Justia U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries
Energy Heating, LLC v. Heat On-The-Fly, LLC
The district court found HOTF’s patent, which relates to a “method and apparatus for the continuous preparation of heated water flow for use in hydraulic fracturing” (fracking), unenforceable due to inequitable conduct. The court found by clear and convincing evidence that the patent would not have been issued but for HOTF’s deliberate decision to withhold information from the Patent Office information about substantial on-sale and public uses of the claimed invention before the patent’s critical date, and that it withheld with an intent to deceive. The jury found that HOTF tortiously interfered with Energy’s business when it represented in bad faith that it held a valid patent. The court denied attorneys’ fees under 35 U.S.C. 285. The Federal Circuit remanded on that issue alone.On remand, the district court found the case to be exceptional and awarded attorneys’ fees. The Federal Circuit affirmed, citing findings that “HOTF litigated the case in an unreasonable manner by persisting in its positions,” that “[t]he number of undisclosed prior sales and the amounts HOTF received from those prior sales constitute affirmative egregious conduct” and that HOTF “pursued claims of infringement without any apparent attempt to minimize litigation costs” “despite [its] knowledge that its patent was invalid.” View "Energy Heating, LLC v. Heat On-The-Fly, LLC" on Justia Law
Mobility Workx, LLC v. Unified Patents, LLC
Mobility’s patent, titled “System, Apparatus, and Methods for Proactive Allocation of Wireless Communication Resources,” is “generally directed to the allocation of communication resources in a communications network.” The Patent Trial and Appeal Board determined that five claims of the patent were unpatentable as obvious.Mobility sought a remand under the Supreme Court's 2021 Arthrex decision, challenged the merits of the Board’s decision, and raised for the first time several constitutional challenges, including a challenge to the structure of the Board. Mobility argued that Board members have an interest in instituting AIA proceedings to generate fees to fund the agency and ensure future job stability and that individual administrative patent judges (APJs) have a personal financial interest in instituting AIA proceedings in order to earn better performance reviews and bonuses.Federal Circuit held that Mobility’s constitutional arguments are without merit. The President, not the agency, submits the budget, and Congress sets the USPTO budget and controls whether the USPTO has access to surplus funds. A remand of the “Appointments Clause” challenge is required under the Arthrex decision to allow the Acting Director to review the final written decision of the APJ panel pursuant to newly established USPTO procedures. View "Mobility Workx, LLC v. Unified Patents, LLC" on Justia Law
Traxcell Technologies, LLC v. Sprint Communications Co.
Traxcell sued Sprint and Verizon for infringement of four patents related to self-optimizing wireless networks and to navigation technology. All share a specification and a 2001 priority date. After claim construction and discovery, the district court granted summary judgment for Sprint and Verizon. Summary judgment was based on several grounds. One claim was not infringed because Traxcell had not met the “way” prong of the function-way-result test in asserting an infringing structural equivalent to a means-plus-function limitation nor had Traxcell shown a genuine dispute about either the “location” limitation or the “first computer” and “computer” limitations in other claims. The district court held one claim indefinite for failure to disclose sufficient structure for a means-plus-function limitation. Traxcell could not show that the accused technology determined a wireless device’s location on the network itself, as claimed, rather than on the device.The Federal Circuit affirmed, upholding the district court’s claim construction. Under that construction, Traxcell failed to show a genuine issue of material fact as to infringement and that several of Traxcell’s claims are indefinite. View "Traxcell Technologies, LLC v. Sprint Communications Co." on Justia Law
Philbrook v. McDonough
Philbrook served in the Army, 2000-2004, then was awarded disability compensation for PTSD. In 2011, Philbrook stipulated to a judgment of “guilty except for insanity” in connection with a felony. He was ordered into the custody of the Oregon State Hospital “under the jurisdiction of the Psychiatric Security Review Board . . . for care, custody, and treatment for a maximum period not to exceed 20 years.” Philbrook then applied for total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU).A VA regional office concluded that Philbrook’s PTSD did not entitle him to TDIU because it did not preclude gainful employment. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals denied TDIU “as a matter of law”; 38 U.S.C. 5313(c), precludes the assignment of a TDIU rating for any period “during which the veteran is incarcerated in a Federal, State, local, or other penal institution or correctional facility for conviction of a felony.” The Veterans Court affirmed.The Federal Circuit reversed. Philbrook was not confined in a “penal institution or correctional facility”; he was committed to a mental institution, “a hospital for people with mental or emotional problems.” The term “correctional facility” cannot encompass a hospital that treats civil patients, and a hospital cannot be a correctional facility for some patients and not others. View "Philbrook v. McDonough" on Justia Law
Kannuu Pty Ltd. v. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
In 2012, Samsung contacted Kannuu, an Australian start-up that develops media-related products, inquiring about Kannuu’s remote control search-and-navigation technology. The companies entered into a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to protect confidential business information while engaging in discussions. The NDA explains: [N]othing contained in this Agreement will be construed as granting any rights to the receiving party, by license or otherwise, to any of the Confidential Information disclosed. A forum selection clause identified New York for purposes of choice of laws principles and as the venue for any proceedings. In 2013, the parties ceased communications without reaching an agreement.Six years later, Kannuu sued Samsung, alleging patent infringement and breach of the NDA. Samsung filed petitions for inter partes review, alleging that all claims of the asserted patents are unpatentable as obvious and not novel. Kannuu argued that Samsung violated the NDA’s forum selection clause in filing for such review. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board denied IPR for three patents (on the merits) but instituted review for two asserted patents. The Federal Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction to compel Samsung to seek dismissal of the IPRs. IPR does not relate to the Agreement itself and is not subject to the NDA. View "Kannuu Pty Ltd. v. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd." on Justia Law
Cosmokey Solutions GMBH & Co. v. Duo Security LLC
The Federal Circuit reversed the district court's entry of judgment on the pleadings holding that the asserted claims of CosmoKey's U.S. Patent No. 9,246,903 are ineligible under 35 U.S.C. 101. The district court determined that the claims were directed to abstract ideas and fail to provide an inventive concept.The court concluded that the claims of the '903 patent are patent-eligible under the Alice step two determination for patent eligibility because they recite a specific improvement to a particular computer-implemented authentication technique. In this case, the abstract describes a method of authenticating the identity of a user performing a transaction at a terminal (e.g., a computer), including activating an authentication function on the user's mobile device. The court explained, as the specification itself makes clear, that the claims recite an inventive concept by requiring a specific set of ordered steps that go beyond the abstract idea identified by the district court and improve upon the prior art by providing a simple method that yields higher security. View "Cosmokey Solutions GMBH & Co. v. Duo Security LLC" on Justia Law
Acceleration Bay LLC v. 2K Sports, Inc.
Acceleration Bay appealed the district court's decisions construing certain claim terms in Acceleration Bay's four asserted patents, U.S. Patent Nos. 6,701,344, 6,714,966, 6,910,069, and 6,920,497, and granting 2K Sports, Rockstar Games, and Take-Two Interactive Software's motion for summary judgment of non-infringement. In this case, the patents disclose a networking technology that allegedly improves upon pre-existing communication techniques because it is "suitable for the simultaneous sharing of information among a large number of the processes that are widely distributed."The Federal Circuit concluded that Acceleration Bay's appeal is moot with respect to the '344 and '966 patents, and thus dismissed the appeal in part for lack of jurisdiction. The court explained that Acceleration Bay has forfeited any challenge to the district court's grant of summary judgment of non-infringement on the basis that the accused products fail to satisfy the "mregular" limitation of the '344 and '966 patents' asserted claims.The court affirmed the district court's claim construction on the '069 patent and its grant of summary judgment of non-infringement as to the '069 and '497 patents. Even considering Acceleration Bay's arguments regarding the construction of the term "fully connected portal computer," the court concluded that the district court's grant of summary judgment would remain intact because the district court interpreted a separate term in the '069 patent's asserted claims to include the "m-regular" limitation. Finally, in regard to the '497 patent, the court rejected Accleration Bay's contention that it has asserted a viable "final assembler" theory of direct infringement based on Centrak, Inc. v. Sonitor Technologies, Inc., 915 F.3d 1360 (Fed. Cir. 2019). View "Acceleration Bay LLC v. 2K Sports, Inc." on Justia Law
In Re: SurgiSil, LLP
The Federal Circuit reversed the Patent Trial and Appeal Board's decision affirming an examiner's rejection of SurgiSil's design patent application, No. 29/491,550, concluding that the Board erred in holding that the claimed design is not limited to the particular article of manufacture identified in the claim. In this case, the '550 application claims an ornamental design for a lip implant. The examiner rejected the sole claim of the '550 application as anticipated by a Dick Blick catalog, which discloses an art tool called a stump.The court explained that the claim is limited to lip implants and does not cover other articles of manufacture. In this case, there is no dispute that Blick discloses an art tool rather than a lip implant and the Board's anticipation finding rests on an erroneous interpretation of the claim's scope. The court considered the cases cited by the Director, and concluded that they do not support the Director's position. View "In Re: SurgiSil, LLP" on Justia Law
Hyundai Electric & Energy Systems Co., Ltd. v. United States
The Federal Circuit affirmed the U.S. Court of International Trade's decision sustaining the U.S. Department of Commerce's final results in the fifth administrative review of the antidumping duty order on large power transformers from the Republic of Korea. This case involves two categories of information that Commerce requested from Hyundai, namely product-specific cost information and cost-reconciliation information.The court held that Commerce's determinations to rely on facts otherwise available, to cancel verification, and to draw an adverse inference in selecting from among the facts otherwise available are supported by substantial evidence and otherwise not contrary to law. In this case, Hyundai's repeated disclosure of partial, aggregate, or sample information rather than complete and itemized information establishes that Commerce's decision to rely on facts otherwise available was reasonable and supported by substantial evidence. Furthermore, Commerce articulated sound reasons for seeking more detailed information regarding Hyundai's cost-shifting in this administrative review than in prior reviews, including its observation that cost shifting had a larger impact on this administrative review. The court explained that such concerns support the reasonableness of Commerce's requests for a greater amount of detail in this administrative review. Finally, to the extent that the shortcomings of Hyundai's responses are attributable to its record keeping, that alone does not avoid an adverse inference. Here, Commerce clearly and repeatedly requested the information and identified the defects in Hyundai’s responses, and the information that was ultimately missing from the record was foundational to Commerce's ability to perform the antidumping duty calculations in a sound manner. The court considered Hyundai's remaining arguments and found them unpersuasive. View "Hyundai Electric & Energy Systems Co., Ltd. v. United States" on Justia Law
McCutchen v. United States
Plaintiffs filed suit in Claims Court under the Tucker Act, alleging that the DOJ's Final Rule regarding bump-stock-type devices effected a taking for public use of their bump-stock-type devices by requiring the devices' destruction or surrender to the ATF. The Final Rule was promulgated after the massacre in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017, where a lone shooter, using rifles with attached bump-stock-type devices, fired several hundred rounds of ammunition in a short period of time into a crowd, killing and wounding numerous people. Plaintiffs seek just compensation under the Fifth Amendment's Takings Clause. The Claims Court granted the government's motion to dismiss under Court of Federal Claims Rule 12(b)(6) and dismissed the takings claim.The Federal Circuit affirmed on a threshold ground different from, though related to, the Claims Court's grounds. The court explained that the takings claim depends on plaintiffs having an established property right in continued possession or transferability even against a valid agency implementation of the preexisting statutory bar on possession or transfer. However, plaintiffs' title, which the court assumed is otherwise valid under state law, was always inherently limited by 18 U.S.C. 922(o), a very specific statutory prohibition on possession and transfer of certain devices defined in terms of physical operation, together with a congressional authorization of a (here undisputedly) valid agency interpretation of that prohibition. The court concluded that that title-inheriting limit means that plaintiffs lacked an established property right in continued possession or transferability. Consequently, plaintiffs' takings claim fails. View "McCutchen v. United States" on Justia Law