Appellate cases do not involve any live testimony. The parties file one or two briefs and conduct an oral argument in front of three appellate judges.
The court hears the oral argument about seven months after the appeal is filed and issues its opinion about nine months later. The case will then be returned to the lower court, so that the court may take the action that has been ordered by the appellate court.
An appeal usually takes place after the district court has issued its final decision. Certain decisions are subject to immediate review, however, like the granting or the denial of a motion for preliminary injunction.
In rare cases, a party will be entitled to an appeal before the entire Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. This is called an en-banc appeal. The court en banc can overrule a three-judge panel. In extremely rare cases, the Supreme Court will hear an appeal of a patent case. The Supreme Court has decided a total of 11 patent cases since 2002. The decisions include:
- Quanta Computer, Inc. v. LG Elecs., Inc., 128 S. Ct. 2109 (2008) - (patent license restrictions and the exhaustion doctrine)
- KSR Int'l Co. v. Teleflex, Inc., 550 U.S. 398 (2007) - (obviousness)
- Microsoft v. AT&T, 550 U.S. 437 (2007) - (extraterritorial reach of U.S. patent law)
- MedImmune, Inc. v. Genentech, Inc., 549 U.S. 118 (2007) - (declaratory judgment jurisdiction in patent cases)
- Lab. Corp. of Am. Holdings v. Metabolite Labs., Inc., 126 S. Ct. 2921, 2926 (2006) - (remanded without a decision on the merits)
- eBay Inc v. MercExchange, L.L.C., 547 U.S. 388 (2006) - (permanent injunction)
- Illinois Tool Works Inc. v. Independent Ink, Inc., 547 U.S. 28 (2006) - (antitrust-tying)
- Unitherm Food Sys., Inc. v. Swift-Eckrich, Inc., 546 U.S. 394 (2006) - (antitrust)
- Merck KGaA v. Integra Lifesciences I, Ltd., 545 U.S. 193 (2005) - (use of patented inventions in pre-clinical research and infringement)
- Holmes Group, Inc. v. Vornado Air Circulation Sys., Inc., 535 U.S. 826 (2002) - (appellate jurisdiction)
- Festo Corp. v Shoketsu Kinzoku Kogyo Kabushiki Co., 535 U.S. 722 (2002) - (prosecution history estoppel)