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

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The patents relate to software-based architecture for supporting cooperative task completion by flexible, dynamic configurations of autonomous electronic agents. Both patents list Martin and Cheyer as inventors. Google petitioned for inter partes review of various claims, relying primarily on an academic paper entitled “Building Distributed Software Systems with the Open Agent Architecture” to argue that the claims would have been obvious. Google contended that the paper was prior art as work “by others” because it described the work of an inventive entity (Martin, Cheyer, and Moran) differently from the inventive entity of the challenged patents. The Board concluded that Google had not provided sufficient support to explain how Moran’s contribution established him as an inventive entity.The Federal Circuit vacated. The Board failed to resolve fundamental testimonial conflicts in concluding that the relied-upon reference was not prior art. The issue was not the lack of corroboration for Moran’s testimony, but rather whether his testimony should be credited over Cheyer and Martin’s conflicting testimony during the IPR proceedings. View "Google, LLC v. IPA Technologies Inc." on Justia Law

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The Federal Employees’ Retirement System Act provides early retirement benefits to law enforcement officers (LEOs), 5 U.S.C. 8412(d) after obtaining sufficient "LEO credit," which may be awarded for time served in either a primary law enforcement position or secondary (supervisory or administrative) law enforcement position if an employee is “transferred directly” to a secondary position after serving in a primary position. Klipp worked for the TSA, 1991-2009. In a parallel case, Klipp was determined to be entitled to LEO credit for 1991–98, but not for 1998–2008; his 2004–2009 position was not eligible for LEO credit, although it was a secondary position, because there was a break in service between his primary position and his secondary position.Klipp then sought primary LEO credit for his post-2004 position. In 2004, TSA hired Klipp as a Supervisory Criminal Investigator-Assistant Federal Security Director-Law Enforcement (AFSD-LE) for the New Orleans International Airport. The government never hired subordinate officers or investigators for him to supervise. In 2005, Klipp’s position title changed to “nonsupervisory” criminal investigator. Klipp argued that LEO credit can be awarded if the applicant’s actual duties were primarily LEO duties, even if the position description denotes a secondary position. The Merit Systems Protection Board denied Klipp's request for retroactive LEO retirement coverage for 2005-2009. The Federal Circuit vacated. The Board did not properly analyze whether 50 percent or more of Klipp’s actual duties were LEO duties under circuit precedent. View "Klipp v. Department of Homeland Security" on Justia Law

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Groves served in the Army on active duty, 1970-1971, including service in Vietnam. In 1990, a VA regional office awarded Groves benefits for PTSD, shell fragment wounds, and a nerve injury. In 1998, Groves sought education benefits through the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VRE) program. Groves never attended the initial VRE evaluation—due at least in part to the isolated nature of his town and his asserted inability to travel—notwithstanding the VA counseling officer’s attempts to accommodate Groves over a period of years. During the ensuing proceedings, Groves twice sent the VA letters in which he stated that he “enjoin[ed]” further action on the claims.“The Board of Appeals ultimately denied Groves entitlement to VRE benefits, finding that his letters did “not constitute[] withdrawal[s] of the appeal, such that there [was] no basis for the Board to not proceed.” The Veterans Court affirmed, finding that the Board lacked authority to adjudicate Groves’s appeal under “Hamilton,” which required an automatic stay when requested by a veteran but that any error was harmless. The Federal Circuit vacated. The Veterans Court legally erred in finding that the Board was compelled to grant an automatic indefinite stay of proceedings; it should have determined whether Groves had established good cause for a stay and, if so, the appropriate duration and conditions of the stay. View "Groves v. McDonough" on Justia Law

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Bennett sued Atlanta Gas, a Georgia distributor of natural gas, for infringement of Bennett's patent, directed to an anti-icing device for a gas pressure regulator. Atlanta Gas was served with the complaint on July 18, 2012. That litigation was dismissed without prejudice for lack of personal jurisdiction. On July 18, 2013, Atlanta Gas filed an inter partes review (IPR) petition concerning the patent.The Patent Trial and Appeal Board rejected Bennett’s argument that Atlanta Gas was time-barred from petitioning for IPR under 35 U.S.C. 315(b) and determined that the challenged claims were unpatentable over the prior art. The Federal Circuit held that Atlanta Gas should have been barred, vacated the unpatentability determination, and remanded with directions to dismiss the IPR and to further consider a sanctions order. Before the Board acted, the Supreme Court held that time-bar determinations were unreviewable, "Thryv," (2020). On remand, the Federal Circuit affirmed the unpatentability determination on the merits and again remanded for the Board to reconsider and finalize its sanctions order. The Board then terminated the proceeding due in part to reconsideration of its decision on the time bar. Atlanta Gas appealed.The Federal Circuit dismissed, holding that it lacked jurisdiction to review the Board’s decision to vacate its institution decision, a decision made based in part on the Board's evaluation of the time bar and changed Patent and Trademark Office policy. View "Atlanta Gas Light Co. v. Bennett Regulator Guards, Inc" on Justia Law

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The 1938 Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act prioritized purchasing products from suppliers that employed blind individuals; 41 U.S.C. 8501–06, establishes a procurement system in which the government procures certain commodities and services from nonprofit agencies that employ the blind or otherwise severely disabled. The “AbilityOne Program” regulations govern the procurement system. 41 C.F.R. 51 and reiterate the Program's mandatory nature. The DLA, within the Defense Department, issued a Solicitation that contemplated awards for a Rifleman Set with Tactical Assault Panel (TAP) and Advanced TAP (ATAP). Before an ATAP award was made, SEKRI, a nonprofit agency qualified as a mandatory source of ATAP under the AbilityOne Program, sought an injunction prohibiting the federal government from procuring ATAP from any other source.The Claims Court dismissed for lack of standing, reasoning that SEKRI cannot claim to be a prospective bidder because the solicitation period had ended and the only action SEKRI took before filing its complaint was contacting DLA, through a third party, to inform DLA that SEKRI was a mandatory ATAP source. SEKRI did not submit a bid before the deadline despite DLA’s invitation. The Federal Circuit reversed. SEKRI qualifies as a prospective bidder for standing purposes under the Tucker Act. Given DLA’s awareness during the bidding process that SEKRI is the mandatory ATAP source, SEKRI has not waived its right to bring its bid protest action under the “Blue & Gold” standard. View "SEKRI, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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On active Army duty in the 1970s, Kennedy fell from a lawnmower and injured his knee. Although no disability was noted at his discharge, Kennedy received service connection for his knee injury in 2000. He later received service connection for depression secondary to his knee injury. In 2005, Kennedy died; his death certificate listed “melanoma, metastatic” as the immediate cause of death and listed “other significant conditions contributing to death,” including diabetes, hypertension, and “depression disorder.” Mrs. Kennedy three times unsuccessfully sought Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), 38 C.F.R. 3.114. The VA found no evidence that Kennedy’s death was related to military service.In 2013, VA “Fast Letter 13-04, “Simplified Processing of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) Claims,” instructed personnel to grant “service connection for the cause of death when the death certificate shows that the service-connected disability is [a] . . . contributory cause of death.” In 2015, the VA granted Mrs. Kennedy DIC, effective July, 2015. The Board of Appeals denied her appeal of the effective date, explaining that Fast Letter 13-04 was a “change[] to VA procedural manuals and guidance provisions,” not a liberalizing law or liberalizing VA issue. The Veterans Court affirmed, reasoning that Fast Letter 13-04 does not constitute a VA issue approved by the Secretary because it does not bind the Agency. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Kennedy forfeited her argument that the Veterans Court erred in its interpretation of “VA issue.” View "Kennedy v. McDonough" on Justia Law

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Sound View alleged that Hulu infringed claim 16 of its patent, titled “Method for Streaming Multimedia Information over Public Networks” by its use of (third party) edge servers, which sit between a central Hulu content server and the video-playing devices of customers. The district court construed the patent’s “downloading/retrieving limitation” not to cover a process in which downloading occurs from one buffer in a helper server and the (concurrent) retrieving places what is retrieved in another buffer in that server. The court construed the limitation to require that the same buffer in the helper server host both the portion sent to the client and a remaining portion retrieved concurrently from the content server or other helper server. Hulu argued that, in the edge servers of its content delivery networks, no single buffer hosts both the video portion downloaded to the client and the retrieved additional portion. Sound View argued that there remained a factual dispute about whether “caches” in the edge servers met the concurrency limitation as construed.The district court held that a “cache” could not be the “buffer” that its construction of the downloading/retrieving limitation required. The Federal Circuit vacated the summary judgment of non-infringement, affirming the construction of the downloading/retrieving limitation but rejecting the determination that “buffer” cannot cover “a cache.” View "Sound View Innovations, LLC v. Hulu, LLC" on Justia Law

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Gasoline producers blend butane into gasoline before selling it because butane makes gasoline more volatile, helping vehicles start more readily in colder temperatures, and butane is cheaper than gasoline. Sunoco’s patented technology seeks to maximize butane content while complying with EPA regulations concerning volatility, which vary depending on season and location. Sunoco’s patents “describe a system and method for blending butane with the gasoline at a point close to the end of the distribution process: immediately before being distributed to the tanker trucks that take gasoline to consumer gas stations.” Producers can “blend the maximum allowable butane into each batch based on where the truck is going and what month it is.” Sunoco successfully sued Venture, alleging infringement.The Federal Circuit reversed a holding that the experimental-use doctrine insulated a subset of asserted patent claims from the on-sale bar, vacated the infringement judgment as to those claims, and remanded for the district court to analyze the second prong of the on-sale bar. The court also vacated the infringement judgment with respect to patent claims that it affirmed are invalid in a separate appeal. The court adopted the district court’s claim constructions and affirmed its infringement judgment regarding two patent claims; vacated a treble-damages award; and affirmed the denial of lost-profits damages and $2 million reasonable royalty. View "Sunoco Partners Marketing & Terminals L.P. v. U.S. Venture, Inc." on Justia Law

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Intuitive’s 447 patent relates to robotic surgery systems and describes an improvement over Intuitive’s earlier robotic surgery systems, which allow surgeons to remotely manipulate surgical tools using a controller. The invention embodied by the patent attempts to address difficulties in swapping tools via a robotic system with a servo-pulley mechanism, which allows clinicians to more quickly swap out surgical instruments and thereby reduce surgery time, improve safety, and increase the reliability of the system. Following inter partes review of all five claims of the patent, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board determined that Auris failed to demonstrate that the claims were unpatentable as obvious. Although the Board agreed with Auris that its combination of two references disclosed every limitation of the challenged claims, the Board concluded that a skilled artisan would not have been motivated to combine those references. The Federal Circuit vacated. The Board impermissibly rested its motivation-to-combine finding on evidence of general skepticism about the field of invention. The Board recited Auris’s evidence that combining prior art would reduce the number of assistants but also Intuitive’s evidence that such a combination would come at the expense of precision required for surgery. View "Auris Health, Inc. v. Intuitive Surgical Operations, Inc." on Justia Law

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In parallel antidumping and countervailing duty investigations of quartz surface products from China, the Department of Commerce amended the scope of its investigations to prevent producers and exporters in China from evading its orders by using glass in place of quartz. Bruskin challenged Commerce’s authority to modify the scope of the investigation and to do so without a hearing. Bruskin also challenged the factual findings that led Commerce to modify the scope of its investigations.The Trade Court and Federal Circuit affirmed. Commerce has the discretion to set the scope of its investigations. Bruskin’s hearing request was untimely, and substantial evidence supports Commerce’s factual findings. View "M S International, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law