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

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The plaintiffs own land abutting a railroad right-of-way that was long ago granted to, and for decades used by, the Railway in Dade County, Florida. When the Railway abandoned the right-of-way for rail use, full rights to the underlying land, unencumbered by the easement, would have reverted to whoever owned such rights, had there been no overriding governmental action. However, the Railway successfully petitioned the Surface Transportation Board to have the railroad corridor turned into a recreational trail under the National Trails System Act Amendments, 16 U.S.C. 1247(d). The landowners sued, alleging that the agency’s conversion of the right-of-way into a recreational trail constituted a taking of their rights in the corridor land abutting their properties and that the government must pay just compensation for that taking. To establish their ownership of the corridor land, the plaintiffs relied on Florida's “centerline presumption,” which provides that when a road or other corridor forms the boundary of a landowner’s parcel, that landowner owns the fee interest in the abutting corridor land up to the corridor’s centerline, absent clear evidence to the contrary. The trial court ruled in favor of the government. The Federal Circuit reversed. The centerline presumption applies to railroad rights-of-way and the plats at issue do not clearly express the intent required to avoid application of the centerline presumption. View "Castillo v. United States" on Justia Law

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Arctic’s patents, directed to personal watercraft (PWC) steering systems, issued in 2004 and 2003, after Arctic stopped selling PWCs. In 2002, Arctic entered into a license agreement with Honda that expressly stated that Honda had no marking obligations. Honda began making and selling unmarked PWCs. Arctic asserted that Honda stopped selling unmarked products in 2013. Bombardier claimed that Honda continued to sell PWCs under the Arctic license until 2018. In 2014, Arctic sued Bombardier for infringement. The court held that Bombardier bore the burden of proving that Honda’s PWCs practiced the asserted claims and denied Bombardier’s motion to limit potential damages because of Honda’s sales of unmarked products. A jury awarded Arctic a royalty to begin in 2008 and found that Bombardier had willfully infringed the asserted claims. The Federal Circuit affirmed as to willfulness but vacated in part. Once an alleged infringer identifies products that it believes are unmarked patented articles subject to the 35 U.S.C. 287 notice requirements, the patentee bears the burden of proving that the products do not practice the claimed invention. On remand, Arctic conceded that it could not show that the Honda PWCs do not practice the asserted claims. The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Bombardier. Section 287 continues to limit damages after a patentee or licensee ceases sales of unmarked products; willful infringement does not establish actual notice under section 287. View "Arctic Cat Inc. v. Bombardier Recreational Products, Inc." on Justia Law

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Fourstar, a federal prisoner, filed a Tucker Act Complaint with a Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. He claimed that the government is mismanaging certain Indian properties and resources. The Claims Court denied his motion to proceed in forma pauperis, citing 28 U.S.C. 1915(g), which provides: In no event shall a prisoner bring a civil action or appeal ... under this section if the prisoner has, on 3 or more prior occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury,” Prison Litigation Reform Act, 110 Stat. 1321. Fourstar did not pay the filing fee. The court dismissed his complaint. Fourstar was released from prison and later filed a Notice of Appeal. He later filed a statement that he was subsequently arrested and detained and unsuccessfully moved to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal. Because Fourstar was not a prisoner at the time of filing his appeal, section 1915 is not applicable. The Federal Circuit affirmed that the three-strikes rule was met by Fourstar’s litigation history and that Fourstar was not subject to the “imminent danger” exception. View "Fourstar v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Department Commerce investigated antidumping duty petitions concerning imports of certain oil country tubular goods from various countries, including Vietnam. Commerce issued quantity and value questionnaires to the eight companies named in the petition but received timely responses from only two—one of which was SeAH. Commerce selected SeAH and the other responsive company as mandatory respondents, 19 U.S.C. 1677f-1(c)(2) Because Commerce considers Vietnam to be a non-market economy country, Commerce selected a surrogate market economy country, India, to provide surrogate values. Commerce calculated a 24.22% dumping margin for SeAH, based on various surrogate values. The Court of International Trade remanded to Commerce twice, for reconsideration and further explanation of its surrogate value determinations. On remand, Commerce calculated a 61.04% dumping margin for SeAH. The Court sustained Commerce’s Final Determination, as amended. The Federal Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. Commerce’s selection for surrogate financial ratios (Bhushan) is supported by substantial evidence; Bhushan, unlike the other available options, produced identical merchandise to SeAH and Bhushan has financial statements that are publicly available and contemporaneous. Substantial evidence supports commerce’s determination that SeAH’s freight forwarder contract included domestic inland insurance separate from transportation costs. Commerce’s allocation methodology for brokerage and handling was not supported by substantial evidence. View "SeAH Steel VINA Corp. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Serta filed a patent infringement action against Casper, citing the 173, 763, and 935 patents. Those patents cover mattresses that include a channel and methods for forming it. These mattresses can have varying areas of firmness by inserting reinforcement of various types into their channels that can be located at regions where additional support is desired. Casper filed three motions for summary judgment directed to non-infringement of Casper’s accused mattresses, accused methods of manufacturing, and redesigned mattresses. While Casper’s summary judgment motions were pending, the parties executed a settlement agreement and advised the district court of the settlement. The district court nevertheless granted Casper’s summary judgment motions of non-infringement. It later denied Serta’s motions to vacate the summary judgment order and to enforce the settlement agreement. The Federal Circuit vacated and remanded with instructions to enforce the settlement agreement. There is no contention that the settlement or the relief sought by Serta is unlawful or contrary to public policy. There is also no dispute that the parties executed the agreement before the district court issued the summary judgment order; Casper has admitted that the agreement was binding. The settlement agreement mooted the case even though it included terms that required future performance. View "Serta Simmons Bedding, LLC v. Casper Sleep Inc." on Justia Law

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SIT sued Google for patent infringement in the Eastern District of Texas. Under 28 U.S.C. 1400(b), “[a]ny civil action for patent infringement may be brought in the judicial district where the defendant resides, or where the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business.” Under Supreme Court precedent, “a domestic corporation ‘resides’ only in its state of incorporation for purposes of the patent venue statute; the Federal Circuit has held that a “regular and established place of business” must be: “a physical place in the district”; “regular and established”; and “the place of the defendant.” Google provides video and advertising services to residents of the Eastern District of Texas through the Internet. Google Global Cache (GGC) servers function as local caches for Google’s data. Google contracts with internet service providers within the district to host Google’s GGC servers. The GGC servers cache only a small portion of content that is popular with nearby users but can serve that content with shorter wait times than Google’s central server infrastructure due to their physical proximity to the ISP’s users. No Google employee installed, performed maintenance on, or physically accessed any of the GGC servers. The district court denied Google’s motion to dismiss. The Federal Circuit ordered that the case be dismissed or transferred. A “regular and established place of business” requires the regular, physical presence of an employee or other agent of the defendant conducting the defendant’s business at the alleged “place of business.” View "In Re: Google LLC" on Justia Law

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Acoustic’s 841 patent relates to communications systems for utility providers to remotely monitor groups of utility meters, e.g., electricity meters. According to Acoustic, the claimed invention was “an improvement upon prior art automated meter reading systems that used expensive and problematic radio frequency (RF) transmitters, or systems that relied on human meter-readers using hand-held or vehicle-mounted short-range wireless devices to obtain meter readings when they were in a customer’s vicinity.” On Network’s petition, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board instituted inter partes review (IPR). Nine days after institution, Network agreed to merge with Itron, an entity undisputedly time-barred under 35 U.S.C. 315(b). Network and Itron completed the merger during the IPR proceeding. The Board later issued a final written decision and found the challenged claim unpatentable. The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting Acoustic’s claim that the inter partes review was time-barred due to Network’s and Itron’s merger-related activities. Acoustic waived its time-bar argument because it failed to present that argument before the Board. Substantial evidence supports the Board’s unpatentability findings based on anticipation. View "Acoustic Technology, Inc. v. Itron Networked Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2014, the Phoenix VA Health Care System where Potter worked was in the midst of a patient care crisis that had resulted in an investigation by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (OIG). Potter alleges she engaged in five whistleblowing activities by making four protected disclosures and by cooperating with OIG. In December 2014, during a reorganization of the Phoenix DVA, Potter’s title was changed, which she claimed amounts to a demotion; a position for which Potter had applied was withdrawn in November 2015; and Potter was assigned to “unclassified duties.” Potter alleges that in early 2017, conditions at the Phoenix DVA forced her “involuntary resignation.” constituting the agency’s fourth and final reprisal. Potter accepted an offer for a Staff Nurse position at the VA Northern California Health Care System in 2017, and filed a whistleblower reprisal complaint at the Office of Special Counsel. A Merit Systems Protection Board administrative judge found that Potter had shown only one prima facie case of whistleblower reprisal but denied corrective action because the government established that the DVA would have taken the same action even if Potter had not made the protected disclosures. The Federal Circuit affirmed as to three alleged reprisals. The court vacated as to the November 2015 failure to hire. View "Potter v. Department of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law

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Acetris obtains its pharmaceutical products from Aurolife, which makes them in a New Jersey facility, using an active pharmaceutical ingredient made in India. Acetris had contracts to supply the VA with several pharmaceutical products, including Entecavir (used to treat hepatitis B). The VA requested that Acetris recertify its compliance with the Trade Agreements Act of 1979 (TAA), which bars the VA from purchasing “products of” certain foreign countries, such as India. Ultimately, the VA requested that Acetris obtain a country-of-origin determination. Customs concluded that the Acetris products were products of India. Acetris agreed to cancel its Entecavir contract. The VA issued a new solicitation seeking proposals for Entecavir, indicating that it would continue to rely on the Customs determination. Acetris filed suit, challenging the VA’s interpretation of the TAA. The VA awarded the Entecavir contract to Golden, consistent with its policy to award contracts to the lowest-price technically acceptable bid. The government moved to dismiss the suit, arguing that Acetris lacked standing because Acetris would not have won the contract regardless of the interpretation of the TAA and that Acetris’ earlier-filed Court of International Trade suits divested the Claims Court of jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1500. The Claims Court denied the government’s motions and rejected the government’s interpretation of the TAA. The Federal Circuit affirmed in part, holding that the suit is justiciable and agreeing with the Claims Court. The court remanded for the entry of a declaratory judgment and injunction. View "Acetris Health, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 1999, while working at the San Juan VA Medical Center, Dr. Sanchez, a urologist, reported to his superiors what he believed to be improper practices. In 2000, Sánchez received a proficiency report prepared by his supervisor, indicating that his performance “ha[d] shown a significant [negative] change since his last evaluation.” Sánchez was reassigned to the Ambulatory Care Service Line, where he believed that he would not perform surgery, care for patients, or supervise other staff members. He concluded that these actions were retaliation for his whistleblowing activities. Sánchez and the VA entered into a settlement agreement under which Sanchez was to be reassigned to the Ponce Outpatient Clinic with a compressed work schedule of 10 hours per day for four days per week, to include three hours of travel per day. The parties adhered to the Agreement for 16 years. In 2017, Sánchez received a letter, informing him that he was required to be at the Ponce clinic from “7:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. from Monday through Friday.” An AJ rejected his petition for enforcement with the Merit Systems Protection Board. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The background of the Agreement supports the conclusion that 16 years was a reasonable duration. As the party claiming a breach, Sánchez had the burden of proof but did not offer evidence that the claimed animosity persisted after that 16-year time period. View "Sanchez v. Department of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law