UnknowingFool (672806) writes "In a pair of unanimous rulings yesterday, the Supreme Court made it easier for defendants in patent cases to collect attorneys fees if the litigation was frivolous. In the first case, Octane Fitness v. Icon Health & Fitness, the court ruled that a standard used by lower courts to award attorney's fees was impossible to meet. The original standard under Brooks Furniture Mfg., Inc. v. Dutailier Int'l, Inc. had ruled that a claim had to be both 'objectively baseless' and 'brought in subjective bad faith' before fees could be awarded. The high court ruled that fees should be awarded merely when the case is 'exceptional' and not when the defendant must prove there was zero merit.
In the second case, Highmark v. Allcare Health Management, the Supreme Court also noted the 'exceptional' standard in reversing the appellate court's decision but specifically ruled that appellate courts should give more deference to the lower courts on rulings of fact. In Highmark, the district court found that Allcare had engaged in a pattern of 'vexatious' and 'deceitful' conduct throughout the litigation and awarded fees. The appellate court while agreeing with the lower court about part of the case reversed the fees in their de novo review of the case. In de novo reviews, the court case is essentially retried with the higher court. The Supreme Court iterated that de novo reviews should be done typically for 'questions of law' and reviews on 'questions of fact' are done if there are clear errors with decisions on matters of discretion 'reviewable for "abuse of discretion."' In other words, the appellate courts can review a case if a lower court has not correctly interpreted law; however, they should not retry a lower case on facts unless the lower court made a clear error. Also unless the lower court abused their power in some way, the appellate court should not review their final decisions.
For example, if a person is tried for murder, an appellate court could rule that a district court misinterpreted a statute about sentencing if the person if found guilty. The appellate court should not retry the facts of the case unless the lower court had made a clear error like ruling that there was a DNA match when there was not. Also an appellate court should not reverse the lower court if they sentenced the person to a reasonable time. Now if the district court sentenced the person to 400 years for one murder, then the appellate court should intervene.
In effect the two rulings make it easier for companies to recover money should they be sued in frivolous patent lawsuits. This would make the risks greater for those who sue."