The Patent Act’s fee-shifting provision authorizes district courts toaward attorney’s fees to prevailing parties in “exceptional cases.” 35 U. S. C. §285. In Brooks Furniture Mfg., Inc. v. Dutailier Int’l, Inc., 393 F. 3d 1378, 1381, the Federal Circuit defined an “exceptionalcase” as one which either involves “material inappropriate conduct” or is both “objectively baseless” and “brought in subjective bad faith.” Brooks Furniture also requires that parties establish the “exceptional” nature of a case by “clear and convincing evidence.” Id., at 1382. Respondent ICON Health & Fitness, Inc., sued petitioner Octane Fitness, LLC, for patent infringement. The District Court granted summary judgment to Octane. Octane then moved for attorney’s fees under §285. The District Court denied the motion under the Brooks Furniture framework, finding ICON’s claim to be neither objectivelybaseless nor brought in subjective bad faith. The Federal Circuit affirmed.
Held: The Brooks Furniture framework is unduly rigid and impermissibly encumbers the statutory grant of discretion to district courts.Pp. 7–12. (a) Section 285 imposes one and only one constraint on district courts’ discretion to award attorney’s fees: The power is reserved for“exceptional” cases. Because the Patent Act does not define “exceptional,” the term is construed “in accordance with [its] ordinary meaning.” Sebelius v. Cloer, 569 U. S. ___, ___. In 1952, when Congress used the word in §285 (and today, for that matter),“[e]xceptional” meant “uncommon,” “rare,” or “not ordinary.” Webster’s New International Dictionary 889 (2d ed. 1934). An “exceptional” case, then, is simply one that stands out from others with respect to the substantive strength of a party’s litigating position (considering both the governing law and the facts of the case) or the unreasonable manner in which the case was litigated. District courts may determine whether a case is “exceptional” in the case-by-caseexercise of their discretion, considering the totality of the circumstances. Cf. Fogerty v. Fantasy, Inc., 510 U. S. 517. Pp. 7–8.
(b) The Brooks Furniture framework superimposes an inflexible framework onto statutory text that is inherently flexible. Pp. 8–11.
(1) Brooks Furniture is too restrictive in defining the two categories of cases in which fee awards are allowed. The first category—cases involving litigation or certain other misconduct—appears to extend largely to independently sanctionable conduct. But that is not the appropriate benchmark. A district court may award fees in the rare case in which a party’s unreasonable, though not independentlysanctionable, conduct is so “exceptional” as to justify an award. For litigation to fall within the second category, a district court must determine that the litigation is both objectively baseless and brought insubjective bad faith. But a case presenting either subjective bad faith or exceptionally meritless claims may sufficiently set itselfapart from mine-run cases to be “exceptional.” The Federal Circuit imported this second category from Professional Real Estate Investors, Inc. v. Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., 508 U. S. 49, but that case’s standard finds no roots in §285’s text and makes little sense in the context of the exceptional-case determination. Pp. 8–10.
(2) Brooks Furniture is so demanding that it would appear torender §285 largely superfluous. Because courts already possess theinherent power to award fees in cases involving misconduct or badfaith, see Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. v. Wilderness Society, 421 U. S. 240, 258–259, this Court has declined to construe fee-shifting provisions narrowly so as to avoid rendering them superfluous. See, e.g., Christiansburg Garment Co. v. EEOC, 434 U. S. 412, 419. Pp. 10–11.
(3) Brooks Furniture’s requirement that proof of entitlement tofees be made by clear and convincing evidence is not justified by§285, which imposes no specific evidentiary burden. Nor has this Court interpreted comparable fee-shifting statutes to require such a burden of proof. See, e.g., Fogerty, 510 U. S, at 519. P. 11.
496 Fed. Appx. 57, reversed and remanded.