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Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc.

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Brief Fact Summary.

Petitioner sued Respondent for patent infringement.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The construction of a patent and its terms is an issue for a judge, not the jury.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

When history fails as a guide, we consult precedent postdating the adoption of the constitution and consider both the relative interpretive skills of judges and juries and the statutory policies that ought to be furthered by the allocation.

View Full Point of Law

Markman (Petitioner) sued Westview (Respondent) for patent infringement of an inventory control system for use by dry cleaning stores.


Was the interpretation of the word “inventory” an issue for the judge?


Yes, the interpretation of the word “inventory” was an issue for the judge. The lower court’s decision is affirmed.


The Court determined that it was proper for the judge to interpret the word “inventory,” instead of the jury. Based on history, patent infringement cases are a matter for the jury, but history offers no guidance regarding particularly issues of construction of the patent. Thus, the Court relied on functional considerations to determine that this was a legal issue for the judge, within the scope of the Seventh Amendment. The Court found that the judge, based on training and practice, was better suited to interpret the construction of written instruments.

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