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

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Norman, a school teacher, opened a “numbered” Swiss bank account with UBS in 1999. Statements for the account list only the account number, not Norman’s name or address. From 2001-2008, her balance ranged between $1.5 million-$2.5 million. Norman was actively involved in managing and controlling her account. She gave UBS investment instructions and prohibited UBS from investing in U.S. securities on her behalf, which helped prevent disclosure of her account to the IRS. She took withdrawals in cash. In 2008, Norman expressed displeasure when she was informed of UBS’s decision to “no longer provide offshore banking” and to work “with the US Government to identify the names of US clients who may have engaged in tax fraud.” Just before UBS publicly announced this plan, Norman closed her UBS account, transferring her funds to another foreign bank. Under 31 U.S.C. 5314(a), U.S. persons who have relationships with foreign financial agencies are required to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) with the Treasury Department. When the IRS discovered her account during an audit, Norman initially expressed shock to learn that she had a foreign account and subsequently tried to claim that she did not control the account. The Federal Circuit affirmed a Claims Court finding that Norman willfully failed to file an FBAR in 2007 and the IRS properly assessed a penalty of $803,530 for this failure. View "Norman v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Banking, Tax Law
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On inter partes reexamination after the Federal Circuit vacated the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s prior decision, the Board reversed the patent examiner’s rejection of new claims presented by Firepass (the patent owner). The patent discloses a fire prevention and suppression system that prevents and extinguishes fires using breathable air instead of water, foam, or toxic chemicals— each of which can present risks to personnel or electronic equipment. The invention is based on the inventor’s alleged discovery that a low-oxygen (hypoxic” but normal pressure (normbaric) atmosphere inhibits fire ignition and combustion, yet remains breathable for humans. The Federal Circuit vacated the Board’s reversal of the examiner’s rejection of the claims. The Board erred in its analogous art analysis by declining to consider record evidence relied on by Airbus to demonstrate the knowledge and perspective of a person of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention. The court remanded for consideration whether a particular prior art reference is analogous art in view of the four prior art references relied on by Airbus to demonstrate the knowledge and perspective of a person of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention. View "Airbus S.A.S. v. Firepass Corp." on Justia Law

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The Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) provides “duty-free treatment” for “eligible article[s] from . . . beneficiary developing countr[ies],” 19 U.S.C. 2461 (2012), including India. Congressional authorization for the GSP expired on July 31, 2013, and was not renewed until June 29, 2015. For GSP-eligible entries made during the lapse, Congress provided for “retroactive application” (a refund of duties paid), if the importer filed a request with Customs “not later than” December 28, 2015. Industrial made 65 entries of organic chemicals from India between August 2013 and October 2014. The entries were liquidated between June 2014 and September 2015. Industrial did not submit its request for retroactive GSP treatment until February 2, 2016. U.S. Customs and Border Protection denied the request. Industrial filed a Protest, which was denied as untimely under 19 U.S.C. 1514 because it had been filed more than 180 days after the liquidation of its entries. The Court of International Trade dismissed Industrial’s complaint. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The Trade Court lacked jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1581(a) because the Protest was invalid. The court further noted that Customs did not have the discretion to exempt Industrial Chemicals from the deadline set by Congress. View "Industrial Chemicals, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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McGuffin began his employment with SSA as a preference-eligible veteran, entitled to receive CSRA (Civil Service Reform Act, 92. Stat. 1111) protections after one year. During his first months, McGuffin had a low case completion rate and had cases that were past the seven-day benchmark. He requested training; SSA sent him to a training course. SSA was apparently otherwise satisfied with his work. About eight months after his hiring, SSA began to consider terminating McGuffin. It was noted that, as a preference-eligible veteran in the excepted service, McGuffin would acquire procedural and appellate rights after completing one year of service, so that “McGuffin must be terminated prior to the end of his first year” while another employee could be terminated "within her 2-year trial work period.” Although his work improved, four days before attaining full employee status, SSA terminated McGuffin for failure to “satisfactorily perform the duties” of the attorney advisor position. In a case under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, 38 U.S.C. 4301–35, which prohibits discrimination based on military service, the Federal Circuit reversed the Merit Systems Protection Board. SSA closed the door on McGuffin before the end of his first year to avoid the inconvenience of defending itself should McGuffin assert his procedural CRSA safeguards. McGuffin’s preference-eligible veteran status was a substantial factor in SSA’s termination decision. McGuffin was not performing so poorly as to justify the rush to remove him. View "McGuffin v. Social Security Administration" on Justia Law

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Ericsson’s 052 patent describes and claims a “direct conversion receiver” for wireless communication systems that may receive signals from systems that operate at different frequency bands. On inter partes review, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board found that all of the challenged claims are unpatentable on the ground of obviousness, 35 U.S.C. 103. The Federal Circuit affirmed, finding that substantial evidence established that a specific foreign publication is an available reference against the patent. The article at issue was published in a German periodical whose cover states the date “Mai/Juni” 1996, more than one year earlier than Ericsson’s filing date of July 1, 1997. While journal issue did not reach the UCLA library until October 1996, substantial evidence supports the ruling that it was accessible to the public in the May/June 1996 period. Substantial evidence also supports the finding that the article renders obvious the claim 18 “steps of generating a first oscillator signal and frequency dividing the first oscillator signal to generate the in-phase and quadrature oscillator signals prior to the step of mixing.” View "Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson v. TCL Corp." on Justia Law

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J.B. was born four weeks prematurely but progressed normally. At his four-month well-baby visit, J.B. was healthy, with normal chest and lungs and no fever, nasal congestion, or cough; J.B. received vaccinations for diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis, inactivated polio, pneumococcal conjugate, rotavirus, and Hepatitis B. That evening, J.B. reportedly had a fever. At 4:00 AM and 8 AM, J.B.’s parents gave him Advil. In the early afternoon, J.B.’s father put him down for a nap on his back in his crib. J.B.’s mother checked on him and found him unresponsive on his right side. At 2:39 PM, J.B.’s mother called 911 and attempted CPR. Responders transported J.B. to the hospital. J.B. was pronounced dead at 4:01 PM. His crib contained soft blankets and a flat soft pillow but no clutter or toys. The medical examiner concluded that the cause of death was SIDS. In a case under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, 42 U.S.C. 300aa-1, a Special Master found that the parents were entitled to compensation. The Claims Court reversed and the Federal Circuit agreed, holding that the Special Master erred by lowering the standard of proof for causation in a case involving an injury not listed on the Vaccine Act Injury Table. The parents failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that vaccinations can and did cause or contribute to J.B.’s SIDS death. View "Boatmon v. Secretary of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Northern California Power Agency and three California cities, Redding, Roseville, and Santa Clara (plaintiffs) purchase hydroelectric power that is generated by power plants under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The plaintiffs sought to recover payments that they claim were unlawfully assessed and collected by the Bureau in violation of the Central Valley Project (CVP) Improvement Act, 106 Stat. 4706, 4706–31. Section 3407(d) of the CVPIA requires that “Mitigation and Restoration” (M&R) payments made by recipients of power and water from the project be assessed in the same proportion, to the greatest degree practicable, as other charges assessed against recipients of water and power from the project. Although the power customers’ allocated share of the CVP repayment costs has been only about 25 percent of the total repayment costs, the Bureau in recent years has charged the customers nearly half of the total M&R payments. The Claims Court concluded that the Bureau’s interpretation of the statute was correct and dismissed the complaint. The Federal Circuit reversed. The proportionality requirement is a true “limitation” and takes priority over the $50 million collection target. The Bureau failed to take measures necessary to achieve the goal of proportionality “to the greatest degree practicable.” View "Northern California Power Agency, City of Redding v. United States" on Justia Law

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The 2012 patent application relates to the construction of travel trailers with two compartments, living quarters and a garage portion, separated by a wall assembly. Claim 1 covers a travel trailer with first and second compartments separated by a wall assembly which is movable so as to alter the relative dimensions of the compartments without altering the exterior appearance of the travel trailer. Claim 2 covers a travel trailer having compartments separated by a wall assembly having a side member located adjacent to and movable in parallel with respect to a sidewall of the trailer, and the wall assembly moved along the longitudinal length of the trailer by drive means positioned between the side member and the sidewall. The examiner rejected both claims under 35 U.S.C. 102(b) as anticipated by patents that describe a conventional truck trailer and that describe a bulkhead for shipping compartments. The inventors argued that a “travel trailer” is “a type of recreational vehicle” and that the examiner erred by rejecting the claims without addressing the level of ordinary skill in the art. The Board affirmed, concluding the preamble term “travel trailer” is a mere statement of intended use that does not limit the claim. The Federal Circuit reversed. The Board erred in concluding “travel trailer” does not limit the scope of the claims; "no one would confuse a travel trailer with a truck trailer." View "In re: Fought" on Justia Law

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In “Arthrex,” the Federal Circuit concluded that the appointments of Administrative Patent Judges (APJs) violated the Appointments Clause and vacated a decision made by a panel of APJs. Customedia sought to assert the same challenge. The Federal Circuit denied a motion to vacate, finding that Customedia forfeited its Appointments Clause challenge. Arguments not raised in the opening brief are waived. Appointments Clause challenges are not jurisdictional and must be properly raised on appeal. Customedia did not raise any semblance of an Appointments Clause challenge in its opening brief or raise this challenge in a motion filed prior to its opening brief. View "Customedia Technologies,, LLC v. Dish Network Corp." on Justia Law

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Arthrex’s patent is directed to a knotless suture securing assembly. On inter partes review, heard by a three-judge panel consisting of three Patent Trial and Appeal Board Administrative Patent Judges (APJs), several claims were found to be unpatentable as anticipated. Arthrex appealed and argued that the appointment of the APJs by the Secretary of Commerce, as set forth in 35 U.S.C. 6(a), violates the Appointments Clause, U.S. Const., art. II, section 2, cl. 2. The Federal Circuit agreed and vacated the decision. The statute as currently constructed makes the APJs principal officers, requiring appointment by the President as opposed to the Secretary of Commerce. The court considered review within the agency over APJ panel decisions, the Director’s supervisory powers, and that APJs can only be removed from service for “misconduct [that] is likely to have an adverse impact on the agency’s performance of its functions,” 5 U.S.C. 7513. Under existing law, APJs issue decisions that are final on behalf of the Executive Branch and are not removable without cause. To remedy the violation, the court concluded that severing the portion of the Patent Act restricting removal of the APJs is sufficient to render the APJs inferior officers and remedy the constitutional appointment problem. View "Arthrex, Inc. v. Smith & Nephew, Inc." on Justia Law