Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
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Qualcomm sued Apple in the Southern District of California for infringing claims of two patents. Apple sought inter partes review. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board held Apple did not prove that claims in the two patents would have been obvious. Before the filing of appeals, Apple and Qualcomm settled all litigation between the two companies worldwide. Based on that settlement, the parties jointly moved to dismiss Qualcomm’s district court action with prejudice, which the district court granted.The Federal Circuit dismissed appeals from the inter partes review for lack of standing. Apple has not alleged that the validity of the patents will affect its contract rights (ongoing royalty obligations) in the settlement. The possibility of a future suit is too speculative to confer standing, as is the likelihood that 35 U.S.C. 315(e) would estop Apple from arguing that the patents would have been obvious in future disputes. Apple has failed to show an injury in fact based on potential future allegations that its products infringe the patents. View "Apple Inc. v. Qualcomm Inc." on Justia Law

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The parties compete in the market for veterinary orthopedic implants. DePuy sued VOI, alleging patent infringement. The district court entered the parties’ joint proposed protective order, designating certain information as “Confidential Material” and “Highly Confidential Material—Attorney Eyes Only.” The information designated “Highly Confidential” encompassed “supplier . . . names and identifying information.” DePuy filed under seal an unopposed motion for leave to amend the complaint to join as a defendant the manufacturer of VOI’s accused products, disclosing the manufacturer’s identity and information about the business relationship between the manufacturer and VOI.According to VOI, the manufacturer identity and other information are Highly Confidential and constitute trade secrets, so that it was necessary to file the amended complaint under seal, with only a redacted version publicly available. DePuy argued that the manufacturer’s public website advertises its business; that VOI and the manufacturer have no confidentiality agreement; that the manufacturer ships its products to VOI using a public carrier; and that a third party was aware that the manufacturer supplied products to VOI.The district court ordered that the amended complaint be filed on the public record without redaction of either the manufacturer's identity or other information. The order did not specifically analyze the other information. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The district court did not abuse its discretion in performing its obligation to ensure public access to court documents. View "DePuy Synthes Products, Inc. v. Veterinary Orthopedic Implants, Inc." on Justia Law

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Taylor Energy leased and operated Gulf of Mexico oil and gas properties, on the Outer Continental Shelf, offshore Louisiana. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan destroyed those operations, causing oil leaks. The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Oil Pollution Act required Taylor to decommission the site and stop the leaks. Taylor and the Department of the Interior developed a plan. Interior approved Taylor’s assignments of its leases to third parties with conditions requiring financial assurances. Three agreements addressed how Taylor would fund a trust account and how Interior would disburse payments. Taylor began decommissioning work. In 2009, Taylor proposed that Taylor “make the full final deposit into the trust account,” without any offsets, and retain all insurance proceeds. Interior rejected Taylor’s proposal. Taylor continued the work. In 2011, Taylor requested reimbursement from the trust account for rig downtime costs. Interior denied the request. In 2018, the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) affirmed Interior’s 2009 and 2011 Decisions.Taylor filed suit in the Claims Court, asserting contract claims. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit, rejecting “Taylor’s attempt to disguise its regulatory obligations as contractual ones,” and stating an IBLA decision must be appealed to a district court.In 2018, Taylor filed suit in a Louisiana district court, seeking review of the IBLA’s 2018 decision and filed a second complaint in the Claims Court, alleging breach of contract. On Taylor's motion, the district court transferred the case, citing the Tucker Act. The Federal Circuit reversed. The Claims Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over this case. Taylor is challenging the IBLA Decision and must do so in district court under the APA. View "Taylor Energy Co., L.L.C. v. Department of the Interior" on Justia Law

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Dr. Arunachalam sued multiple defendants alleging patent infringement and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1962, violations. The case was assigned to Judge Andrews. Arunachalam added defendants, including Judge Andrews, and moved for the judge's recusal. The court referred the matter to Chief Judge Stark. Arunachalam then moved to recuse Stark, who denied that motion and dismissed Judge Andrews as a defendant. Judge Andrews denied Arunachalam’s motion to recuse and dismissed several counts, explaining that “[p]atent infringement is not a crime,” and not a RICO predicate. Arunachalam unsuccessfully moved to vacate the dismissal and, again, to recuse Andrews. A motion for leave to amend was denied as violating local rules, “in bad faith.” Only the infringement claims remained. Meanwhile, the Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) found the claims at issue unpatentable. After the appeals period expired, Arunachalam opposed a motion to dismiss, arguing that “the lawless misconduct and ... fraud by the PTAB and the Federal Circuit . . . voids their rulings.”In a motion for sanctions, the defendants noted that Arunachalam had re-asserted her RICO claim in another district court. The court awarded attorneys’ fees for “defending against a baseless racketeering lawsuit,” but did not rule on the specific amounts. Arunachalam continued to file motions and questions that required responses, including requests that Judge Andrews and “attorneys of record” produce their oaths of office, “foreign registration statements,” and “bond” and “insurance information.” The Federal Circuit affirmed awards totaling about $150,000, and denial of Arunachalam’s “frivolous” motions. Arunachalam’s “abusive” litigation conduct warranted monetary sanctions and her later-filed motions were baseless and untimely. View "Arunachalam v. International Business Machines Corp." on Justia Law

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In 2009, MC-2 was awarded Government Services Administration (GSA) task order to provide services for the annual GovEnergy Conference. MC-2 performed the Task Order in 2009, 2010, and 2011. GSA canceled the 2012 Conference before it began and requested that MC-2 return the entire Reserve Fund and an accounting for the Reserve Fund over the contract's life. MC-2 purportedly responded days later, arguing that GSA never before claimed that it was entitled to the difference between the Conference revenue and expenses, that MC-2 was entitled to any excess revenue, and that MC-2 had submitted a final accounting at the end of each contracting year. In 2012, MC-2 submitted a termination-for-convenience proposal.In November 2015, GSA sent MC-2 a letter providing the Contracting Officer’s final decision on MC-2’s proposal, which had sought $717,680.10, stating that the Government believed that MC-2 owed the government money. The decision stated that “GSA considers the Reserve Fund balance a contract debt. In January 2018, GSA sent a follow-up letter, demanding payment of $660,013.68. Because MC-2 had not appealed the November 2015 Final Decision, GSA deemed MC-2’s debt “final and conclusive,” 41 U.S.C. 7103(g)).In December 2018, MC-2 filed suit, arguing that the 2015 GSA letter was not a final decision because it failed to state a sum certain. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit as untimely because it was not brought within 12 months of the 2015 decision, as required by 41 U.S.C. 7104(b)(3). GSA issued a valid claim under the Contract Disputes Act for the return of the Reserve Funds; GSA’s claim was the subject of a written decision by the GSA contracting officer; and MC-2 failed to file suit within 12 months of receiving the contracting officer’s final decision View "Creative Management Services, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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The National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates (NOVA), sought review under 38 U.S.C. 502. The Knee Joint Stability Rule, promulgated in 2018 and set forth in the Veterans Affairs Adjudication Procedures Manual, assigns a joint instability rating under Diagnostic Code (DC) 5257, 38 C.F.R. 4.71a, based on the amount of movement that occurs within the joint. The Knee Replacement Rule provides that evaluation under DC 5055, 38 C.F.R. 4.71a, is not available for partial knee replacement claims. The Replacement Rule was published in the Federal Register in 2015, stating that section 4.71a was amended to explain that “‘prosthetic replacement’ means a total, not a partial, joint replacement.” It was published in a 2016 Manual provision, which informs regional office staff that evaluation under DC 5055 is not available for partial knee replacement claims filed on or after July 16, 2015.The Federal Circuit referred the case for adjudication on the merits. NOVA has standing because it has veteran members who are adversely affected by the Rules. The Manual provision is an interpretive rule reviewable under 38 U.S.C. 502 and constitutes final agency action. The Knee Replacement Rule is a final agency action. The merits panel will determine whether the Manual provision or the Federal Register publication constitutes the reviewable agency action. The challenge is timely under the six-year statute of limitations, 28 U.S.C. 2401(a); Federal Circuit Rule 15(f), establishing a 60-day time limit for bringing section 502 petitions, is invalid. View "National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates, Inc. v. Secretary of Veterans' Affairs" on Justia Law

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Esparraguera was removed for performance reasons from her position as the Army’s top labor lawyer and placed into another high-level position at the same agency but outside the Senior Executive Service (SES). Federal civil service is divided into the competitive service, the excepted service, and the SES, 5 U.S.C. 2101a, 2102, 2103. . Esparraguera’s request for reconsideration was denied by the Under Secretary. She requested an informal hearing under 5 U.S.C. 3592(a)(2), which entitled her to “appear and present arguments” before an official designated by the Merit Systems Protection Board. By statute, she could not avail herself of the ordinary appellate provisions of the Board. Esparraguera submitted exhibits designated A through UU into evidence and read a prepared statement into the record. The Army neither presented evidence nor objected to the entry of these exhibits. Esparraguera did not expressly ask the Board to review her removal—and it did not. The Board official issued the Order Referring Record, which summarized the proceedings. The Army did not change its decision.Esparraguera argued that she was deprived of constitutionally protected property and liberty interests without due process. The Federal Circuit dismissed her appeal. An “Order Referring Record” is not a “final order or decision” of the Board, as required for appellate jurisdiction. View "Esparraguera v. Department of the Army" on Justia Law

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Uniloc sued Apple for patent infringement in the Western District of Texas (WDTX). Apple moved to transfer the case to the Northern District of California (NDCA), arguing that it would be clearly more convenient to litigate the case there, 28 U.S.C. 1404(a). Apple moved to stay activity in the case unrelated to its transfer motion. The district court denied the stay motion without explanation, then held a hearing on Apple’s transfer motion and stated that it would deny the motion and issue a written order soon. After the hearing, but before issuing a written order, the court held a Markman hearing, issued its claim construction order, held a discovery hearing regarding protective order, and issued a corresponding discovery order.Apple filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, which the Federal Circuit granted. The “district court barreled ahead on the merits in significant respects” and clearly abused its discretion in denying transfer. The district court erred by failing to meaningfully consider the wealth of important information in NDCA and misapplied the law by giving too much significance to the fact that the inventors and patent prosecutor live closer to WDTX than NDCA and in concluding that judicial economy weighed against transfer because NDCA has more pending cases than WDTX. View "In Re Apple Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2018, Cameron sued Nitro in the Southern District of Texas, where both parties are headquartered, alleging infringement of three of Cameron’s patents. That court has not issued a claim construction ruling and a trial date has not been set. In 2020, Cameron filed this suit against Nitro in the Western District of Texas, alleging that the same accused products infringe two other Cameron patents. The Western District denied a motion to decline jurisdiction or transfer the action, reasoning that when a balance of the 28 U.S.C. 1404(a) transfer factors “does not weigh in favor of transfer" compelling circumstances exist to avoid application of the first-to-file rule. The court concluded that two factors—access to sources of proof and the local interest— favored transfer while the administrative difficulties flowing from court congestion and the practical problems factor weighed against transfer.The Federal Circuit vacated. The district court erred in concluding that the first-to-file rule only applies when the balance of factors favors the first-filed court. Unlike in an ordinary transfer analysis, the focus of the first-to-file rule is to avoid potential interference in the affairs of another court. Requiring that the balance of the transfer factors favor the second-filed court helps to ensure that more compelling concerns exist. The district court erred in not making that adjustment and did not expressly resolve whether balancing the factors favors the second-filed court. View "In Re Nitro Fluids, L.L.C." on Justia Law

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Under the 1999 Agreement, Medtronic purchased Dr. Sasso's inventions, agreeing to royalty payments based on Medtronic’s sales of the defined Medical Device until “the last to expire of the patents included in Intellectual Property Rights, or if no patent application(s) issue into a patent having valid claim coverage of the Medical Device, then seven (7) years from the Date of First Sale of the Medical Device.” The initial patent application was filed in November 1999; two patents issued, both entitled “Screw Delivery System and Method.” Medtronic made royalty payments in 2002-2018. Sasso claimed that Medtronic was not paying royalties on sales of all relevant devices, and filed suit in Indiana state court. A judgment in Sasso's favor is on appeal.Medtronic sought a federal declaratory judgment. While Sasso describes the state court action as a contract case for payment for patent rights, Medtronic describes the federal action as a patent case in which payment requires valid patents. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit without prejudice, based on abstention in view of the concurrent action in Indiana state court between the same parties concerning the same dispute. District courts possess significant discretion to dismiss or stay claims seeking declaratory relief, even when they have subject matter jurisdiction. View "Warsaw Orthopedic, Inc. v. Sasso" on Justia Law