Holmes v. Vornado: A Radical Change in Appellate Jurisdiction

by Joseph Etra

5 Colum. Sci. & Tech. L. Rev. 4 (2003) (Published April 19, 2004)

Abstract

In a recent decision, The Holmes Group, Inc. v. Vornado Air Circulation Systems, Inc., the United States Supreme Court altered the treatment of patent cases at the appellate level, and, in doing so, significantly limited Federal Circuit jurisdiction. Prior to this decision, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit heard both appeals of cases involving patent claims and those that involved only patent counterclaims. With the Holmes decision, the Supreme Court relied on the well-pleaded complaint rule to hold that appellate jurisdiction could only be based on claims on the face of the plaintiff’s complaint and, thus, not the defendant’s counterclaims. This decision will likely produce far-reaching effects in the world of patent litigation. In order to explore its possible monumental impact, this Note traces the development of the law prior to Holmes, and analyzes the Holmes decision in light of that history, finally concluding with a discussion of the holding’s actual and likely ramifications.

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