Federal Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms that It May Hear Legal Malpractice Claims Involving Patent Issue


Washington, DC – A recent decision in the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in a legal malpractice claim involving a patent issue may have an impact on a recently filed Indiana case alleging patent attorneys committed legal malpractice, which was filed by Purdue Research Foundation late last month.

In Byrne v. Wood, Herron & Evans LLP, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals CAFC Logo.jpgvacated a summary judgment in favor of the law firm Wood, Herron & Evans, and remanded to the lower court for further proceedings. The plaintiff sued the law firm for legal malpractice for failing to secure a patent that was broad enough to secure his invention of a grass and weed trimmer. The plaintiff claimed that due to the law firm’s failure, he later lost a patent infringement lawsuit against Black & Decker. The court below granted summary judgment for the law firm, based in part on its decision that Mr. Byre was not an expert witness.

The appellate court also briefly took on the question of whether the federal courts have jurisdiction to hear legal malpractice claims, typically arising out of state law, when a patent issue is intertwined. The Court, citing Davis v. Brouse McDowell, L.P.A., 596 F.3d 1355 (Fed. Cir. 2010), confirmed that it did have jurisdiction over this case. However, the court acknowledged that other courts had disagreed.

The opinion is designated “non-precedential.” This was an appeal from the Eastern District of Kentucky.

Practice Tip: The basis of the legal malpractice claims in the Purdue case are substantially different that here, however, this case confirms that in most situations involving a patent issue is appropriate for the federal courts to hear legal malpractice cases.

This case was assigned to Judge William O. Bertelsman and Judge Danny C. Reeves in the Kentucky Eastern District Court and assigned Case No. 2:2008cv00102.11-1012 opinion

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