Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
Atlanta Gas Light Co. v. Bennett Regulator Guards, Inc
Bennett sued Atlanta Gas, a Georgia distributor of natural gas, for infringement of Bennett's patent, directed to an anti-icing device for a gas pressure regulator. Atlanta Gas was served with the complaint on July 18, 2012. That litigation was dismissed without prejudice for lack of personal jurisdiction. On July 18, 2013, Atlanta Gas filed an inter partes review (IPR) petition concerning the patent.The Patent Trial and Appeal Board rejected Bennett’s argument that Atlanta Gas was time-barred from petitioning for IPR under 35 U.S.C. 315(b) and determined that the challenged claims were unpatentable over the prior art. The Federal Circuit held that Atlanta Gas should have been barred, vacated the unpatentability determination, and remanded with directions to dismiss the IPR and to further consider a sanctions order. Before the Board acted, the Supreme Court held that time-bar determinations were unreviewable, "Thryv," (2020). On remand, the Federal Circuit affirmed the unpatentability determination on the merits and again remanded for the Board to reconsider and finalize its sanctions order. The Board then terminated the proceeding due in part to reconsideration of its decision on the time bar. Atlanta Gas appealed.The Federal Circuit dismissed, holding that it lacked jurisdiction to review the Board’s decision to vacate its institution decision, a decision made based in part on the Board's evaluation of the time bar and changed Patent and Trademark Office policy. View "Atlanta Gas Light Co. v. Bennett Regulator Guards, Inc" on Justia Law
Apple, Inc. v. Zipit Wireless, Inc.
Zipit, a Delaware corporation with a principal place of business in South Carolina, and with all of its employees in South Carolina, is the assignee of the patents-in-suit, which are generally directed to wireless instant messaging devices that use Wi-Fi. In 2013, Zipit contacted Apple in California. For three years, the parties exchanged correspondence and met in person at Apple’s Cupertino headquarters. Zipit filed a patent infringement action against Apple in Georgia but later dismissed the case without prejudice.Apple sought a declaratory judgment of noninfringement in the Northern District of California. The district court dismissed, holding that it lacked specific personal jurisdiction over Zipit (general jurisdiction was not asserted). The court concluded that Apple had established the requisite minimum contacts but that “the exercise of personal jurisdiction . . . would be unconstitutional when ‘[a]ll of the contacts were for the purpose of warning against infringement or negotiating license agreements, and [the defendant] lacked a binding obligation in the forum.’” The Federal Circuit reversed, Zipit is subject to specific personal jurisdiction in the Northern District of California for purposes of Apple’s declaratory judgment action. Zipit has not presented a compelling case that the relevant factors in the aggregate would render the exercise of jurisdiction unreasonable. View "Apple, Inc. v. Zipit Wireless, Inc." on Justia Law
Red Sun Farms v. United States
“Red Sun Farms” is the trade name under which various entities do business as “U.S. producers of fresh tomatoes grown in the United States, U.S. importers and resellers of fresh tomatoes from Mexico, and foreign producers and exporters of fresh tomatoes from Mexico.”Red Sun filed suit against the government based on an antidumping duty investigation to determine whether fresh Mexican tomatoes were being imported into the United States and sold at less than fair value. In its motion to dismiss, the government observed, with respect to the five identified entities doing business as “Red Sun Farms,” that “[i]t is unclear whether all of these parties possess standing or can be considered real parties in interest” and reserved its right to raise additional arguments on the subject. In a discovery filing, the government noted the varying singular/plural usage by Red Sun Farms and stated that “‘Plaintiff’ Red Sun Farms actually consists of several companies.”The Federal Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit. Red Sun challenged the Department of Commerce’s Final Determination resulting from a continued investigation under 19 U.S.C. 1516a(a)(2)(B)(iv); although no final antidumping order had been issued, its claims are not premature. Jurisdiction exists based on 28 U.S.C. 1516a(g)(3)(A)(i) and 1516a(a)(2)(B)(i). View "Red Sun Farms v. United States" on Justia Law
In Re: Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.
Stratos filed patent infringement complaints in the Western District of Texas against Volkswagen and Hyundai, car distributors that are incorporated in New Jersey and California, respectively, and hence do not “reside” for venue purposes in the Western District, 28 U.S.C. 1400(b); The defendants moved to dismiss or transfer the cases under 28 U.S.C. 1406(a). The district court denied the motions, concluding that venue in the Western District was proper. The court cited independent car dealerships located in the Western District that sell and service cars after purchasing them from the defendants under franchise agreements that impose transfer restrictions, staffing and reporting requirements, minimum inventory levels, employee training, and equipment requirements. The district court concluded those agreements gave the defendants sufficient control over the dealerships to establish a regular and established place of business for the defendants, although Texas law prohibits auto manufacturers and distributors from directly or indirectly “operat[ing] or control[ling] a franchised dealer or dealership.” The court noted, “the only way that [Volkswagen and Hyundai] can distribute [their] vehicles to consumers in this District is through [their] authorized dealerships.” The Federal Circuit disagreed, noting disagreement on the issue among the district courts. The district court clearly abused its discretion in failing to properly apply established agency law and reaching a patently erroneous result. View "In Re: Volkswagen Group of America, Inc." on Justia Law
In Re Violation of the Revised Protocols for In-Person Arguments
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Circuit issued administrative orders that prohibited public access to the National Courts Building. When the court resumed allowing counsel in the courthouse for argument in September 2021, it implemented protocols, including “[o]nly arguing counsel and no more than one attendee whose presence is necessary to assist or supervise arguing counsel” were permitted access. All persons entering the building had to complete Form 33C declaring under penalty of perjury that the individual was “scheduled to appear” and that the individual was either fully vaccinated for or received a negative test result for COVID-19 within 48 hours. Arguing counsel also completed Form 33A, certifying that “I am personally responsible for ensuring all individuals attending argument with me" will comply with the protocols.Attorneys unsuccessfully sought permission to bring additional attendees. On the day of their argument, four attorneys proceeded together to the courtroom. The clerk informed special counsel and a non-arguing partner that they could not be in the courtroom. They were escorted out. The attorneys argued that their non-compliance was not intentional and that it was not unreasonable for special counsel and the non-arguing partner to come to court to seek permission to attend the argument.The Federal Circuit did not impose discipline. The court noted that while there was no ambiguity in the instructions, the attorneys expressed earnest remorse, have not previously been accused of misconduct, and this situation has not arisen before. View "In Re Violation of the Revised Protocols for In-Person Arguments" on Justia Law
Washington Federal v. United States
The Enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, suffered financial losses in 2008 when the housing market collapsed. The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA), created the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), tasked with regulating the Enterprises, including stepping in as conservator, 12 U.S.C. 4511. FHFA placed the Enterprises into conservatorship, then negotiated preferred stock purchase agreements (PSPAs) with the Treasury Department to allow the Enterprises to draw up to $100 billion in exchange for senior preferred non-voting stock having quarterly fixed-rate dividends. A “net worth sweep” under the PSPAs replaced the fixed-rate dividend formula with a variable one that required the Enterprises to make quarterly payments equal to their entire net worth, minus a small capital reserve amount, causing the Enterprises to transfer most of their equity to Treasury, leaving no residual value for shareholders.In a companion case, the Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of shareholders’ direct claims challenging the net worth sweep and concluded that the shareholders’ derivatively pled allegations should also be dismissed.The Washington Federal Plaintiffs alleged direct takings and illegal exaction claims, predicated on the imposition of the conservatorships, rather than on FHFA's subsequent actions. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of those claims. Where Congress mandates the review process for an allegedly unlawful agency action, plaintiffs may not assert a takings claim asserting the agency acted in violation of a statute or regulation. These Plaintiffs also lack standing to assert their substantively derivative claims as direct claims. View "Washington Federal v. United States" on Justia Law
VAS Realty, LLC v. United States
VAS leased a facility that housed “ICE” in Warwick, Rhode Island. In 2017, the General Services Administration (GSA) issued a request for lease proposals for a facility to house ICE in Rhode Island. VAS offered the building that ICE was already occupying, indicating that the building met the requirements. After several revisions, GSA awarded the contract to a competitor. An Office of the Inspector General report found that the procurement was “significantly flawed,” because GSA accepted a late proposal; used a calculation of the lease’s present value that favored the chosen bid; awarded the contract to a bidder that did not own or control the property at the time of its proposal; failed to timely and adequately debrief VAS; and used unclear acquisition terminology. GSA declined to take any corrective action.The Claims Court dismissed VAS’s bid protest for lack of standing, reasoning that VAS failed to show it has a substantial chance of winning the lease. The Federal Circuit reversed. If VAS’s protest proves successful, VAS would have an opportunity to participate in any new procurement. Under such circumstances, a protester has a substantial chance of winning the award for standing purposes. View "VAS Realty, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law
Uniloc USA, Inc. v. Apple Inc.
In litigation between Uniloc and Apple, Uniloc unsuccessfully sought to seal matters of public record, such as quotations of Federal Circuit opinions and a list of patent cases Uniloc had filed. The Federal Circuit affirmed but held that the district court must conduct a detailed analysis on whether confidential licensing information of third-party licensees of Uniloc’s patents should be sealed and remanded for “particularized determinations.”On remand, Uniloc moved to seal or redact third-party documents that revealed licensing terms, licensees’ names, amounts paid, including a Fortress (Uniloc’s financier) investment memorandum, containing Fortress’s investment criteria and other third-party licensing information. The district court ordered that the licensing information, including the licensees' identities, be unsealed in full. explaining that “patent licenses carry unique considerations” that bolster the public’s right of access, including the valuation of patent rights, and that disclosure of patent licensing terms would facilitate “up-front cost evaluations of potentially infringing conduct,” “driv[e] license values to a more accurate representation of the technological value,” and help “inform reasonable royalties.” The Federal Circuit vacated. The district court failed to follow the previous remand instructions to make particularized determinations. Any procedural failings of Uniloc and Fortress cannot justify unsealing the information of third parties in the investment memo. The court should have considered whether the interests of the third parties outweigh the public’s interest in seeing licensing details that are not necessary for resolving this case. View "Uniloc USA, Inc. v. Apple Inc." on Justia Law
Ash v. Office of Personnel Management
Ash challenged the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) denial of his application for disability retirement benefits. Ash asserted disparate treatment based on race and prior protected activity. The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) affirmed. Ash appealed.The Federal Circuit transferred the case to the District of Maryland. Because this case involves an action that is appealable to the MSPB and a discrimination allegation, it is a mixed case. Under 5 U.S.C. 7703(b)(1)(A), an appellant generally must appeal a final MSPB decision to the Federal Circuit but if the appellant has been affected by an action that the appellant may appeal to the MSPB and alleges that a basis for the action was discrimination prohibited by enumerated federal statutes, then the appellant has a “mixed case” and must seek judicial review in federal district court. One of those enumerated federal statutes is 42 U.S.C, 2000e16, which prohibits racial discrimination with respect to “personnel actions.” An appeal arising from a benefits decision can be a “personnel action” giving rise to a mixed case. An OPM decision that adversely affects retirement “rights or benefits,” like the Ash decision, is a “personnel action,” 5 U.S.C. 8461(e), that is appealable to the MSPB and alleges discrimination. View "Ash v. Office of Personnel Management" on Justia Law
Brown v. United Statesx
The Browns, U.S. citizens, lived in Australia while Mr. Brown worked for Raytheon. The IRS received the Browns' amended returns for 2015 and 2017, claiming the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, signed by attorney Castro, but not accompanied by powers of attorney. The Browns' second amended return for 2015, again signed by Castro, also did not append any powers of attorney. The IRS disallowed the refund claims, indicating that "as an employee of Raytheon . . . [Brown] may have entered into a closing agreement . . . irrevocably waiving” Browns’ rights to claim the Exclusion under section 911(a).The Browns filed a refund suit under 26 U.S.C. 6532 and 7422(a). The government argued that the Browns had not “duly filed” their administrative refund claims in accordance with section 7422(a) because they had not personally signed and verified their amended returns or properly authorized an agent to execute them. The Browns responded that the IRS had waived those requirements by processing their claims despite the defects and that the requirements were waivable regulatory conditions. The Claims Court dismissed the suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The Claims Court had jurisdiction; the “duly filed” requirement is more akin to a claims-processing rule than a jurisdictional requirement. However, the Browns did not meet that requirement, which derives from statute and cannot be waived by the IRS, nor did the IRS waive the requirement. View "Brown v. United Statesx" on Justia Law