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

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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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The VA issued a contract to OPSS for developing and managing the VA’s program to provide veterans access to community-based healthcare in Region 3 of the WellPoint, an unsuccessful bidder, brought a bid protest action. The Claims Court found that the VA conducted a reasonable best value determination, denied WellPoint’s request for injunctive relief, and dismissed WellPoint’s bid protest challenge. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The VA’s methodology for evaluating price in connection with this procurement was both reasonable and in accordance with the terms of the Solicitation. The court noted the three levels at which the proposals were evaluated and found no showing that alleged errors in first-tier revies carried over to the final decision. Even if an error had been carried over, WellPoint has not demonstrated that “but for the error, it would have had a substantial chance of securing the contract.” View "WellPoint Military Care Corp. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The VA promoted Dr. Sayers to Chief of Pharmacy Services for the Greater Los Angeles (GLA) Health Care System in 2003. In 2016, a VA site-visit team discovered violations of policy in the pharmacies under Sayers’s supervision. When Sayers failed to follow orders to immediately correct the violations, the VA detailed him from his position pending review. Months later, the VA sent another team to the GLA pharmacies, discovering numerous, serious policy violations. Because compliance fell within Sayers’s purview, the GLA Chief of Staff proposed Sayers’s removal. The GLA Health Care Director acted as the deciding official and sustained the charges. The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) and the Administrative Judge affirmed his removal, finding that substantial evidence supported factual specifications that Sayers failed to perform assigned duties and failed to follow instructions. The AJ declined to consider Sayers’s argument that his removal constituted an unreasonable penalty, inconsistent with the VA’s table of penalties and violating the VA’s policy of progressive discipline. The Federal Circuit vacated his removal. The basis for Sayers’s removal, the 2017 Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, 38 U.S.C. 714, which gives the VA a new, streamlined authority for disciplining employees for misconduct or poor performance, and places limitations on MSPB review of those actions, cannot be retroactively applied to conduct that occurred before its enactment. View "Sayers v. Department of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law

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In 1994, the Department of Commerce imposed anti-dumping duties on fresh garlic from China. Harmoni, a producer and exporter of fresh garlic from China, requested individual review. New Mexico Garlic Growers Coalition (NMGGC) requested review of Harmoni. NMGGC’s representative subsequently alleged that Harmoni and another had engaged in a strategy that enabled Harmoni to escape administrative review to receive a zero dumping margin and a zero cash deposit rate. In 2016, Commerce initiated the 21st administrative review. Harmoni withdrew its requests for review, leaving only NMGGC’s pending request. Commerce found that NMGGC and its individual members were domestic producers of fresh garlic, having standing to request review of Harmoni. Commerce preliminarily determined that Harmoni was not eligible for a separate rate and should be considered to be part of the China-wide entity, finding that Harmoni had withheld information, failed to meet deadlines, and significantly impeded the proceeding. After receiving allegations of fraud by NMGGC’s former representative and holding a hearing, Commerce stated that additional evidence “undermined the veracity of all of the NMGGC’s submissions,” so that its request for review of Harmoni was “illegitimate.” Harmoni was not subject to review in AR 21. The Trade Court and Federal Circuit upheld Commerce’s final results and partial rescission of the administrative review. By its own misconduct, NMGGC disqualified itself from obtaining a review of Harmoni under 19 C.F.R. 351.213(b)(1). View "New Mexico Garlic Growers Coalition v. United States" on Justia Law

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The 1961 National Housing Act provided financial incentives to private developers to build low-income housing, including below-market mortgages insured by HUD. Participating developers had limited ability to increase rents while HUD insured the mortgage. The mortgage term was 40 years but developers could prepay their mortgages after 20 years and convert to market-rate housing. The 1988-1990 Preservation Statutes eliminated the prepayment option, 12 U.S.C. 4101. The 1996 Housing Opportunity Program Extension Act restored prepayment rights to developers still in the program. Four “first wave plaintiffs” (FWPs) owned their properties before the Preservation Statutes and sold after their enactment, consistent with the 1990 Low-Income Housing Preservation and Resident Homeownership Act (LIHPRHA) to organizations that preserved the rent restrictions. One FWP owned its property before the Preservation Statutes and remained in the program, obtaining HUD financial incentives in exchange for abiding by the restrictions for the property's "remaining useful life.” The final FWP (Casa) purchased its property in 1991 and sold pursuant to LIHPRHA. The FWPs alleged regulatory taking. The Claims Court applied the “Penn Central” three-factor test and rejected the claims on summary judgment. The Federal Circuit affirmed with respect to Casa, a sophisticated investor that voluntarily purchased its property with knowledge that it had no prepayment option and had no reasonable investment-backed expectation. The court otherwise vacated. The character of the governmental action and the investment-backed expectations weighed against summary judgment and the Claims Court did not consider certain genuine issues of fact regarding the calculations of economic impact. View "Anaheim Gardens, L.P. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) notified Ricci that she had been “tentatively” selected for a Criminal Investigator position; she was required to satisfactorily complete a background investigation before receiving a final offer of employment. ICE subsequently sent Ricci a “Notice of Proposed Action,” stating that her background investigation had revealed information serious enough to warrant that she be found unsuitable for the position and possibly denied examination for all ICE positions for up to three years. ICE alleged that Ricci had engaged in numerous acts of misconduct while employed with the Boston Police Department. Ricci filed an appeal with the Merit Systems Protection Board, claiming that ICE’s claim was based upon bad intelligence and that ICE was “continuing the . . . discrimination.” The administrative judge explained that the board generally lacks jurisdiction over an individual’s non-selection for a specific position, even if that non-selection is based upon the suitability criteria set out in 5 C.F.R. 731.202. Ricci asserted that ICE’s actions "effectively constitute[d] a suitability action of debarment.” The Federal Circuit affirmed the AJ's dismissal for lack of jurisdiction. ICE’s action was a non-selection for a specific vacant position. ICE did not take any “broader action” against Ricci, such as “debarring her from future agency employment.” Regardless of the impact on an applicant’s ability to secure future federal employment, the board may only review actions designated as appealable. View "Ricci v. Merit Systems Protection Board" on Justia Law

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Windy CIty’s patents share a common specification and are generally related to methods for communicating over a computer-based network. Exactly one year after being served with Windy City’s infringement complaint, Facebook timely petitioned for inter partes review (IPR). Windy City had not yet identified the specific claims it was asserting in the infringement proceeding. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board instituted IPR. After Windy City identified the claims it was asserting in the infringement litigation, Facebook filed two additional petitions for IPR of additional claims and motions for joinder to the already instituted IPRs. The one-year time bar of 35 U.S.C. 315(b) had passed. The Board nonetheless instituted new IPRs and granted joinder, then held that Facebook had shown by a preponderance of the evidence that some of the challenged claims, including several claims only challenged in the later-joined proceedings, are unpatentable as obvious but had failed to show that others were unpatentable. The Federal Circuit vacated in part. The Board erred in allowing Facebook to join itself to a proceeding in which it was already a party and in allowing Facebook to add new claims to the IPRs through that joinder. The court held that the obviousness determinations on the originally instituted claims are supported by substantial evidence. View "Facebook, Inc. v. Windy City Innovations, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 1996, two doctors discovered cell-free fetal DNA in maternal plasma and serum, previously discarded as medical waste. In 2001, they obtained a patent, claiming a method for detecting the small fraction of paternally inherited cell-free fetal DNA in the plasma and serum of a pregnant woman. In 2015, the Federal Circuit (Ariosa) held that the patent's claims were invalid under 35 U.S.C. 101, as directed to “matter that is naturally occurring.” The patents at issue are unrelated to the Ariosa patent and begin by acknowledging the "Ariosa" natural phenomenon, then identify a problem that was the subject of further research: there was no known way to distinguish and separate the tiny amount of fetal DNA from the vast amount of maternal DNA. The patents use an additional discovery to claim methods of preparing a fraction of cell-free DNA that is enriched in fetal DNA. The Federal Circuit concluded that the claims are patent-eligible. These inventors patented methods of preparing a DNA fraction. The claimed methods utilize the natural phenomenon that the inventors discovered by employing physical process steps to selectively remove larger fragments of cell-free DNA to enrich a mixture in cell-free fetal DNA. Those steps change the composition of the mixture, resulting in a DNA fraction that is different from the naturally-occurring fraction in the mother’s blood. View "Illumina, Inc. v. Ariosa Diagnostics, Inc." on Justia Law

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Hafco’s patent, issued in 2013, covers a “Rock Dust Blower” used to distribute rock dust in areas such as coal mines, where rock dust is applied to interior surfaces, to control the explosive hazards of coal dust. Hafco contracted with GMS to serve as the distributor of Hafco’s blower for sale to mining customers. In 2015, Hafco terminated this arrangement, stating that performance was poor. GMS then produced a rock dust blower for sale to mining customers. Hafco sued for infringement. GMS filed an unsuccessful pretrial motion for patent invalidity. The jury found GMS liable for willful infringement and awarded damages of $123,650. The court entered a permanent injunction against infringement but remitted the damages award to zero, offering a new trial on damages. The Federal Circuit affirmed the judgment of infringement and the denial of GMS’ request for a new trial and remanded the case. The jury was correctly instructed that the question is how the ordinary observer would view the article as a whole. Given that there was no prior art introduced at trial, no attempt by GMS to introduce the prior art, and no proposed jury instruction on the issue, the purported exclusion of this instruction cannot be an error. View "Hafco Foundry & Machine Co. v. GMS Mine Repair & Maintenance, Inc." on Justia Law