MARKMAN v. WESTVIEW INSTRUMENTS, INC.

Print this Page
Case Basics
Docket No. 
95-26
Petitioner 
Markman
Respondent 
Westview Instruments, Inc.
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the petitioners)
(Argued the cause for the respondents)
Tags
Term:
Facts of the Case 

Herbert Markman owns the patent to a system that tracks clothing through the dry-cleaning process using a keyboard and data processor to generate transaction records, including a bar code readable by optical detectors. According to the patent's claim, the portion of the patent document that defines the patentee's rights, Markman's product can "maintain an inventory total" and "detect and localize spurious additions to inventory." Westview Instruments, Inc.'s product also uses a keyboard and processor and lists dry- cleaning charges on bar-coded tickets that can be read by optical detectors. In an infringement suit, after hearing an expert witness testify about the meaning of the claim's language, a jury found that Westview's product had infringed Markman's patent. However, the District Court directed a verdict for Westview on the ground that its device is unable to track "inventory" as that term is used in the claim. In affirming, the Court of Appeals held that the interpretation of claim terms is the exclusive province of the court and that the Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial is consistent with that conclusion.

Question 

Is the interpretation of a patent's claim, the portion of the patent document that defines the scope of the patentee's rights, a matter of fact to be decided by jurors?

Conclusion 
Decision: 9 votes for Westview Instruments, Inc., 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 7: Seventh Amendment

No. In a unanimous decision, authored by Justice David H. Souter, the Court held that the construction of a patent, including terms of art within its claim, is exclusively within the province of the court. Justice Souter wrote that "judges, not juries, are the better suited to find the acquired meaning of patent terms."

Cite this Page
MARKMAN v. WESTVIEW INSTRUMENTS, INC.. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 November 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1995/1995_95_26>.
MARKMAN v. WESTVIEW INSTRUMENTS, INC., The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1995/1995_95_26 (last visited November 25, 2014).
"MARKMAN v. WESTVIEW INSTRUMENTS, INC.," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed November 25, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1995/1995_95_26.