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Ancora’s 941 patent, entitled “Method of Restricting Software Operation Within a License Limitation,” describes and claims methods of limiting a computer’s running of software not authorized for that computer to run. It issued in 2002, and the patentability of all claims was confirmed in a reexamination in 2010. Ancora sued HTC, alleging infringement of the 941 patent. The district court dismissed, concluding that the patent’s claims are invalid because their subject matter is ineligible for patenting under 35 U.S.C 101, as directed to, and ultimately claiming no more than, an abstract idea. The Federal Circuit reversed. The claimed advance is a concrete assignment of specified functions among a computer’s components to improve computer security, and this claimed improvement in computer functionality is eligible for patenting. The asserted innovation of the patent relates to where the license record is stored in the computer and the interaction of that memory with other memory to check for permission to run a program that is introduced into the computer. View "Ancora Technologies, Inc. v. HTC America, Inc." on Justia Law

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The patent, entitled “Rinseable splash shield and method of use,” discloses a vessel for containing contents to be mixed that is positioned in a mixing machine and a splash shield that is positioned to shield the opening of the vessel. After the material within the vessel is mixed by a mixing element, the splash shield is separated from the vessel and rinsed by a nozzle on the mixing machine. The patent describes how the invention “provide[s] a drink mixer having a splash shield that may be automatically rinsed following mixing of each batch or beverage, preferably without disassembly or removal of any components or disposable covers.” The Patent Trial and Appeal Board upheld the patentability of claim 21 under 35 U.S.C. 103. The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the Board changed claim construction theories midstream without providing the parties an opportunity to respond, and erred in construing the “nozzle” terms so as to require that the nozzles be prepositioned. Substantial evidence supports the Board’s decision ’s that Hamilton Beach did not persuasively establish a motivation to combine the prior art references to arrive at claim 21. View "Hamilton Beach Brands, Inc. v. f'real Foods, LLC" on Justia Law

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Kerr was employed by the federal agency since 1980. Following adverse personnel actions, Kerr alleged sex and religious discrimination and retaliation before the agency’s Equal Employment Opportunity office. Kerr subsequently challenged her 2006 removal and the earlier adverse personnel actions before the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), citing Title VII and retaliation under the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA), 5 U.S.C. 1201. The MSPB indicated that it lacked jurisdiction over the less-serious personnel decisions and gave Kerr the opportunity to present her removal-related claims to the agency’s EEO office or have the MSPB decide them. Kerr chose the EEO office. The MSPB dismissed Kerr’s appeal without prejudice. The EEO office rejected Kerr’s discrimination claims and concluded that the WPA claim was not within its jurisdiction, telling Kerr that she could not appeal the constructive discharge claim to the EEOC, but could either appeal to the MSPB or file suit. Kerr filed suit. On remand from the Ninth Circuit, the government first argued that the court lacked jurisdiction over Kerr’s WPA claim because she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies by MSPB review. The district court dismissed the WPA claim. A jury returned a defense verdict on the discrimination claim. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court denied certiorari. The MSPB rejected Kerr’s request to reopen, concluding that there was neither good cause nor equitable tolling for the untimely filing. The Federal Circuit reversed. Kerr did have a reasonable basis for thinking that the district court was an appropriate forum for all of her claims. The court noted the language of 5 U.S.C. 7702, Tenth Circuit precedent, and that the government did not warn Kerr she would waive her claim by failing to file at the MSPB. Kerr has demonstrated reasonable diligence and there is no prejudice to the agency. View "Kerr v. Merit Systems Protection Board" on Justia Law

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Around 1959, the company started doing business as Omaha Steaks. It has multiple trademark registrations that include the words “Omaha Steaks" and spent over $50 million in 2012 and 2013, on domestic advertising of its beef products through national radio, television, and freestanding print campaigns. It has been featured in national newspapers, magazines, television shows, and movies. It promotes its products via catalog and direct mail, a daily blast email, customer calls, and on social media. Omaha Steaks has 75 stores and two airport kiosks and sells via Amazon. In 1920, Greater Omaha Packing Company was formed; it sells boxed beef to wholesalers, such as hotels, restaurants, and food service institutions and has sold beef to Omaha Steaks since 1966. GOP sought to register the mark “GREATER OMAHA PROVIDING THE HIGHEST QUALITY BEEF” with a design for: “meat, including boxed beef primal cuts.” The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board dismissed Omaha Steak’s opposition, finding no likelihood of confusion between the opposed mark and Omaha Steaks’ registered trademarks. The Federal Circuit vacated. The Board’s fact-findings confirm that due to Omaha Steaks’ sales and marketing, the consuming public has been regularly exposed to its marks on a nationwide scale; the Board’s conclusion that Omaha Steaks did not provide any context for its “raw” sales figures and ad expenditures lacks substantial evidence. The Board’s findings regarding third-party use improperly relied on marks found on dissimilar goods not directed to the relevant public. View "Omaha Steaks International, Inc. v. Greater Omaha Packing Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff’s asserted RE940 patent, a reissue of its 805 patent, relates to boron steel sheets with an aluminum-based coating that, when hot-stamped, become highly mechanically resistant. In 2010, plaintiff sued AK Steel for infringement. The primary issue was whether steel sheets produced by AK met the mechanical resistance limitation of the 805 patent after thermal treatment. While the 2010 case was on remand, Plaintiff filed the complaint related to this appeal, asserting the RE940 patent. According to AK, the accused products in this case—steel sheets marketed and sold under the trade name ULTRALUME—are the same as the AXN steel sheets in the 2010 case. The district court granted AK summary judgment, citing collateral estoppel. The Federal Circuit vacated and remanded. Evidence indicates a material difference in the accused products, so collateral estoppel does not apply. Differences with respect to the claimed limitations constitute changes in controlling facts. Discovery is necessary to determine whether and to what extent AK supplied auto manufacturers with steel sheets with ultimate tensile strength in excess of 1,500 megapascals after thermal treatment, its knowledge and intent in doing so, and the relationships between AK, the hot-stampers, and the auto manufacturers during the relevant timeframe. View "Arcelormittal Atlantique v. AK Steel Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sued Oath in the Eastern District of New York, alleging patent infringement. Oath conducts business in New York, but is incorporated in Delaware; it does not have “a regular and established place of business” in the Eastern District as defined in the patent statute venue provision, 28 U.S.C. 1400(b) In 2016, Oath moved under FRCP 12(b)(6) to dismiss for failure to state a claim but did not object to venue. Oath withdrew its motion and filed an answer, admitting the complaint’s venue allegations but expressly reserving the right to challenge venue based upon any change in law, including the Supreme Court’s "TC Heartland" decision. The Supreme Court subsequently issued that decision, holding that, under section 1400(b), “a domestic corporation ‘resides’ only in its State of incorporation,” rejecting Federal Circuit precedent that a domestic corporation “resides” in any judicial district in which the defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction. Oath moved to dismiss. Plaintiffs argued that Oath had waived the venue defense because it was “available” in 2016. The district court agreed. In November 2017, the Federal Circuit held (Micron) that “TC Heartland changed the controlling law ... making the waiver rule ... inapplicable” but that venue rights might be forfeited by delay in asserting them in some circumstances. On reconsideration, the district court again denied Oath’s motion. The Federal Circuit remanded with instructions to either dismiss or transfer the case. The district court provided no analysis of why these circumstances supported a finding of forfeiture under section 1406(b) and erred in failing to apply the Micron precedent. View "In re: Oath Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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Cook served on active duty in the Navy, 1972-1973. Cook’s service records indicate that he experienced back pain. In 2000, Cook sought service connection for back problems and later filed a claim for total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU), also back-related. The regional office (RO) denied both claims. Cook appealed and testified at a Board hearing in 2012. The Board remanded; the RO again denied both claims. Cook again appealed and requested an additional hearing to present further evidence. The Board denied Cook that additional hearing and denied both of his claims. The Veterans Court, upon joint motion, vacated and remanded because the Board did not adequately explain its decision. On remand, Cook again requested another Board hearing. The Board denied a hearing and denied Cook’s claims for service connection and TDIU. The Veterans Court vacated and ordered a hearing. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The Veterans’ Judicial Review Act codified a veteran’s longstanding right to a Board of Veterans’ Appeals hearing, 38 U.S.C. 7107(b). The courts concluded that the statute entitles an appellant to an opportunity for a hearing whenever the Board decides an appeal, including on remand. View "Cook v. Wilkie" on Justia Law

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Siler was an EPA Special Agent, conducting criminal investigations, 1997-2016. Siler also operated a personal business, selling military collectibles. Siler failed to report that business, as required, used his government computer for personal business, and tried to intimidate a contractor with whom he dealt in conducting that business. That contractor filed a complaint. EPA placed Siler on leave. The Office of the Inspector General cleared Siler of criminal charges. After Siler’s supervisor told Siler things “looked good” for an eventual return to full duty, Siler became involved in an investigation into another supervisor, Ashe. Siler expressed fear of retaliation but stated that Ashe had been sleeping at his desk and had smelled of alcohol. Others testified similarly. Ashe retired before serving his suspension. Siler was investigated for conduct unbecoming an investigator, improperly using his government computer, and failing to report his outside business. Siler, 11 months shy of retirement eligibility, was terminated. He argued that removal was not reasonable and that his statements regarding Ashe constituted protected whistleblowing that caused retaliation. In discovery, EPA produced draft notices of proposed sanctions against Siler, which identified a different decision-maker than previously identified. Siler sought the emails to which these drafts had been attached. EPA sought to claw back the drafts, claiming attorney-client privilege. EPA produced no privilege log. The Merit Systems Protection Board found the drafts privileged and found that Siler would have been removed even without his protected disclosures. The Federal Circuit vacated. EPA did not prove that the allegedly protected communication was made in confidence to its attorney. The Board “may not simply guess what might happen absent whistleblowing.” View "Siler v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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Sihota worked for the IRS for over 25 years. A 2011 IRS audit determined that, in 2003, Sihota reported a loss based on her purported ownership of NKRS, which was actually owned by Sihota’s son. The parties reached a settlement: Sihota acknowledged she had “acted negligently … resulting in an underpayment of ... $5341.00.” Sihota paid the assessment and penalty. The IRS terminated her employment, stating that Sihota was charged with either violating 5 CFR 2635.809 or 26 U.S.C. 7804, which requires the IRS to terminate any employee who willfully understates their federal tax liability, “unless such understatement is due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect.” The Union invoked arbitration. A hearing was held four years after the IRS contacted the Union about scheduling. The arbitrator concluded that inclusion of the loss on her return was not willful neglect, reinstated Sihota’s employment, imposed a 10-day suspension, and held that Sihota was not entitled to back pay, citing laches and the scheduling delay. The Federal Circuit vacated and remanded, stating that it could not discern which charges were properly considered or would support the suspension. If the only charge before the arbitrator was under the statute, the arbitrator could not impose any penalty. While the Union’s delay is inexplicable and might have barred the claim if the IRS could show prejudice, after allowing Sihota’s claim to proceed, the arbitrator cannot rely on laches to reduce her back pay. View "Sihota v. Internal Revenue Service" on Justia Law

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The Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Discipline Review Board sent Boss a proposed 30-day suspension based on disciplinary infraction charges: failure to follow a policy related to overtime sheets, failure to follow supervisory instructions, and conduct unbecoming a U.S. Border Patrol Agent. The deciding official interviewed witnesses and received arguments from the agency and Boss and sent a decision letter, concluding that Boss should be disciplined on all three charges, but reducing the suspension to 15 days. Boss requested arbitration. During the arbitration hearing, the deciding official admitted that he had considered three documents that had not been provided to Boss or his union. The documents were agency policies regarding administratively uncontrollable overtime pay. The arbitrator agreed that the agency violated the contractual due process provision, and vacated Charge One. The parties agreed that the undisclosed documents solely relate to Charge One. The arbitrator analyzed Charges Two and Three on their merits, apparently concluding that he need not address Boss’s contractual and constitutional due process arguments, concluded that the agency carried its burden of proof, and reduced the discipline to a 10- day suspension. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The arbitrator properly treated the three charges separately and independently. View "Boss v. Department of Homeland Security" on Justia Law