Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

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PET, a Texas LLC registered to do business throughout Texas, has its registered address in Plano, which is in the Eastern District of Texas. The Banks all have their principal offices or branches or customers in the Northern District of Texas. PET's “sole business is to enforce its intellectual property.” PET’s CEO wrote to each of the Banks, identifying PET’s patents, stating that the Banks are believed to be infringing the patents, and inviting non-exclusive licenses. All the Banks conduct banking business in the Northern District of Texas. All the letters from PET referred to PET’s pending lawsuit against Citizens National Bank in the Eastern District. The Northern District of Texas dismissed the Banks’ declaratory judgment action, reasoning that PET’s contacts with the Northern District did not subject it to personal jurisdiction. The Federal Circuit reversed, finding that PET is subject to personal jurisdiction in the Northern District under 28 U.S.C. 1391: Venue in a multidistrict state. PET “purposefully directed” its charges of infringement to banks conducting banking business in the Northern District. The charges “arise out of or relate to” PET’s patent licensing activities in the Northern District. PET has met the minimum contacts requirement without offense to due process. View "Jack Henry & Associates, Inc.. v. Plano Encryption Technologies, LLC" on Justia Law

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Maxchief has its principal place of business in China and distributes one of the plastic tables it manufactures (UT-18) exclusively through Meco, which is located in Tennessee. Meco sells the UT-18 tables to retailers. Wok competes with Maxchief in the market for plastic folding tables, and also has its principal place of business in China. Wok owns patents directed to folding tables. Wok sued Maxchief’s customer, Staples, in the Central District of California, alleging that Staples’ sale of Maxchief’s UT-18 table infringed the Wok patents. Staples requested that Meco defend and indemnify Staples. Meco requested that Maxchief defend and indemnify Meco and Staples. The Staples action is stayed pending the outcome of this case. Maxchief then sued Wok in the Eastern District of Tennessee, seeking declarations of non-infringement or invalidity of all claims of the Wok patents and alleging tortious interference with business relations under Tennessee state law. The district court dismissed the declaratory judgment claim for lack of personal jurisdiction. With respect to the state law tortious interference claim, the district court concluded it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Wok lacked sufficient contacts with the forum state of Tennessee for personal jurisdiction as to both the declaratory judgment claim and the tortious interference claim. View "Maxchief Investments Ltd. v. Wok & Pan, Ind., Inc." on Justia Law

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Kerr was employed by the federal agency since 1980. Following adverse personnel actions, Kerr alleged sex and religious discrimination and retaliation before the agency’s Equal Employment Opportunity office. Kerr subsequently challenged her 2006 removal and the earlier adverse personnel actions before the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), citing Title VII and retaliation under the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA), 5 U.S.C. 1201. The MSPB indicated that it lacked jurisdiction over the less-serious personnel decisions and gave Kerr the opportunity to present her removal-related claims to the agency’s EEO office or have the MSPB decide them. Kerr chose the EEO office. The MSPB dismissed Kerr’s appeal without prejudice. The EEO office rejected Kerr’s discrimination claims and concluded that the WPA claim was not within its jurisdiction, telling Kerr that she could not appeal the constructive discharge claim to the EEOC, but could either appeal to the MSPB or file suit. Kerr filed suit. On remand from the Ninth Circuit, the government first argued that the court lacked jurisdiction over Kerr’s WPA claim because she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies by MSPB review. The district court dismissed the WPA claim. A jury returned a defense verdict on the discrimination claim. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court denied certiorari. The MSPB rejected Kerr’s request to reopen, concluding that there was neither good cause nor equitable tolling for the untimely filing. The Federal Circuit reversed. Kerr did have a reasonable basis for thinking that the district court was an appropriate forum for all of her claims. The court noted the language of 5 U.S.C. 7702, Tenth Circuit precedent, and that the government did not warn Kerr she would waive her claim by failing to file at the MSPB. Kerr has demonstrated reasonable diligence and there is no prejudice to the agency. View "Kerr v. Merit Systems Protection Board" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sued Oath in the Eastern District of New York, alleging patent infringement. Oath conducts business in New York, but is incorporated in Delaware; it does not have “a regular and established place of business” in the Eastern District as defined in the patent statute venue provision, 28 U.S.C. 1400(b) In 2016, Oath moved under FRCP 12(b)(6) to dismiss for failure to state a claim but did not object to venue. Oath withdrew its motion and filed an answer, admitting the complaint’s venue allegations but expressly reserving the right to challenge venue based upon any change in law, including the Supreme Court’s "TC Heartland" decision. The Supreme Court subsequently issued that decision, holding that, under section 1400(b), “a domestic corporation ‘resides’ only in its State of incorporation,” rejecting Federal Circuit precedent that a domestic corporation “resides” in any judicial district in which the defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction. Oath moved to dismiss. Plaintiffs argued that Oath had waived the venue defense because it was “available” in 2016. The district court agreed. In November 2017, the Federal Circuit held (Micron) that “TC Heartland changed the controlling law ... making the waiver rule ... inapplicable” but that venue rights might be forfeited by delay in asserting them in some circumstances. On reconsideration, the district court again denied Oath’s motion. The Federal Circuit remanded with instructions to either dismiss or transfer the case. The district court provided no analysis of why these circumstances supported a finding of forfeiture under section 1406(b) and erred in failing to apply the Micron precedent. View "In re: Oath Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Missouri River overlies the western boundary of South Dakota's Crow Creek Indian Reservation, established in 1863. Under the Supreme Court’s 1908 “Winters” decision, the creation of a Reservation carries an implied right to unappropriated water “to the extent needed to accomplish the purpose of the reservation.” The Tribe possesses “Winters rights.” The Tribe sued, seeking $200 million in damages for the taking of its water rights. The complaint notes the federal Pick-Sloan flood control project on the River, with construction of the Fort Randall and Big Bend Dams; a 1996 statute that established a trust fund for the Tribe, funded with $27.5 million in hydroelectric-power revenue from Pick-Sloan; a 2012 settlement between the Tribe and the government, unrelated to water rights; and the generally poor economic prospects of the Reservation; it alleged that the government breached its fiduciary duty to “[a]ppropriately manag[e] the natural resources" of the Reservation, 25 U.S.C. 162a(d)(8). The complaint did not allege that the government’s actions deprived the Tribe of sufficient water to fulfill the reservation’s purposes or that those actions would cause the Tribe to lack sufficient water in the future. The Claims Court dismissed, stating that the complaint did not suggest that the Tribe is experiencing a water shortage and that it could not identify an injury "that has yet occurred.” The Federal Circuit affirmed, concluding that the Tribe failed to even allege that it has suffered the requisite injury in fact. View "Crow Creek Sioux Tribe v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 1999, Native American farmers sued, alleging that the USDA had discriminated against them with respect to farm loans and other benefits. The court certified a class, including LaBatte, a farmer and member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Tribe. Under a settlement, the government would provide a $680 million compensation fund. The Track A claims process was limited to claimants seeking standard payments of $50,000. Track A did not require proof of discrimination. Under Track B, a claimant could seek up to $250,000 by establishing that his treatment by USDA was "less favorable than that accorded a specifically identified, similarly situated white farmer(s),” which could be established “by a credible sworn statement based on personal knowledge by an individual who is not a member of the Claimant’s family.” A "Neutral" would review the record without a hearing; there was no appeal of the decision. LaBatte's Track B claim identified two individuals who had personal knowledge of the USDA’s treatment of similarly-situated white farmers. Both worked for the government's Bureau of Indian Affairs. Before LaBatte could finalize their declarations, the government directed the two not to sign the declarations. The Neutral denied LaBatte’s claim. The Claims Court affirmed the dismissal of LaBatte’s appeal, acknowledging that it had jurisdiction over breach of settlement claims, but concluding that it lacked jurisdiction over LaBatte’s case because LaBatte had, in the Track B process, waived his right to judicial review to challenge the breach of the agreement. The Federal Circuit reversed. There is no language in the agreement that suggests that breach of the agreement would not give rise to a new cause of action. View "LaBatte v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Department of Commerce published antidumping and countervailing duty orders on certain crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells imported from China (CSPV Orders). Sunpreme, a U.S. company, imports solar modules produced in China that are composed, in part, of solar cells designed, developed, and tested at Sunpreme’s California facility. Sunpreme’s solar modules had been imported as entry type “01,” ordinary consumption entries not subject to any antidumping or countervailing duties. In April 2015, Customs requested that Sunpreme file its entries under type “03,” entries subject to duties. Sunpreme provided Customs with lab results from an independent third party and invited Customs to its California facility to observe its production process, arguing that its products were not within the scope of the CSPV orders. Customs performed its own laboratory testing. Sunpreme sought relief in the Trade Court. Commerce initiated a formal scope inquiry. The Trade Court issued a preliminary injunction, holding that Customs acted outside its authority in its unilateral interpretation of the scope language of the CSPV Orders to include Sunpreme’s solar modules. Commerce issued its final scope determination concluding that Sunpreme’s products fall within the scope of those Orders. The Federal Circuit reversed, holding that the Trade Court lacked jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1581. Sunpreme was required to exhaust administrative remedies by a scope ruling inquiry and scope ruling determination. View "Sunpreme Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Diem and Express filed patent infringement suits against BigCommerce in the Eastern District of Texas. BigCommerce is incorporated in Texas and lists Austin, Texas, where it is also headquartered, as its registered office. Austin lies in the Western District of Texas. BigCommerce has no place of business in the Eastern District. During the discovery phase of the cases, the Supreme Court issued its 2017 decision, “TC Heartland,” which reaffirmed that a domestic defendant corporation “resides” under 28 U.S.C. 1400(b) only in its state of incorporation. BigCommerce moved to dismiss Diem’s case and transfer Express’s case, arguing that it resides only in the Western District. The court denied the motion. The Federal Circuit disagreed, holding that a domestic corporation incorporated in a state having multiple judicial districts “resides” for purposes of the patent-specific venue statute, 28 U.S.C. 1400(b), only in the single judicial district within that state where it maintains a principal place of business, or failing that, the judicial district in which its registered office is located. View "In re: BigCommerce, Inc." on Justia Law

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GNC sued ZTE in the Eastern District of Texas alleging infringement of its patents. ZTE moved to dismiss for improper venue under 28 U.S.C. 1406 and 1400(b). While that motion was pending, ZTE sought transfer to the Northern District of Texas or the Northern District of California under 28 U.S.C. 1404(a). The magistrate concluded that venue was proper in the Eastern District of Texas under the 1404(a) convenience analysis but did not rule on the motion to dismiss for improper venue under section 1406(a). The case was assigned to a new judge and a new magistrate, who denied the motion to dismiss, finding that ZTE failed to show it did not have a regular and established place of business in the Eastern District of Texas as required under the second prong of 28 U.S.C. 1400(b). The magistrate placed the burden on the objecting defendant to show improper venue and determined that ZTE had contracted with a call center in Plano, Texas, operated by another company, which constituted a physical place, and that ZTE transacted business there. The district court agreed. The Federal Circuit granted mandamus relief and remanded. The district court incorrectly assigned the burden of proof on venue and failed to fully consider the factors relevant to the question of whether the call center was that of ZTE. View "In re: ZTE (USA) Inc." on Justia Law

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M-I Drilling, a U.K. company owns five U.S. patents; M-1 LLC, a U.S. company, is an exclusive licensee of the patents, which are claimed to cover pneumatic conveyance systems installed around oil drilling rigs and used to transfer drill cuttings from the oil rigs to ships. DAL, organized under the laws of and with its principal place of business in Brazil, is a subsidiary of Dynamic, a Minnesota corporation. The Brazilian state-owned oil company Petrobras requested proposals for the installation of pneumatic conveyance systems on ships. DAL won the bid and designed, manufactured, and operated conveyance systems from offshore oil drilling rigs onto two U.S.-flagged ships. M-I sued DAL in the District of Minnesota, alleging infringement. The court dismissed the case, finding that, although the alleged infringing activities took place on U.S.-flagged ships that are U.S. territory, the contract between Petrobras and DAL did not identify the ships on which DAL would make installations, so DAL did not purposefully avail itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the U.S. The Federal Circuit reversed. The district court erroneously focused on the contract between Petrobras and DAL. Even if the contract directed where the systems were installed and operated, DAL controlled the specifics of its continued performance. DAL kept the systems operating on the ships. Such deliberate presence of DAL and its systems in the U.S. enhance its affiliation with the forum and “reinforce the reasonable foreseeability of suit there.” View "M-I Drilling Fluids, U.K. Ltd. v. Dynamic Air Ltda." on Justia Law