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US Supreme Court to reconsider standard for attorneys fees

The US Supreme Court agreed this week to hear two cases that address the standard for deciding whether attorney’s fees should be awarded.

The court has accepted certiorari of Highmark v. Allcare Health Management, and Octane Fitness v. Icon Health and Fitness, which may make it easier to win fees in “exceptional” cases. Both cases stem from patent infringement claims.

In the US, each party is generally responsible for its own legal fees regardless of the outcome of the case, but in “exceptional cases” where one party is found to have abused the court system, they may be ordered to pay their opponent’s costs.

In Highmark v Allcare Health Management, insurance company Highmark is seeking $5 million in costs after it defeated a patent infringement suit by patent licensing business Allcare. The Supreme Court will reconsider the Federal Circuit’s decision to partially reverse a district court decision awarding Highmark the fees.

In Octane Fitness v Icon Health and Fitness, the Federal Circuit ruled that it would use a “rigid and exclusive two-part test” to determine fee-shifting conditions. In hearing the case, the Supreme Court will consider whether the appellate court’s application of the test “improperly appropriates a district court’s discretionary authority to award attorney fees.”

A full list of the latest cases the Supreme Court has decided to accept is available on its website.

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