential part of our professional responsibility, but also an excellent opportunity for our attorneys to gain valuable practical experience, learn new areas of the law and contribute to the community.  MORE >

Year after year, Fenwick & West is honored for excellence in the legal profession. Many of our attorneys are recognized as leaders in their respective fields, and our Corporate, Tax, Litigation and Intellectual Property Practice Groups consistently receive top national and international rankings, including:

  • Named Technology Group of the Year by Law360
  • Ranked #1 in the Americas for number of technology deals in 2015 by Mergermarket
  • Nearly 20 percent of Fenwick partners are ranked by Chambers
  • Consistently ranked among the top 10 law firms in the U.S. for diversity
  • Recognized as having top mentoring and pro bono programs by Euromoney


We take sustainability very seriously at Fenwick. Like many of our clients, we are adopting policies that reduce consumption and waste, and improve efficiency. By using technologies developed by a number of our cleantech clients, we are at the forefront of implementing sustainable policies and practices that minimize environmental impact. In fact, Fenwick has earned recognition in several areas as one of the top US law firms for implementing sustainable business practices.  MORE >

At Fenwick, we have a passion for excellence and innovation that mirrors our client base. Our firm is making revolutionary changes to the practice of law through substantial investments in proprietary technology tools and processes—allowing us to deliver best-in-class legal services more effectively.   MORE >

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High Court Appears Split on Claim Construction Deference

October 15, 2014

Fenwick & West patent litigation chair, Michael Sacksteder, was quoted in multiple articles regarding the U.S. Supreme Court seemingly being divided on the question of whether the Federal Circuit should give more deference to claim construction decisions by lower courts.

The Supreme Court justices appeared split on whether trial judges are best suited to interpret patents, or whether increased deference would complicate patent cases.

In oral arguments in Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc. et al. v. Sandoz Inc. et al., Teva challenged the Federal Circuit's practice of reviewing all claim construction decisions. The appeal came about after Teva's patents on the multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone were deemed valid by a lower court, only to have the appeals court partly back generics makers Sandoz Inc. and Mylan Inc. and invalidate five of Teva’s patents.

Central to the case is Rule 52(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which stipulates that findings of fact must not be set aside on appeal unless they are clearly in error.

In other recent patent decisions, the Supreme Court has ruled unanimously. SCRIP Intelligence quoted Sacksteder noting, however, that "it appears that this, unlike most other recent patent cases, is not going to be a unanimous decision."

Sacksteder told Law360 that "it was a little hard to tell how they were leaning on this one. I got the idea that the justices were asking questions about things that troubled them about the positions by both sides, so it may not be 9-0 this time."

"It isn't clear where the line is going to be drawn, if it's going to be drawn at all," The Recorder article quoted Sacksteder saying.

If the Supreme Court does rule in favor of deference, Sacksteder told The Recorder, "You might have a fairly knotty problem at the Federal Circuit every time it's reviewing claim construction."

Court watchers wondered if the judges might issue a generalized patent ruling ordering compliance with Rule 52(a) but leaving the Federal Circuit to fill in the blanks.

"In a way I wouldn't be surprised," said Sacksteder to The Recorder. "In the past year especially, the Supreme Court has been telling the Federal Circuit, 'you're doing it wrong,' but not giving much guidance on doing it right." Sacksteder said he hoped that if the court alters the standard, “there would be some guidance on how to implement it."

He noted to SCRIP Intelligence that recent court decisions in patent cases have left ambiguities in the law.

The full articles are available through the Law360, SCRIP Intelligence, and The Recorder websites (subscriptions required).