Justia U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries
Mouton-Miller v. Merit Systems Protection Board
Mouton-Miller worked for the Postal Service as an Audit Manager. Her position was classified as GG-0511-14, step 8, with a salary of $128,081. In 2017, Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General hired Mouton-Miller for the position of Supervisory Auditor, classified as GS-0511-14, step 8, with an initial pay rate of $142,367. There was no break between her Postal Service employment and her Homeland Security employment. Mouton-Miller’s Homeland Security position was subject to a one-year supervisory probationary period before becoming final. In March 2018, less than one year after beginning her position, Mouton-Miller received notice that she had “performed unsatisfactorily.” She was reassigned to the nonsupervisory position of Communications Analyst, GS-0301-14, step 7, with a $129,937 salary.The Merit Systems Protection Board dismissed Mouton-Miller’s appeal, determining that it lacked jurisdiction because the challenged agency action was excluded from the Board’s jurisdiction by 5 U.S.C. 7512(C). The Federal Circuit affirmed. For Mouton-Miller’s demotion to be an agency action subject to Board review, she must have completed the probationary period referred to in 5 U.S.C. 3312(a)(2). Mouton-Miller spent less than one year in her supervisory position at Homeland Security and her previous role at the Postal Service was in the excepted service; she has not satisfied the required supervisory probationary period. View "Mouton-Miller v. Merit Systems Protection Board" on Justia Law
Veterans4You, Inc. v. United States
The VA sought to procure cable gun locks with information about its suicide prevention line imprinted on the lock body, on a label attached to the cable, and an accompanying wallet card. VA submitted a requisition form to the Government Publishing Office (GPO), which issued an invitation for bids, with unrestricted competition. In a bid protest, the Government Accountability Office found that the Veterans Benefits Act (VBA), 38 U.S.C. 8127(i), applied. VA submitted a revised requisition. VA maintains a database of all verified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs). The GPO’s contracting officer concluded that the GPO was obligated to employ unrestricted competitive bidding without a Rule of Two analysis. The Rule of Two requires that when two or more verified and capable SDVOSBs are identified, the acquisition must be set-aside for SDVOSBs, provided the contracting officer has a reasonable expectation that two or more verified SDVSOBs will submit offers and that the award can be made at a reasonable price. The contracting officer stated that the GPO would “leverage the VA database" to ensure that verified firms received an opportunity to bid.The Claims Court dismissed a pre-award bid protest, reasoning that the solicitation fell within the printing mandate, 44 U.S.C. 501, which requires that governmental "printing, binding, and blank-book work” be done at the GPO; that the VA adequately explained its decision to employ the GPO; and that the VA had met its obligation to secure GPO compliance “to the maximum extent feasible” with the Rule of Two. The Federal Circuit reversed. The printing mandate applies only to the production of written or graphic published materials; the solicitation at issue does not involve “printing.” View "Veterans4You, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law
James-Cornelius v. Secretary of Health and Human Services
James-Cornelius sought compensation under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, alleging that her 17-year-old son, E.J., had suffered dysautonomia, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), and other symptoms as a result of receiving three shots of the HPV vaccine, Gardasil®. While there are no records of medical visits between his first and second vaccinations, the records document his medical visits, symptoms, and diagnoses after his third vaccination. The petition identified medical articles hypothesizing that HPV vaccines can cause dysautonomia and POTS and alleged that the increasing severity of his symptoms is “evidence of re-challenge” and that the pattern of worsening reactions is “strongly probative of a causal relationship” between the vaccine and E.J.’s symptoms, some of which were listed as potential Gardasil® side effects.James-Cornelius unsuccessfully attempted to obtain medical records relating to urgent care visits that she believed occurred before E.J.’s second vaccination. She eventually dismissed her petition, explaining that “she [would] likely be unable to prove" entitlement to compensation. James-Cornelius sought $17,111.12 in attorneys’ fees and costs under 42 U.S.C. 300aa-15(e)(1), asserting that she had filed her petition in good faith and with a reasonable basis. . The Federal Circuit vacated the denial of the petition. The Special Master failed to consider relevant objective evidence. E.J.’s medical records support for James-Cornelius’s reasonable basis claim even without an express medical opinion on causation. The Special Master erroneously concluded that petitioners’ affidavits are categorically “not ‘objective" for evaluating reasonable basis. View "James-Cornelius v. Secretary of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law
QuikTrip West, Inc. v. Weigel Stores, Inc.
QuikTrip and Weigel operate gasoline-convenience stores. QuikTrip has sold food and beverages in its stores under the registered mark QT KITCHENS since 2011. In 2014, Weigel began using the stylized mark W KITCHENS. QuikTrip requested that Weigel stop using the mark on the basis that it was confusingly similar to QuikTrip’s QT KITCHENS mark. Weigel modified its mark by changing the plural “KITCHENS” to the singular “KITCHEN,” altering the font, and adding the words “WEIGEL’S” and “NOW OPEN.” QuikTrip objected to Weigel’s continued use of the word “KITCHEN” in its mark. In 2017, Weigel applied to register the mark, W WEIGEL’S KITCHEN NOW OPEN.QuikTrip filed an opposition, 15 U.S.C. 1052(d). The Patent and Trademark Office Board evaluated the likelihood of confusion between the marks, referencing the “DuPont” factors, and found that the parties’ identical-in-part goods and related services, overlapping trade channels, overlapping classes of customers, and similar conditions of purchase pointed to a likelihood of confusion but that the dissimilarity of the marks weighed against a likelihood of confusion. It determined that customers would not focus on the word “KITCHEN” for source indication and that Weigel did not act in bad faith in adopting the mark. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of QuikTrip’s opposition. The finding that the marks, in their entireties, differ in appearance, sound, connotation, and commercial impression is supported by substantial evidence. View "QuikTrip West, Inc. v. Weigel Stores, Inc." on Justia Law
ABS Global, Inc. v. Cytonome/ST, LLC.
In separate district court proceedings, several plaintiffs sued ABS and others for infringement of claims of six patents, including Cytonome’s 161 patent. Four months later, ABS sought inter partes review (IPR) of the 161 patent. The Patent Board invalidated certain claims of that patent while finding that ABS had failed to demonstrate that the remaining claims were unpatentable. Two weeks after the Board’s final IPR decision, the district court granted ABS partial summary judgment, concluding that ABS’s accused products did not infringe any of the 161 claims. Two months after that summary judgment decision, ABS appealed the IPR decision. The district court held a trial covering the patents remaining in the infringement case in September 2019. ABS filed its opening brief challenging the IPR decision in the Federal Circuit in November 2019. Cytonome “elected not to pursue an appeal of the district court’s finding of non-infringement,” then argued that, because it disavowed its ability to challenge that judgment, ABS lacked the requisite injury-in-fact required for Article III standing to appeal the IPR decision. Four months later, the district court entered a final judgment of noninfringement as to the patent claims. The district court has not yet ruled on ABS’s post-trial motions. The Federal Circuit then dismissed ABS’s appeal of the IPR decision as moot. Cytonome cannot reasonably be expected to assert the patent against ABS in the future. View "ABS Global, Inc. v. Cytonome/ST, LLC." on Justia Law
SIMO Holdings Inc. v. Hong Kong uCloudlink Network Technology, Ltd.
SIMO’s patent deals with roaming charges on cellular networks and describes apparatuses and methods that allow individuals to reduce roaming charges on cellular networks when traveling outside their home territory. SIMO sued uCloudlink)for infringement, alleging that four uCloudlink products came within claim 8 of the patent. The district court granted SIMO summary judgment, concluding that claim 8 does not require a “non-local calls database.” and entered a final judgment of $8,230,654 for SIMO.The Federal Circuit reversed, rejecting the district court’s claim construction and holding that claim 8 requires two or more nonlocal calls databases. A “plurality of memory, processors, programs, communication circuitry, authentication data stored on a subscribed identify module (SIM) card and/or in memory and non-local calls database” requires “a plurality of” each component in the list, including “non-local calls database.” In responding to uCloudlink’s summary-judgment motion, SIMO did not identify a triable issue on the factual question of whether, as uCloudlink asserted, the accused products lack a nonlocal calls database; uCloudlink is entitled to summary judgment of noninfringement. View "SIMO Holdings Inc. v. Hong Kong uCloudlink Network Technology, Ltd." on Justia Law
Simio, LLC v. FlexSim Software Products, Inc.
Simio’s patent, entitled “System and Method for Creating Intelligent Simulation Objects Using Graphical Process Descriptions,” describes different types of simulations, including those that are event-oriented, process-oriented, and object-oriented. In Simio’s infringement suit, the district court held that certain claims were ineligible for patenting under 35 U.S.C. 101. The Federal Circuit affirmed, applying the two-step “Alice” analysis. The claims are closely aligned to the decades-old computer programming practice of substituting text-based coding with graphical processing; the focus of the claimed advance remains the abstract idea. Considering the claim elements both individually and as an ordered combination, FlexSim “met its burden of showing no inventive concept or alteration of computer functionality sufficient to transform the system into a patent-eligible application.” View "Simio, LLC v. FlexSim Software Products, Inc." on Justia Law
General Electric Co. v. Raytheon Technologies Corp.
Raytheon and GE compete in the market to supply propulsion engines to the commercial aviation industry. Raytheon’s patent, entitled “Gas Turbine Engine with Low Stage Count Low-Pressure Turbine,” claims a two-stage high-pressure turbine engine for commercial airplanes. The patent issued in 2014. In 2016, GE petitioned the Patent Trial and Appeal Board for inter partes review, asserting that certain claims were unpatentable as obvious based on the combination of two prior art references. The Board found five claims nonobvious. GE filed an unsuccessful request for rehearing challenging the Board’s application of the legal standard for both teaching away and motivation to combine. Raytheon moved to dismiss GE’s appeal for lack of standing.The Federal Circuit vacated. Having alleged sufficient facts to establish that it is engaging in an activity that creates a substantial risk of future infringement, GE has standing to bring its appeal. The Board lacked substantial evidence for its conclusions that prior art teaches away from using a two-stage high-pressure turbine and that GE did not establish a motivation to combine prior art. View "General Electric Co. v. Raytheon Technologies Corp." on Justia Law
BGT Holdings LLC v. United States
BGT contracted with the Navy to construct and deliver a generator. The Navy agreed to supply but failed to deliver an exhaust collector and engine mounts (government-furnished equipment "GFE"). Consistent with Federal Acquisitions Regulations (FAR), the contract provides that the Navy “shall consider” an equitable adjustment if it does not deliver the GFE; gives the Navy the right to modify its GFE commitments; and provides that the Navy “shall consider” an equitable adjustment if it modifies those GFE commitments. It requires that equitable adjustments be made according to 48 C.F.R. 52.243-1. The contract also incorporates a clause from outside FAR, providing that no statement or conduct of government personnel shall constitute a change and that the contractor shall not comply with any order, direction, or request of government personnel unless it is issued in writing and signed by the Contracting Officer. The Navy accepted the completed generator but rejected BGT’s request for an equitable adjustment.The Claims Court dismissed BGT’s subsequent lawsuit, finding that BGT had contractually waived its claims of constructive change through ratification, official change by waiver, and breach for failure to award an equitable adjustment and insufficiently alleged a breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the good faith and fair dealing claim but vacated the dismissal of the remaining claims. Even assuming that the contracting officer is not chargeable with having ordered the withdrawal of the GFE, there is an alternate pathway to relief. If relief under the standard FAR provisions were not available, the government could avoid liability for reneging on its GFE commitments in any case simply by withdrawing GFE without written notice from the contracting officer. View "BGT Holdings LLC v. United States" on Justia Law
Posted in: Government Contracts
Boeing Co. v. Secretary of the Air Force
Boeing entered into contracts with the Air Force that require Boeing to deliver technical data with “unlimited rights,” meaning that the government has the right to “use, modify, reproduce, perform, display, release, or disclose [the] technical data in whole or in part, in any manner, and for any purpose whatsoever, and to have or authorize others to do so.” Notwithstanding the government’s unlimited rights, Boeing retains ownership of any technical data it delivers under the contracts.Boeing marked each submission to the Air Force with a legend that purports to describe Boeing’s rights in the data with respect to third parties. The government rejected Boeing’s technical data, finding that Boeing’s legend is a nonconforming marking because it is not in the format authorized by the contracts under the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement, Subsection 7013(f). Boeing argued that Subsection 7013(f) is inapplicable to legends that only restrict the rights of third parties. The Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals agreed with the government.The Federal Circuit vacated. Subsection 7013(f) applies only in situations when a contractor seeks to assert restrictions on the government’s rights. The court remanded for resolution of an unresolved factual dispute remains between the parties regarding whether Boeing’s proprietary legend, in fact, restricts the government’s rights. View "Boeing Co. v. Secretary of the Air Force" on Justia Law