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

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Between 2010 and 2014, the United States Coast Guard convened Active Duty Enlisted Career Retention Screening Panels (CRSPs) to select enlisted service members for involuntary retirement. This process was carried out without following the procedures and standards of the then-applicable 14 U.S.C. § 357(a)–(h), which addressed involuntary retirement of certain Coast Guard service members with specified seniority. Several former Coast Guard service members, after being involuntarily retired through the CRSP process, brought a case against the United States in the Court of Federal Claims under the Tucker Act, asserting that their retirements were contrary to the law as the Coast Guard had not followed § 357(a)–(h). The government responded by invoking § 357(j), which stated that § 357(a)–(h) did not apply to a “reduction in force.” The issue of the applicability of that exception to the CRSPs was the primary topic of the appeal.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the Claims Court's decision that the involuntary retirements were unlawful because the CRSPs were not part of a “reduction in force.” The court concluded that a “reduction in force” as used in § 357(j) did not include actions to separate current occupants from their positions with the intent to refill those positions. The court rejected the government’s arguments for a different conclusion. Therefore, the court affirmed the Claims Court’s partial final judgment. View "TIPPINS v. US " on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reviewed a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (Veterans Court) that granted a petition for a writ of mandamus permitting the Board of Veterans' Appeals (Board) to hear appeals of adverse decisions rendered under the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (Caregiver Program). The claimants were Jeremy Beaudette, a Marine Corps veteran who was rated 100% disabled due to multiple concussions that resulted in traumatic brain injury and legal blindness, and his wife Maya Beaudette. They applied for benefits under the Caregiver Program in March 2013 and were found eligible. However, in February 2018, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) notified them that they were no longer eligible for Caregiver Program benefits. They appealed this decision through the VA Clinical Appeals process, but their appeals were denied. The Beaudettes then filed a petition for a writ of mandamus with the Veterans Court to permit Board review of adverse Caregiver Program decisions. In April 2021, a majority of a three-judge panel granted the Beaudettes' petition and certified the request for a class.The Veterans Court held that Congress mandated Board review of all Caregiver Program decisions, disagreeing with the VA's position that the phrase "medical determination" in § 1720G(c)(1) is a reference to a longstanding VA rule excluding medical determinations from Board review. The VA appealed this decision to the Federal Circuit. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Veterans Court's decision, holding that § 1720G(c)(1) of the Caregiver Act only bars judicial review of Caregiver Program decisions on the furnishing of assistance or support. The court concluded that the Beaudettes and other similarly situated veterans and caregivers have an indisputable right to judicial review of Caregiver Program decisions that do not affect the furnishing of support or assistance. View "BEAUDETTE v. MCDONOUGH " on Justia Law

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In this case, Freshub, Ltd., and Freshub, Inc. (collectively, Freshub) filed a lawsuit against Amazon.com, Inc., and its subsidiaries (collectively, Amazon) in the Western District of Texas, alleging that Amazon infringed on its patents related to voice-processing technology. Amazon denied the infringement and asserted that the patent should be deemed unenforceable due to alleged inequitable conduct committed by Freshub's parent company, Ikan Holdings LLC. The jury found that Amazon did not infringe the asserted claims of Freshub's patents. Freshub appealed the verdict, and Amazon cross-appealed the court's finding that it failed to prove the asserted inequitable conduct.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld the district court's decisions. The court held that substantial evidence supported the jury's finding that Amazon did not infringe the asserted claims of Freshub’s patents. The court also found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Freshub's motion for a new trial based on alleged prejudicial statements made by Amazon at trial. Furthermore, the court agreed with the district court's determination that Amazon failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that Ikan’s counsel made a false statement to the United States Patent and Trademark Office with the specific intent to deceive, thereby rejecting Amazon’s inequitable conduct defense. View "FRESHUB, INC. v. AMAZON.COM, INC. " on Justia Law

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In this case, the parents of W.J., a young man with a chromosomal abnormality and autism, brought a case under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 against the Secretary of Health and Human Services, claiming that the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccine administered to their son had caused or significantly aggravated his health issues. They filed their petition more than 15 years after the vaccine was administered, well beyond the Act's three-year statute of limitations. The parents argued that the statute of limitations should be equitably tolled due to their son's mental incapacitation, his minority status, and the government's alleged fraudulent concealment of a connection between the vaccine and autism.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the decision of the United States Court of Federal Claims, which had denied the parents' petition for review and confirmed a special master’s decision to dismiss the case as untimely. The court concluded that the mental incapacitation of the son did not qualify as an "extraordinary circumstance" warranting equitable tolling because the parents, as his legal guardians, had failed to demonstrate that they were unable to file a claim on his behalf. The court also rejected the arguments for minority tolling and fraudulent concealment, finding no basis for these in the Vaccine Act or its legislative history. The court further held that the special master had not erred in raising the issue of the statute of limitations, nor in dismissing the claim for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. View "W. J. v. Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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Promptu Systems Corp. sued Comcast Corp. alleging that Comcast infringed on its U.S. Patent Nos. 7,047,196 and 7,260,538. The patents cover a method of using speech recognition services in combination with cable television or video delivery. The case was litigated in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The district court adopted claim constructions that were mostly in line with Comcast's proposals. As a result, Promptu and Comcast agreed to dismiss Promptu's patent-infringement claim and state-law claims with prejudice. Promptu also agreed to a final judgment of no infringement by Comcast of the ’196 and ’538 patents, based on the claim constructions adopted by the district court.Promptu appealed the judgment, challenging several of the underlying claim constructions. The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that the district court incorrectly construed certain claim terms and therefore vacated the judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court held that the district court's constructions of the terms "back channel," "multiplicity of received identified speech channels," "speech recognition system coupled to a wireline node," and "centralized processing station" were not accurate. The court provided detailed analysis and reasoning for these conclusions. The court did not rule on the merits of the infringement claims, but instead remanded the case for further proceedings based on the corrected claim constructions. View "PROMPTU SYSTEMS CORPORATION v. COMCAST CORPORATION " on Justia Law

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The plaintiff, Great Northern Properties, L.P. ("GNP"), filed a lawsuit against the United States, alleging a Fifth Amendment taking of its coal leases on the Otter Creek property in Montana. GNP claimed that the federal government, through the Montana state regulatory authority, denied the necessary permits for coal mining. The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the decision of the Court of Federal Claims, which dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court held that GNP could not establish that Montana's actions were coerced by the federal government or that Montana acted as an agent of the federal government. The court also noted that the federal government did not dictate the outcome in individual permitting cases and that state law governed the permitting process. Therefore, the federal government was not responsible for the permit denial, as Montana was not coerced to enact its own regulatory program following the passage of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. Furthermore, the court rejected GNP's claim that the existence of federal standards created an agency relationship between the federal government and Montana. View "GREAT NORTHERN PROPERTIES, L.P. v. US " on Justia Law

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A veteran, Robert Stinson, appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, challenging the decision made by the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The lower court affirmed the Board of Veterans’ Appeals’ denial of Mr. Stinson’s request for service connection for his blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm, a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Mr. Stinson argued that the Veterans Court improperly found facts in the first instance when reviewing the Board’s decision and also argued that the Veterans Court incorrectly applied the doctrine of issue exhaustion.The Federal Circuit found that the Veterans Court exceeded its statutory authority by finding facts and weighing evidence in the first instance. Specifically, the Veterans Court determined that Mr. Stinson's in-service symptoms and the location of the lesion giving rise to his BPDCN diagnosis were not relevant to his claim for service connection. The Federal Circuit held that the Veterans Court's conclusion required impermissible factual determinations.The Federal Circuit vacated the decision of the Veterans Court and remanded the case. On remand, the Veterans Court was instructed to remand the case to the Board for further factual development, including whether Mr. Stinson’s in-service symptoms support a manifestation of BPDCN earlier than 2011. This decision serves as a reminder to the Veterans Court to refrain from making factual determinations in the first instance and to focus on reviewing the Board's factual determinations. View "STINSON v. MCDONOUGH " on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reviewed a decision by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board denying Naterra International, Inc.'s petition for cancellation of Samah Bensalem's BABIES’ MAGIC TEA standard character mark registration. Naterra argued that there was a likelihood of confusion between its BABY MAGIC mark and Bensalem’s BABIES’ MAGIC TEA mark. The Court examined several factors, including the similarity of the marks, the nature of the goods, and the trade channels. The Court found that the Board erred in its assessment of the similarity of the marks and the trade channels and failed to properly evaluate relevant evidence about the nature of the goods. Therefore, the Court vacated the Board's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Court also found the Board did not err in its assessment of the fame of Naterra's mark. View "NATERRA INTERNATIONAL, INC. v. BENSALEM " on Justia Law

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In 2020, the law firm Chestek PLLC applied for a trademark for the mark "CHESTEK LEGAL" but provided only a P.O. box as its domicile address. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) refused the application because it did not comply with the domicile address requirement. Chestek argued that the rules enforcing this requirement were improperly promulgated under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board affirmed the examiner's refusal. On appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Chestek argued that the domicile address requirement was improperly promulgated for two reasons: the USPTO was required to comply with the requirements of notice-and-comment rulemaking under 5 U.S.C. § 553 but failed to do so because the proposed rule did not provide notice of the domicile address requirement adopted in the final rule, and the domicile address requirement is arbitrary and capricious because the final rule failed to offer a satisfactory explanation for the domicile address requirement and failed to consider important aspects of the problem it purports to address, such as privacy. The Federal Circuit found the domicile address requirement to be a procedural rule that is exempt from notice-and-comment rulemaking. Furthermore, the USPTO's decision to require the address provided by all applicants to be a domicile address was not arbitrary or capricious for failure to provide a reasoned justification. The court affirmed the Board's refusal to register Chestek's mark. View "In Re CHESTEK PLLC " on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a class-action lawsuit brought by Simon A. Soto, a retired Marine Corps member, against the United States government. The dispute concerned the application of a six-year statute of limitations under the Barring Act (31 U.S.C. § 3702) to claims for unpaid combat-related special compensation (CRSC) under 10 U.S.C. § 1413a. Soto argued that the Barring Act's limitations did not apply to CRSC claims. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas agreed with Soto, leading the government to appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.The appellate court reversed the lower court's decision, ruling that the Barring Act's six-year statute of limitations applies to CRSC settlement claims. The court reasoned that the CRSC statute does not provide its own settlement mechanism, so these claims are subject to the Barring Act's settlement procedures, including its six-year statute of limitations. The court also rejected Soto's argument that the statute of limitations should be tolled due to the continuous state of war since 1990, stating that this provision only applies to service members on active duty during times of war. The case was remanded to the district court for further proceedings consistent with the appellate court's opinion. View "SOTO v. US " on Justia Law