Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
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Ginnie Mae (GM), established by 12 U.S.C. 1717(a)(2)(A) to provide stability in the secondary residential mortgage market and promote access to mortgage credit, guarantees mortgage-backed securities (MBS). FMC, a private corporation, was an originator and servicer of government-guaranteed home mortgages and an issuer of MBS in GM’s program. GM learned of FMC actions that constituted the immediate default of the Guaranty Agreements. FMC undertook an investigation and provided the results to GM, while also complying with SEC requests. GM later terminated FMC from its program. The SEC initiated a civil enforcement action, which terminated in a consent agreement, without FMC admitting or denying the allegations but paying disgorgement and penalties. The Consent Agreement provided that it did not affect FMC’s right to take positions in proceedings in which the SEC is not a party but FMC agreed to not take any action or permit any public statement denying any allegation in the SEC complaint FMC later sued, alleging that GM had breached Guaranty Agreements when it terminated FMC from its program and denied violating those Agreements. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Claims Court’s dismissal. FMC’s breach of contract claims are precluded under the doctrine of res judicata. FMC’s action is essentially a collateral attack on the judgment entered in the SEC action. The SEC and GM are in privity for the purposes of precluding FMC’s claims and “successful prosecution of the second action would nullify the initial judgment or would impair rights established in the initial action.” View "First Mortgage Corp. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Odyssey filed the 678 patent application in 2004. After several procedural disputes and appeals, the Patent Board reversed an examiner’s rejections. The Technology Center Director issued an “examiner’s request for rehearing.” Odyssey did not address the merits, objecting to the procedural propriety of the request, and requesting reconsideration. Odyssey eventually made merits arguments, but without waiting for the Board’s decision, it sought judicial review. Odyssey filed its 603 application in 2006. After a final rejection of all claims, Odyssey appealed and filed a petition demanding that the examiner make certain evidence part of the written record and supplement his responses. The examiner further explained his decision. The Technology Center Director dismissed the petition as moot. Odyssey believed that the examiner’s answer to its appeal brief included new grounds for rejection. The Technology Center Director dismissed that assertion. Rather than filing a brief replying to the examiner’s answer, Odyssey sought judicial review. The PTO amended its rules of practice in ex parte appeals; final rules were published in November 2011, applicable to all ex parte appeals filed on or after January 23, 2012. Odyssey challenged the legality of these amendments. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of all three claims. In the first two counts, Odyssey was challenging actions not yet final before the Board; the Board could provide Odyssey with an adequate remedy, and if not, Odyssey had remedies under 35 U.S.C. 141 or 145. Count III was untimely under 28 U.S.C. 2401, the six-year statute of limitations for a facial APA challenge, which runs from the date the regulations were published. The complaint was filed in January 2018. View "Odyssey Logistics & Technology Corp. v. Iancu" on Justia Law

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Oyster sued, alleging that Ciena infringed several patents. Ciena petitioned the Patent Trial and Appeal Board for inter partes review of the asserted patents. The district court stayed the litigation. The Board concluded that Ciena had failed to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that any of the challenged claims were unpatentable. The Federal Circuit denied Ciena’s motion to vacate the decision. Ciena forfeited its argument that the members of the Board panel that issued the decision were not appointed in compliance with the Appointments Clause. Ciena requested that the Board adjudicate its petition and affirmatively sought a ruling from the Board members, regardless of how they were appointed. Ciena was content to have the assigned Board judges adjudicate its invalidity challenges until the Board ruled against it. View "Ciena Corp. v. Oyster Optics, LLC" on Justia Law

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Keith sued its former employee, Butterfield, after he filed a patent application for what eventually issued as the 520 patent. The employer alleged that the patent was based on inventions made during Butterfield’s employment and sought declaratory judgments of noninfringement and invalidity; alleged breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets; and sought correction of inventorship. Butterfield later sent the employer a covenant not to sue and moved to dismiss in part, arguing that the covenant not to sue mooted the declaratory judgment claims and that the applicable statutes of limitation and the doctrine of laches barred the state-law claims. The court dismissed the declaratory judgment claims but allowed the state-law claims to proceed. The parties later filed a stipulation of dismissal with prejudice (Rule 41(a)(1)(A)(ii)), which required no court order. Days later, Butterfield moved for attorney’s fees under Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(d). In denying the motion, the court cited the 2017 Supreme Court decision, “Microsoft” and held that Rule 54 requires a judgment, “a decree and any order from which an appeal lies,” and that the parties’ stipulation to dismiss did not satisfy Rule 54’s judgment requirement because it was not an appealable order. The Federal Circuit vacated, holding that Microsoft did not apply. Judgment in the context of Rule 54 does not raise the same concerns about finality and piecemeal litigation that motivated the Microsoft opinion. View "Keith Manufacturing Co. v. Butterfield" on Justia Law

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Intellisoft sued Acer in California state court, asserting state law claims, including misappropriation of trade secrets. After more than three years of litigation, Acer sought to plead a patent inventorship counterclaim under federal law and thereafter removed the action to a federal district court, which denied Intellisoft’s motion to remand and later entered final judgment in favor of Acer. The Federal Circuit reversed. Removal was not proper under 28 U.S.C. 1441. Acer’s arguments do not establish that Intellisoft’s trade secret claim necessarily raised patent law issues. Intellisoft did not need to establish patent infringement to prove trade secrets misappropriation. A plaintiff’s reliance on a patent as evidence to support its state law claims does not necessarily require the resolution of a substantial patent question. Removal was not proper under section 1454, which requires that the claim supporting removal must be contained in an operative pleading. Acer’s cross-complaint was not operative, the counterclaim was never “asserted” under section 1454. View "Intellisoft, Ltd. v. Acer America Corp." on Justia Law

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Myco believed its competitor, BlephEx, made false and misleading statements about Myco’s product and whether it infringed BlephEx’s patent, entitled “Method and Device for Treating an Ocular Disorder.” The district court preliminarily enjoined BlephEx from making allegations of patent infringement and from threatening litigation against Myco’s potential customers. The Federal Circuit reversed. Federal law requires a showing of bad faith before a patentee can be enjoined from communicating his patent rights. A showing of “bad faith” must be supported by a finding that the claims asserted were objectively baseless. There was no adequate basis to conclude that allegations of patent infringement would be false or misleading. Even if the injunction were narrowly tailored to allegations of infringement and threats of litigation against Myco’s potential customers, the “medical practitioner immunity” provision of 35 U.S.C. 287(c) does not blanketly preclude a patent owner from stating that a medical practitioner’s performance of a medical activity infringes a patent. Myco asked the court to assume, without any supporting evidence, that a doctor would have interpreted general statements as an accusation of patent infringement and a threat of litigation against the doctor herself. View "Myco Industries, Inc. v. Blephex, LLC" on Justia Law

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CTDI is a worldwide engineering, repair, and logistics company with its principal place of business in Pennsylvania. Since 2007, CTDI has developed, manufactured, and used its “Gen3” and “Gen5” test systems within the U.S. for testing set-top boxes and multimedia devices. The test systems were designed and developed at CTDI’s Pennsylvania facility. Contec “provides repair, test and reverse logistics for electronics hardware used in a broad range of markets.” Contec owns patents for the “Arrangement and Method for Managing Testing and Repair of Set-Top Boxes” and for a “Multimedia Device Test System.” The patented systems were designed and developed at Contec’s New York headquarters. Three of the six inventors of the patents reside in New York; another left Contec and works in CTDI’s, New York facility. CTDI sought a declaratory judgment in a Pennsylvania federal court that its test systems do not infringe Contec’s patents. Six days later, Contec sued CTDI for infringement in the Northern District of New York. The Pennsylvania court dismissed, finding that CTDI’s anticipatory filing was made in bad faith during active licensing discussions; the court found that equitable considerations warranted departure from the first-to-file rule. The Federal Circuit affirmed, finding that the district court did not abuse its broad discretion under the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. 2201(a) and pursuant to the first-to-file rule. View "Communications Test Design, Inc. v. Contec, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2011, K.G., age 48, received an influenza vaccination in advance of knee replacement surgery. Over the next several months, she experienced increasingly severe nerve pain in her hands, arms, feet, and legs; she succumbed to alcoholism, spent months in the hospital, and developed amnesia. In 2014, an Iowa state court declared K.G. incapable of caring for herself and, against K.G.’s will, appointed K.G.’s sister as her guardian. K.G. regained her mental faculties by May 2016. She then retained an attorney who filed her claim under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, 42 U.S.C. 300aa-1. A Special Master held that equitable tolling was not available during the period that K.G.’s sister acted as K.G.’s guardian and dismissed K.G.’s claim as not timely filed within the three-year statute of limitations. The Federal Circuit vacated. Equitable tolling is available in Vaccine Act cases and the appointment of a legal guardian is only one factor a court should consider when deciding whether equitable tolling is appropriate in a particular case. K.G. was not required to argue the legally irrelevant question of whether she personally was diligent while she was mentally competent and she preserved her argument that her legal representative exercised reasonable diligence under the circumstances. The Special Master erred in adopting a per se rule. View "K.G. v. Secretary of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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Fourstar, a federal prisoner, filed a Tucker Act Complaint with a Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. He claimed that the government is mismanaging certain Indian properties and resources. The Claims Court denied his motion to proceed in forma pauperis, citing 28 U.S.C. 1915(g), which provides: In no event shall a prisoner bring a civil action or appeal ... under this section if the prisoner has, on 3 or more prior occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury,” Prison Litigation Reform Act, 110 Stat. 1321. Fourstar did not pay the filing fee. The court dismissed his complaint. Fourstar was released from prison and later filed a Notice of Appeal. He later filed a statement that he was subsequently arrested and detained and unsuccessfully moved to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal. Because Fourstar was not a prisoner at the time of filing his appeal, section 1915 is not applicable. The Federal Circuit affirmed that the three-strikes rule was met by Fourstar’s litigation history and that Fourstar was not subject to the “imminent danger” exception. View "Fourstar v. United States" on Justia Law

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Serta filed a patent infringement action against Casper, citing the 173, 763, and 935 patents. Those patents cover mattresses that include a channel and methods for forming it. These mattresses can have varying areas of firmness by inserting reinforcement of various types into their channels that can be located at regions where additional support is desired. Casper filed three motions for summary judgment directed to non-infringement of Casper’s accused mattresses, accused methods of manufacturing, and redesigned mattresses. While Casper’s summary judgment motions were pending, the parties executed a settlement agreement and advised the district court of the settlement. The district court nevertheless granted Casper’s summary judgment motions of non-infringement. It later denied Serta’s motions to vacate the summary judgment order and to enforce the settlement agreement. The Federal Circuit vacated and remanded with instructions to enforce the settlement agreement. There is no contention that the settlement or the relief sought by Serta is unlawful or contrary to public policy. There is also no dispute that the parties executed the agreement before the district court issued the summary judgment order; Casper has admitted that the agreement was binding. The settlement agreement mooted the case even though it included terms that required future performance. View "Serta Simmons Bedding, LLC v. Casper Sleep Inc." on Justia Law