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DENNISON MFG. CO. V. PANDUIT CORP., 475 U. S. 809 (1986)

U.S. Supreme Court

Dennison Mfg. Co. v. Panduit Corp., 475 U.S. 809 (1986)

Dennison Manufacturing Co. v. Panduit Corp.

No. 85-1150

Decided April 21, 1986

475 U.S. 809


Respondent, which holds patents for plastic cable ties, sued petitioner in Federal District Court for infringement, and petitioner defended on the ground that the patents were invalid for obviousness. After examining the prior art, identifying the differences between it and the patents at issue, and ultimately concluding that all of the improvements made by the patents over the prior art would have been obvious to one skilled in that art, the court held that respondent's patents were invalid for obviousness. The Court of Appeals reversed, disagreeing with the District Court's assessment of the prior art and ruling that the references cited by the District Court did not teach the innovations introduced by respondent. Petitioner contends that the Court of Appeals improperly ignored Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a) in substituting its view of factual issues for that of the District Court.

Held: Regardless of whether the ultimate question of obviousness is one of fact subject to the clearly erroneous standard of Rule 52(a), the District Court's subsidiary determinations, at the least, are subject to the Rule. The Court of Appeals, however, did not mention the Rule, did not explicitly apply the clearly erroneous standard to any of the District Court's findings on obviousness, and did not explain why, if it was of that view, the Rule had no applicability to the issue of obviousness. In the absence of an opinion clearly setting forth the Court of Appeals' views on such matters, plenary consideration will not be given here to petitioner's claim that the decision below cannot be squared with the Rule. Instead, the Court of Appeals' judgment is vacated, and the case is remanded to that court for further consideration in light of the Rule.

Certiorari granted; 774 F.2d 1082, vacated and remanded.

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