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

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Ericsson owns patents essential to practicing standards (SEPs) that enable mobile devices from different manufacturers and different networks to communicate with each other using the same communication protocol. Ericsson is a member of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), the organization responsible for developing 2G, 3G, and 4G standards. ETSI’s acceptance of a member’s patent as "SEP" forms a contract between ETSI and its members. SEP owners wield significant power over implementers during licensing negotiations, so the ETSI contract imposes an obligation to license (FRAND obligation). Ericsson and TCL have been negotiating licensing terms for over a decade. There was litigation. The parties agreed to binding court adjudication of terms for a worldwide portfolio license. The district court imposed a prospective FRAND royalty rate for practicing each standard, and a “release payment” computed based on a closely related, retrospective FRAND rate for “TCL’s past unlicensed sales.” The court rejected both parties’ proposed methodologies and employed its own modified version of TCL’s proposed “top-down” approach in combination with comparable license evidence to compute both the prospective and retrospective FRAND rates. The Federal Circuit vacated in part. Ericsson had a Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial on the adjudication of the “release payment” term; the release payment is in substance compensatory relief for TCL’s past patent infringing activity. View "TCL Communication Technology Holdings Ltc. v. Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson" on Justia Law

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Following a 2019 Federal Circuit decision and enactment of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 133 Stat. 966, the petitioners, who served on open sea ships off the Vietnamese shore during the Vietnam War believed that they may be entitled to a presumption of service connection for diseases covered by 38 U.S.C. 1116. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs stayed pending disability compensation claims until January 1, 2020. Petitioners assert that many Blue Water Veterans are dying and filed a petition for expedited review under 38 U.S.C. 502 challenging the Secretary’s authority to stay pending disability compensation claims. The Federal Circuit denied the petition. The court concluded that it had jurisdiction 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(1)(D) because the Secretary’s memorandum amounts to an “interpretation[] of general applicability formulated and adopted by the agency.” The Act unambiguously authorizes the Secretary to stay disability compensation claims described in section 2(c)(3)(B) of the Act “until the date on which the Secretary commences the implementation of [] section 1116A,” 133 Stat. at 968. View "Procopio v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law

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McCord injured his back while serving in the Army and was discharged with a 20% disability rating. Because his rating was below 30% and he served for less than 20 years, McCord received severance pay instead of ongoing military retirement pay and received monthly VA benefits. The Army Board for Correction of Military Records later corrected his record to reflect a 30% disability rating and entitlement to medical retirement pay, rather than severance pay. McCord later challenged the government’s calculation of his entitlement to military retirement back pay and its claimed right to recover the severance pay and requested damages for medical expenses that he incurred because he was not afforded TRICARE coverage before the correction. The Claims Court rejected McCord’s approach to back pay calculation as “double-dipping,” denied relief regarding the recoupment of severance pay “as not ripe,” and held that McCord failed to exhaust administrative procedures for securing TRICARE benefits. The Federal Circuit affirmed except as to the out-of-pocket medical expenses. The court cited 10 U.S.C. 1201, 1203, 1212(d)(a), and 2774, as defining entitlement to retirement pay or severance pay, VA benefits, and the circumstances for recoupment of severance pay. A veteran receiving VA benefits may face a disadvantage if he also secures an award of military retirement pay because he would not be entitled to severance pay but military retirement pay includes TRICARE coverage. View "McCord v. United States" on Justia Law

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Omnium sued Donghee, asserting infringement of eight patents, including the 921 and 812 patents, which generally relate to manufacturing plastic fuel tanks formed by blow molding. The fuel tanks are formed in a way that allows accessory components to be installed inside the fuel tank without cutting holes in the tank wall, which could compromise the structural integrity of the wall. The parties disputed the meaning of the term “parison.” Donghee argued that it should be given its plain and ordinary meaning of “hollow plastic tube exiting the die of an extrusion head.” Omnium argued that the patentee had acted as its own lexicographer and that the patents do not use the term in its conventional, ordinary meaning. The district court reasoned that “the patents specify that the ‘parison’ is cut in two as it leaves the die at the end of the extrusion head” and so “this ‘parison’ cannot be strictly limited to a fully-formed tubular structure existing in its entirety outside the extrusion head/die.” It recognized that “the principal disagreements between the parties [were] identifying the point at which the molten plastic within the extrusion head becomes a ‘parison.’ The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment of noninfringement, upholding the claim construction as supported by undisputed facts. View "Plastic Omnium Advanced Innovation and Research v. Donghee America, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Landowners filed a “rails-to-trails” class action against the United States, claiming that the government, through the National Trails System Act, effected a Fifth Amendment taking of Landowners’ reversionary rights to property underlying railroad easements owned by the BNSF Railway. On remand, the Claims Court rejected the government’s argument that a negotiated settlement had been abandoned; approved that settlement agreement as procedurally and substantively fair; entered a partial final judgment pursuant to Rule 54(b) “in the total amount of $159,636,521.65, consisting of $110,000,000 in principal and $49,636,521.65 in interest,” and deferred determination on the amount of attorney fees and costs to award class counsel under the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970 (URA). The Federal Circuit affirmed, upholding finding that the government failed to meet “its burden of demonstrating that the parties unequivocally intended to abandon the Settlement Agreement.” The court declined to address the government’s argument that the Claims Court erred by not limiting class counsel to the agreed amount of URA fees and costs, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction over the issue. View "Haggart v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 1980, Langkamp, then a toddler, suffered severe burn injuries on U.S. Army property. In a suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, the parties entered into a Settlement Agreement. The government agreed to pay $239,425.45 upfront to cover attorney fees and costs, plus a structured settlement: $350.00 per month, 1985-1996; $3,100.00 per month, guaranteed for 15 years, beginning in 1996, and Lump Sum Payments of $15,000.00 in 1996, $50,000.00 in 2000, $100,000.00 in 2008, 250,000.00 in 2018, and $1,000,000.00 in 2028. The government issued a check for $239,425.45 to the parents and a check for $160,574.55 payable to JMW Settlements, an annuity broker. JMW purchased two single-premium annuity policies from ELNY to fund the monthly and periodic lump-sum payments. Until 2013, ELNY sent Langkamp the specified monthly and periodic lump-sum payments. Following ELNY’s insolvency and court-approved restructuring, Langkamp’s structured settlement payments were reduced to 40 percent of the original amount. The Claims Court rejected Langkamp’s argument that the government had continuing liability for the Settlement Agreement payments. The Federal Circuit reversed. The Settlement Agreement contains no reference to the purchase of an annuity from a third party but unambiguously obligates the government to ensure that all future monthly and periodic lump-sum payments are properly disbursed. The court noted that in 1984 it cost the government approximately $160,000 to obtain a promise from an insurance company to fund the future payments specified in the Settlement Agreement. View "Langkamp v. United States" on Justia Law

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The challenged patents relate to certain improvements to electronic communications systems that lower the peak-to-average power ratio (PAR) of the transmitted signals. Lowering the PAR of a communications system is desirable because it reduces power consumption and the likelihood of transmission errors. The challenged patents specifically address a PAR problem that arises in the transmission of digital data using multicarrier communications systems, such as digital subscriber line (DSL) systems. In inter partes review proceedings, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board invalidated all claims of the two related patents as obvious in view of prior art, 35 U.S.C. 103. The Federal Circuit reversed. The fact findings underlying the Board’s obviousness determinations are not supported by substantial evidence. The Board based its findings on the assertions in Cisco’s petition, which the Board expressly adopted as its own findings and conclusions. No reasonable factfinder could find, based on Cisco’s petition and supporting expert declaration, that a person of ordinary skill would have recognized prior art’s disclosure of phase scrambling as a solution to reduce the PAR of other prior art. View "TQ Delta, LLC v. Cisco Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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Pharma Tech sued LifeScan for infringement of two patents that concern blood glucose monitoring systems for home use by individuals with diabetes. The shared specification of Pharma Tech’s patents states that the claimed inventions improve on prior art blood glucose monitoring systems by “eliminat[ing] several of the critical operator depend[e]nt variables that adversely affect the accuracy and reliability” of these systems. The specification explains that the invention accomplishes this objective by performing multiple Cottrell current measurements and comparing the results. “In a system that is operating correctly, the results should agree within reasonable limits.” The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment of noninfringement. Pharma Tech agreed that the accused products do not literally infringe the claim. Prosecution history estoppel bars the claims for infringement under the doctrine of equivalents; the accused system falls within the claim scope surrendered by the inventors during prosecution of the patent. View "Pharma Tech Solutions, Inc. v. LifeScan, Inc." on Justia Law

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IPR’s 244 patent recognizes two types of wireless networks: a wireless local area network, which allows a user to wirelessly connect a portable electronic device to an access point, e.g., a router, that is in turn connected to a network and a cellular network, in which geographic regions are divided into “cells” that each contain a “base station.” The 244 patent claims a “subscriber unit,” e.g., a mobile device, that can automatically select the best available wireless network and then connect to it. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board found multiple claims obvious based on prior art references. The Federal Circuit remanded as to claim 8, finding insufficient record support for the determination that claim 8 is invalid as obvious. The court concluded that the evidence to which the Board pointed failed—either individually or collectively— to support the conclusion that there would have been a motivation to combine the relevant prior art references. On remand, the Board again found claim 8 unpatentable. The Federal Circuit again remanded. The only additional evidence the Board cited in support of its conclusion on remand was not part of the record before the Board and the decision remains unsupported. View "In re IPR Licensing, Inc." on Justia Law

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GAT’s 243 patent discloses a “method and system for providing an online game, in which ability information of a unit associated with a pilot is enabled to change as ability information of the pilot changes.” In July 2015, GAT filed a complaint accusing Wargaming and its affiliate, Wargaming.net, of infringing the patent. GAT's process server served Wargaming.net’s registered United Kingdom agent in December 2015; the summons was not signed by the clerk of court and did not bear the court’s seal. GAT’s attorney also mailed a copy of the complaint and summons to Wargaming's Cyprus office. In February 2016, Wargaming indicated that it did not believe that service was properly effected on either Wargaming entity but that Wargaming would waive service in exchange for an agreement to have until April to respond to the complaint. No formal waiver was filed. In March 2016, Wargaming appeared at a scheduling conference. In April 2016, Wargaming moved to dismiss. On March 13, 2017, Wargaming filed its petition for inter partes review (IPR), asserting that it was not barred by 35 U.S.C. 315(b)'s one-year limitation from requesting IPR because it had not been served. The Patent Board concluded that neither the UK service nor the Cyprus service triggered the time bar and that several claims would have been obvious over prior art. The Federal Circuit affirmed. GAT did not preserve its specific arguments for why service was proper or that Wargaming’s counsel waived service. The court upheld the Board’s construction of the terms “unit,” “pilot,” and “ability” in making its findings of obviousness. View "Game & Technology Co., Ltd. v. Wargaming Group Ltd." on Justia Law