Which Supreme Court Cases Influenced Recent Supreme Court IP Decisions? A Citation Study


The U.S. Supreme Court has decided an increasing number of intellectual property (IP) cases—especially patent cases—over the last several terms. Which prior cases influence the stated reasoning in these recent Supreme Court IP cases? A handful of citation studies of supreme courts in the United States, both state and federal, conducted over the last forty years suggests that the Court would most often cite its own prior cases; that it would cite its more recent cases more often than its older cases; and that a small number of its prior cases would receive a large share of the citations, with most of its prior cases cited one or two times, if at all. In this unique empirical study of all the Supreme Court’s IP cases from October Term 1994 through October Term 2016, inclusive, all the predicted patterns hold true. In addition to reporting citation-pattern data, I use network analysis tools—first developed to study social networks, and subsequently validated for use with citation networks in judicial opinions—to identify, rank, and visualize the interconnections among the top case law authorities in the Supreme Court’s recent IP cases.

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*An earlier post of this article referred to the study as “A Case Study.” This was incorrect. It is a citation study. UCLA JOLT regrets the error.

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