Justia U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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In 2015, Jones, a veteran, filed 16 appeals with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), alleging that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. 4301–4333, when it did not select him for various job vacancies. An administrative judge consolidated the appeals and ultimately denied relief in an Initial Decision. That Decision became the Final Decision of the MSPB when Jones did not timely file a petition for review. The Federal Circuit affirmed, first holding that it had jurisdiction, rejecting an argument that there was no . final MSPB decision from which Jones could appeal. The AJ properly found that neither direct nor circumstantial evidence supported Jones’s USERRA claim and failed to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that his military service was a motivating factor in HHS’s decision not to hire him for the subject job vacancies. View "Jones v. Dept. of Health & Human Servs." on Justia Law

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Freddie Mac is a privately-owned, publicly-chartered financial services corporation, 12 U.S.C. 1452, created to provide stability in the secondary residential mortgage market. Piszel began working as the CFO of Freddie Mac in 2006. Piszel with a signing bonus of $5 million in Freddie Mac restricted stock units that would vest over four years, an annual salary of $650,000, and performance-based incentive compensation of $3 million a year in restricted stock. If terminated without cause, Piszel would receive a lump-sum cash payment of double his annual salary and certain restricted stock units would continue to vest. In 2008, facing Freddie Mac's potential collapse, Congress passed the Housing and Economic Recovery Act,12 U.S.C. 4511, establishing the FHFA as Freddie Mac's new primary regulator, with authority to disaffirm any contract, after which damages for the breach would be limited to “actual direct compensatory damages.” The Act contained a limit on “golden parachutes.” Piszel alleges that he was terminated without cause and Freddie Mac “refused to provide him with any of the benefits to which he was contractually entitled.” The Claims Court dismissed his allegations of an unconstitutional taking. The Federal Circuit affirmed, noting that Piszel’s breach of contract claim remains intact despite the legislation, particularly in light of Piszel’s assertion that his contract called for “deferred compensation,” rather than a golden parachute. View "Piszel v. United States" on Justia Law

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Zafer, an Ankara, Turkey, contractor, and the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) entered into a firm-fixed-price contract to construct the MILCON Support Facility at the Bagram Air Force Field in Afghanistan. Zafer was responsible for delivering materials to the site, and assumed the risk “for all costs and resulting loss or profit.” After issuing notice to proceed, USACE recognized that it could not make the project site available immediately and increased the contract price and set a new completion date. In November 2011, Pakistan closed its border from the seaport city of Karachi along the land routes into Afghanistan in response to a combat incident with the U.S. and NATO. The route remained closed for 219 days, Zafer notified USACE that the closure would greatly impact its delivery of materials and requested direction on how to proceed. USACE replied that the closure was “purely the act of Pakistan governmental authorities,” that the U.S. government was “not responsible” and denied further compensation. Zafer subsequently, repeatedly, asked for payment for additional costs. In 2013, Zafer submitted an unsuccessful request for an equitable adjustment. The contracting officer found no evidence supporting a constructive change claim. The Claims Court granted USACE summary judgment. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Zafer failed to designate specific facts to establish a constructive change claim based on either a constructive acceleration theory or on a government fault theory. View "Zafer Taahhut Insaat v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 1985-1986, Kerrigan was a Navy carpenter. He injured his back and was awarded workers’ compensation benefits by the Office of Workers Compensation (OWCP). In 1993, Kerrigan raised concerns regarding his benefits. Over several years, Kerrigan made multiple requests, some of which were denied. In 2001, Kerrigan contacted the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General (OIG) alleging that DOL employees had based one denial on a form that they falsified or destroyed. The OIG did not investigate, but forwarded the letter to OWCP. Kerrigan pursued, over several years, a suit against DOL for illegal termination of benefits and a suit against the physician who reviewed his medical records. Both were dismissed. In 2013, Kerrigan filed a complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which chose not to investigate, but referred him to the Merit Systems Protection Board, where Kerrigan alleged retaliatory termination of benefits. The ALJ dismissed Kerrigan’s appeal, stating that the Whistleblower Protection Act only covers actions taken by an agency concerning its own employees. The Board stated that 5 U.S.C. 8128(b) provides that benefits determinations are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the DOL and are unreviewable and that Kerrigan failed to nonfrivolously allege that his protected disclosures were a contributing factor in the decision to terminate benefits. The Federal Circuit affirmed. While 5 U.S.C. 8128(b) does not bar review, Kerrigan failed to nonfrivolously allege that his protected disclosure was a contributing factor in the decision. View "Kerrigan v. Merit Sys. Protection Bd." on Justia Law

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Rosario was an Army Corps of Engineers biologist until his 2010 termination. In 2011, the Merit Systems Protection Board ordered his restoration. His improper removal caused Rosario to suffer depression. He took sick leave. In May 2012, Rosario submitted a letter from Dr. Rodriguez-Velez, to his supervisor, Castillo, stating that his symptoms, which included paranoia and aggressive episodes, were not improving. In April, Rosario submitted another letter, recommending that Rosario return to work, 20–30 hours per week. The Corps viewed this as a request for reasonable accommodation and requested further information. After a delay, Rosario replied that he was going to return to work full time. Castillo informed Rosario that due to the possibility of aggressive episodes, Rosario needed to provide a medical release. Rosario requested leave under protest, then submitted a letter from Dr. Rodriguez-Velez, recommending that Rosario apply for disability because his depression had returned. Rosario did not provide any other medical documentation, despite reminders, and continued to request leave. In November 2012, Rosario forwarded a doctor's report, recommending that Rosario return to work, 20–30 hours per week.The Corps issued a “Revised Notice of Proposed Removal” based on the same charges that led to the 2010 removal. Rosario was placed on administrative leave. Rosario appealed, arguing that he was constructively suspended from July-November 2012. The Board concluded that he was not constructively suspended. The Federal Circuit affirmed the decision as supported by substantial evidence. View "Rosario-Fabregas v. Merit Sys. Protection Bd." on Justia Law

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Scriptpro’s patent is directed to a “collating unit” used with a control center and an automatic dispensing system to store prescription containers after a medication has been dispensed into the containers. After a remand in an infringement case, the district court entered summary judgment, finding four claims invalid for lack of written description. The Federal Circuit reversed and remanded. The patent expressly states that containers can be sorted and stored “by patient, prescription, or other predetermined storage scheme without input or handling by the operator.” Not every claim must contain every limitation or achieve every disclosed purpose. Here, the original claims filed as part of the patent application did not include a requirement that sorting and storing be done by use of patient-identifying information. The district court erred when it determined that the specification limited the invention to storing prescription containers based on patient name and slot availability. Because the specification does not limit the scope of the invention in the manner the district court described, the asserted claims are not invalid for lacking such a limitation. View "Scriptpro LLC v. Innovation Assocs, Inc." on Justia Law
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The Commerce Department determined that a Vietnamese manufacturer of wind towers was selling its products in the U.S. at about 51.5% below normal value and imposed antidumping duties under 19 U.S.C. 1673. Commerce used statutory calculation methods that apply when imported goods come from a nonmarket economy, as the wind towers at issue do. The Court of International Trade affirmed. The Federal Circuit reversed in part, with respect to Commerce’s use of packing weights rather than component weights in its calculation of surrogate values. The court affirmed Commerce’s determination not to use Korean purchase prices for flanges, welding wire, and wire flux. The court vacated and remanded Commerce’s overhead determination with respect to jobwork charges, erection expenses, and civil expenses. View "CS Wind Vietnam Co., LTD. v. United States" on Justia Law
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EPA and state clean air regulations regulate the percentage of contaminates that may be discharged from oil and gas storage tanks and other holding vessels into the atmosphere. The patents at issue address capturing and recovering fuel vapors. NanoVapor’s Vapor Suppression System, developed by Moorhead, aims to control or eliminate combustible and toxic gasses in fuel storage and transfer operations. After working with Moorhead to help market this technology, Nathan became NanoVapor’s COO in 2007. NanoVapor later hired Matheson to help with the “commercial embodiment” of the technology being developed. Moorhead filed a provisional patent application in December 2006, claiming the vapor suppression system. The parties disagree over whether Nathan was then aware of the progress of the patent application. NanoVapor alleged that Nathan and Matheson (collectively, Vapor Point) plotted to steal NanoVapor’s technology and associated trade secrets. Vapor Point claims that the application wrongfully claimed their conceptual and inventive contributions and that that they are the true inventors of the technology. The Federal Circuit affirmed issuance of a correction of inventorship (35 U.S.C. 256) in favor of Vapor Point and denial of Vapor Point’s motion for exceptional case status and attorneys’ fees. The court noted NanoVapor’s concession that a determination of inventorship would resolve the case. View "Vapor Point, LLC v. Moorhead" on Justia Law
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Arendi’s patent is directed to coordination between a first computer program displaying a document and a second program for searching an external information source. It allows a user to access and conduct a search using the second program while remaining in the first program displaying the document and discloses mechanisms for analyzing the document to identify the presence of name and address information by analyzing formatting, certain designators and abbreviations, and a database of common names. A search by the second program using the first information as a search term then looks for second information associated with the first information in the information source. Once the second information is located, the claimed invention performs an action using the second information. On inter partes review, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board found several claims would have been obvious. The Federal Circuit reversed, stating that the Board misapplied precedent on the permissible use of common sense in an obviousness analysis. The Board’s presumption that adding a search for phone numbers would be “common sense” was conclusory and unsupported by substantial evidence; the missing limitation is not “peripheral” and there was nothing to support a conclusion that supplying the missing limitation would be obvious to one of skill in the art. View "Arendi S.A.R.L. v. Apple Inc.." on Justia Law
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CSB’s 953 patent, issued in 1997, is directed to a circuit arrangement for integrating an electronic data processing (EDP) system with telephone systems connected to an integrated services digital network (ISDN) telephone network. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board upheld an examiner’s rejection of all claims of the 953 patent as unpatentable over the prior art during an ex parte reexamination. The Federal Circuit affirmed. While the Board should have applied the “Phillips” standard of claim construction rather than the broadest reasonable interpretation standard used by the examiner because the 953 patent expired during the reexamination, its claim construction was correct even under the Phillips standard. There was no support for limiting the broad claim term “personal computer” in the patent to exclude personal computers running software to emulate terminals. In the context of the 953 patent, a personal computer is defined by its hardware and computing capability, not by the software it happens to run at a point in time. View "In re: CSB-Sys. Int'l, Inc." on Justia Law
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