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

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In 2012, Meridian asked the U.S. Department of Commerce to issue a scope ruling that certain aluminum trim kit packages did not fall within the scope of the antidumping and countervailing duty orders (19 U.S.C. 1671(a)(1)) on aluminum extrusions from the People’s Republic of China. Commerce found the trim kits subject to the Orders’ scope. Five opinions and three remands later, the Trade Court sustained Commerce’s third remand determination, under protest, that the trim kits do not fall within the Orders’ scope. The Federal Circuit reversed. Commerce did not err in its interpretation of the finished goods kit exclusion in the initial scope ruling. The exclusion states that, to fall outside the scope of the Orders, a finished goods kit must contain more than only aluminum extrusion parts necessary for final assembly. Substantial evidence supports Commerce’s finding that the trim kits meet the exception to the finished goods kit exclusion. View "Meridian Products, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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The 631 application, entitled “Glenoid Implant for Minimally Invasive Shoulder Replacement Surgery,” describes an invention related to “rotator cuff sparing procedures and associated devices for shoulder replacement surgery.” The application improves on the prior art by offering “simple and less invasive perpendicular access to the humeral and glenoid joint surfaces,” which “spares the rotator cuff tendons and allows for a quicker and more functional recovery.” The surgery described in the application involves two main steps. First, the surgeon removes “a minimal amount of bone from the peripheral surface of the glenoid”—a process called reaming. Second, the surgeon places an implant in the reamed cavity. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board concluded that several claims were anticipated by prior art, 35 U.S.C. 102(b). The Federal Circuit reversed; the finding of anticipation was not supported by substantial evidence. View "In re: Chudik" on Justia Law

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The Tuschl patents relate to RNA interference, a process for “silencing” genes from expressing the proteins they encode, which may be useful in treating various diseases. In 2000, before the invention was reduced to practice, Dr. Tuschl published an article describing the discoveries. Weeks later, Dr. Bass published a mini-review that focused on Tuschl’s article and included her own hypotheses about enzymatic processes that may be responsible for the RNAi activity reported in Tuschl’s article. Tuschl read Bass’ article and recognized and successfully tested her hypothesis. Bass’ mini-review was cited as prior art during prosecution of the Tuschl patents, each of which issued. Bass sued for correction of ownership, claiming that Bass should be named as either a sole or joint inventor of the patents. During depositions, Bass made admissions undermining allegations that Bass reduced the Tuschl invention to practice and that Bass collaborated with the inventors. On the eve of the deadline for dispositive motions, Bass withdrew the sole inventorship claims, but not the joint inventorship claim. The district court rejected the joint inventorship claims on summary judgment, finding no evidence of collaboration between Bass and the Tuschl inventors. The district court declined a request for eight million dollars in attorney fees under 35 U.S.C. 285, The Federal Circuit affirmed, finding that the case was not objectively unreasonable when all reasonable inferences were drawn in Bass's favor. View "University of Utah v. Max-Planck-Gesellschaft" on Justia Law

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TVIIM’s 168 patent, entitled “Method and Apparatus for Assessing the Security of a Computer,” describes “a security system which identifies security vulnerabilities and discrepancies for a computing system.” The patent both identifies potential security threats to a computer and, under certain conditions, recommends action to a user to stop the threat. TVIIM sued McAfee. A jury determined that McAfee did not infringe the 168 patent and that the 168 patent was invalid. The Federal Circuit affirmed, finding that substantial evidence supported the jury’s findings of non-infringement and invalidity under the court’s single construction of the claim terms: “as a result of/in response to,” “various utility functions,” and “reporting the discovered vulnerabilities.” TVIIM did not seek construction of any of the three terms at trial. View "TVIIM, LLC v. McAfee, Inc." on Justia Law

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Boyd worked for the Postal Service, 1985-2010. In 2011, she sought disability retirement benefits under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) approved her application, stating it would provide interim FERS benefits; that she would not receive FERS benefits until OPM received confirmation that she had applied for Social Security disability (SSDI) benefits; that her FERS benefits would be offset by SSDI benefits; and that Social Security checks should not be negotiated until the FERS benefit had been reduced. Boyd provided OPM with notice of her SSDI award but cashed the SSDI checks. Five months later, OPM notified Boyd that she had been overpaid by $3,322, which it would recover by offsetting 36 monthly FERS benefits by $92.27. Boyd requested a waiver or a reduced payment based on financial hardship. Boyd completed a Financial Resources Questionnaire but did not provide a later-requested update. OPM denied a waiver but reduced the monthly offset to $40. Boyd appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board, pro se, but did not file evidence nor respond to a show-cause order. The ALJ affirmed, finding that she was “not without fault” and did not refute the reasonableness of the reduced payment schedule. The Board affirmed. The Federal Circuit vacated, citing erroneous application of the overpayment recovery statute, 5 U.S.C. 8346(b), and remanded for determination of whether Boyd knew or suspected that she had been overpaid, and, if not, whether the recovery would be against equity and good conscience. View "Boyd v. Office of Personnel Management" on Justia Law

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In the 1980s, Simonson began exploring for deposits of pumicite, a porous volcanic rock, which he thought had potential commercial applications. Simonson found high quality pumicite in Kern County and located 23 mining claims in his name. For two decades, Simonson commissioned scientific testing. Lab reports and industry analyses confirmed that pumicite could be useful in industrial paint and plastic manufacture; Simonson began taking orders. In 1987, Simonson submitted a Plan of Operations to Bureau of Land Management to mine 100,000 tons per year. BLM conditionally approved the plan, specifying that it had not yet determined whether Simonson had discovered valuable minerals under the General Mining Law, 30 U.S.C. 22. Simonson postponed mining until BLM completed its common/uncommon variety determination, but hired a consultant to generate investor interest. In 1989, the BLM concluded that Reoforce pumicite was an uncommon mineral, locatable under federal law, but did not establish that Simonson had a right to patent his claims. From 1987-1995, Simonson mined only 200 tons of pumicite and sold only five. In 1995, BLM stated that the lands encompassing 10 of the claims would be transferred to become part of Red Rock Canyon State Park. An agreement between BLM and California permitted some mining claimants to continue operating, depending on prior use of the mine, subject to California’s Surface Mining and Reclamation Act. Ultimately, BLM found pumicite not marketable and the claims invalid. The Department of the Interior later granted Simonson a conditional right to mine some claims. Simonson then sought compensation for a temporary taking (1995-2008). The Federal Circuit affirmed rejection of the claims. Although the character of the government's action did not weigh heavily against the taking claim, the economic-impact and reasonable-investment-backed-expectations factors weighed heavily against Simonson. View "Reoforce, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The patents-in-suit relate to soybeans genetically engineered to tolerate herbicide, and, particularly, to the Bayer-developed dmmg gene. The parties disagreed over the scope of Bayer’s license of the patents to MS Tech, specifically, whether the license granted MS Tech a broad license to commercialize and sublicense the soybean technology. MS Tech had sublicensed to Dow. When Bayer sued Dow for infringement, Dow raised that sublicense as an affirmative defense. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of Dow; the Federal Circuit affirmed. The district court then awarded Dow attorney fees under 35 U.S.C. 285, declaring this an "exceptional case.” The Federal Circuit affirmed, noting Bayer’s weak positions on the merits and litigation conduct. “Bayer’s own witnesses as well as key documents contradicted Bayer’s contorted reading of the contract.” Bayer’s arguments were “fallacious” because they were “implausible” and “made no business sense” in light of the facts surrounding the agreements and their negotiation. View "Bayer Cropscience AG v. Dow Agrosciences LLC" on Justia Law

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The patents involves simulation/emulation technology. In 1998, Mentor filed the application that would become the 376 patent. The inventors, Mentor employees, assigned the invention to Mentor; they subsequently left Mentor and founded EVE. In 2006, Mentor sued, alleging EVE’s emulation and verification system infringed its patents. The parties settled; EVE obtained a license to the patents, including a provision terminating the license if EVE were acquired by another company in the emulation industry. In 2012, Mentor learned Synopsys might acquire EVE. Mentor’s CEO contacted his Synopsys counterpart, offering to waive the license's confidentiality provision to inform Synopsys that the license would terminate if Synopsys acquired EVE. Synopsys and EVE sought a declaratory judgment that the patents were invalid and not infringed. Synopsys acquired EVE. Mentor counterclaimed willful infringement. With regard to the 376 patent, the Federal Circuit affirmed that assignor estoppel bars Synopsys from challenging its validity and upheld the infringement verdict and damages award. The court reversed summary judgment that Synopsys’ 109 patent was indefinite; affirmed summary judgment that Synopsys’ 526 patent lacks patent-eligible subject matter; vacated a ruling precluding Mentor from presenting evidence of willful infringement; reversed summary judgment that Mentor’s 882 patent lacked written description support; and reversed summary judgment that Mentor’s infringement allegations regarding the 531 and 176 patents were barred by claim preclusion. View "Mentor Graphics Corp. v. EVE-USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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Nidec's patent discloses a system for controlling the torque of an electromagnetic motor. Following an inter partes review, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board found that claim 21 was anticipated. The Federal Circuit reversed that decision as not supported by substantial evidence. The Board incorrectly held that anticipation can be found even when a prior art reference fails to disclose a claim element so long as a skilled artisan reading the reference would “at once envisage” the claimed arrangement. View "Nidec Motor Corp. v. Zhongshan Broad Ocean Motor, LLC" on Justia Law

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Non-Russian investors could not invest directly in Russian sovereign debt but could invest in derivative credit-linked notes (CLNs), sold by banks. When Russia defaulted on its sovereign debt in 1998, CLNs lost nearly all of their value. The Russian Central Bank imposed currency exchange limitations that prevented the ruble from being freely traded. Tiger's hedge funds had purchased CLNs for more than $230 million. After the collapse, Tiger needed cash to pay off investors but was unable to sell its CLNs. Zimmerman believed that she could make money by obtaining devalued Russian debt in anticipation of a recovery of the ruble. Bracebridge, in which Zimmerman was a partner, established RRF, a hedge fund. FFIP, another fund managed by Bracebridge contributed RRF's first assets. Tiger transferred CLNs to RRF in exchange for an RRF ownership interest. Tiger sold its RRF partnership shares to FFIP for a discount, although the value of the shares had increased. RRF filed its 2000 tax return, allocating a loss to FFIP. FFIP’s 2001 losses flowed through to Zimmerman. In 2005, the IRS audited the parties, disallowed the loss RRF claimed for the sale of the Tiger CLNs, and imposed a 40% penalty. RRF and Bracebridge sought readjustment of partnership items under the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act, I.R.C. 6221–6233. The Claims Court held that the limitations period for assessing taxes against RRF’s indirect partners had expired as to some, but not all, indirect partners and upheld the disallowance of the losses and imposition of penalties. The Federal Circuit affirmed, holding that the losses claimed on Zimmerman’s 2001 tax return are “attributable to” the loss claimed in RRF’s 2000 tax return, the limitations period for which was suspended by the 2005 Final Partnership Administrative Adjustment. Tiger’s contributions to RRF were not valid partnership contributions. View "Russian Recovery Fund Limited v. United States" on Justia Law
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