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

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The Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 1437g, provides funds for public housing. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allocates amounts in the fund to eligible public housing agencies (PHAs). Each of the 553 plaintiff-PHAs executed an Annual Contributions Contract (ACC) with HUD, which requires HUD to “provide annual contributions to the [PHA] in accordance with all applicable statutes, executive orders, regulations, and this ACC” and requires the PHA to develop and operate covered projects in compliance with the ACC and all applicable statutes, executive orders, and regulations. The standard form ACC incorporates 24 C.F.R. 990.210(c), which provides HUD with “discretion to revise, on a pro-rata basis, the amounts of operating subsidy to be paid to PHAs” where “insufficient funds are available.”In 2012, Congress funded only 80% of the total operating subsidies and directed HUD to “take into account" PHA excess operating fund reserves in determining their 2012 operating subsidy. HUD considered the excess reserves and did not prorate the available funding under 24 C.F.R. 990.210(c) and the ACCs. Some PHAs received more funding than they would have if HUD prorated the available funding. The plaintiffs received less than they would have and brought suit under the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1491(a)(1). The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the PHAs. Their claim was contract-based and the “strings-attached” nature of the operating subsidy did not preclude the court from exercising Tucker Act jurisdiction over the claim. The PHAs sought compensatory damages for their losses from the government’s failure to meet a past-due obligation and not equitable relief to enforce a regulatory obligation; their claim is based on a breach of contract and not a statute. View "Boaz Housing Authority v. United States" on Justia Law

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Raytheon’s patent is directed to gas turbine engines, which generally consists of a fan section, a compressor section, a combustor section, and a turbine section. On inter partes review, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board found two claims unpatentable as obvious in view of the Knip reference, which discloses the claimed power density limitation for a geared gas turbine engine. During the proceeding, Raytheon submitted unrebutted evidence establishing that Knip’s disclosure of highly aggressive performance parameters for a futuristic turbine engine relied on the use of nonexistent composite materials. The petitioner never supplied any evidence suggesting a skilled artisan could have made a turbine engine with the power density recited in the claims.The Federal Circuit reversed. The relied-upon prior art fails to enable a skilled artisan to make and use the claimed invention. There is no absolute requirement for a relied-upon reference to be self-enabling in the section 103 context if the overall evidence of what was known at the time of invention establishes that a skilled artisan could have made and used the claimed invention. If an obviousness case is based on a non-self-enabled reference, and no other prior art reference or evidence would have enabled a skilled artisan to make the claimed invention, the invention cannot be said to have been obvious. View "Raytheon Technologies Corp. v. General Electric Co." on Justia Law

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Qualcomm sued Apple in the Southern District of California for infringing claims of two patents. Apple sought inter partes review. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board held Apple did not prove that claims in the two patents would have been obvious. Before the filing of appeals, Apple and Qualcomm settled all litigation between the two companies worldwide. Based on that settlement, the parties jointly moved to dismiss Qualcomm’s district court action with prejudice, which the district court granted.The Federal Circuit dismissed appeals from the inter partes review for lack of standing. Apple has not alleged that the validity of the patents will affect its contract rights (ongoing royalty obligations) in the settlement. The possibility of a future suit is too speculative to confer standing, as is the likelihood that 35 U.S.C. 315(e) would estop Apple from arguing that the patents would have been obvious in future disputes. Apple has failed to show an injury in fact based on potential future allegations that its products infringe the patents. View "Apple Inc. v. Qualcomm Inc." on Justia Law

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Wi-LAN’s 654 patent concerns “methods to display interlaced video on [a] noninterlaced monitor” Interlaced video. Television sets use interlaced video formats to prevent a “flicker” effect that results from the difference in the frame rate of the television set and the frame rate in which a program was filmed. Wi-LAN’s 250 patent, “relates generally to multimedia encoders and specifically [to] an integrated multimedia stream multiplexer,” which receives separate audio and video data streams and combines them into a single multimedia data stream. The 250 patent is directed to a system for dynamically adjusting the bit rates of the input audio and video data streams to obtain a combined multimedia data stream with an optimal bit rate. Vizio and Sharp sold “smart” television sets. Wi-LAN alleged direct and induced infringement of the patents against both.For the 250 patent, the district court construed the terms “output multimedia data stream” and “a multimedia processor, coupled to the data rate analyzer” and entered a stipulated judgment of noninfringement. The court reasoned that Wi-LAN knew that it could not establish infringement without establishing that the source code of Sharp’s and Vizio’s systems actually practiced the patented method and lacked sufficient admissible evidence to prove direct infringement of the 654 patent. The Federal Circuit affirmed, upholding the construction of the claim terms. With respect to the 654 patent, a source code printout did not constitute a business record admissible under Rule 803(6). View "Wi-LAN Inc. v. Sharp Electronics Corp." on Justia Law

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The Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. 151, requires the FCC to advance universal service. The FCC's Universal Service Fund (USF), administered by USAC, allows carriers that serve high-cost areas to recover reasonable costs “for the provision, maintenance, and upgrading of facilities and services.” High-cost area carriers may also receive support from the National Exchange Carrier Association (NECA) pool.SIC was designated as an eligible telecommunications carrier to provide service to the Hawaiian homelands and began receiving high-cost support funds and participating in the NECA pool. SIC subsequently leased a "massive and expensive" cable from a related entity. In 2010, the FCC allowed 50 percent of SIC’s lease expenses. In 2016, the FCC determined that projected growth never materialized and limited SIC to $1.9 million per year from the NECA pool. The D.C. Circuit denied an appeal.In 2011, the FCC put a $250 per-line, per-month cap on USF support; SIC had received $14,000 per line per year. In 2015, SIC's manager was convicted of tax crimes; the company had paid $4,063,294.39 of his personal expenses, which he improperly designated as business expenses. The FCC suspended SIC's ‘high-cost funding. An audit revealed that SIC improperly received millions of dollars of USF funds. The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission refused to certify SIC. The D.C. Circuit declined to order reinstatement of USF support and upheld a 2016 FCC order requiring repayment of $27,270,390.SIC filed suit in the Claims Court, alleging that the reductions in SIC’s subsidies resulted in a taking of property without just compensation, seeking $200 million in damages. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The court’s Tucker Act jurisdiction is preempted by the Communication Act's comprehensive remedial scheme. SIC’s claims seek review of FCC decisions, which are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of appeals. View "Sandwich Isles Communications, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Department of Commerce initiated a countervailing duty (CVD) investigation on imports of rebar from Turkey and issued questionnaires to the Turkish government and to Habas, the sole respondent, concerning benefits the Turkish government extended to Habas. In response, Habas did not disclose that it received benefits via a duty drawback program. Habas later revealed that it held a permit under the program and occasionally benefitted from drawbacks for raw materials. Habas claimed that it had no obligation to disclose the program in its questionnaire response because Commerce had previously, in another investigation, determined that program benefits were not countervailable; the questionnaire did not specifically inquire about the program.. Commerce imposed a CVD rate of 14.01 percent, finding that Habas failed to cooperate, 19 U.S.C. 1677e(b), when it failed to timely report those benefits. Commerce selected the highest non-de minimis rate for a similar program, based on treatment of the benefit in another countervailing duty proceeding involving Turkey. Commerce had applied the 14.01 percent rate with respect to an export tax rebate program in a 1986 CVD investigation, “Welded Pipe and Tube from Turkey.”The Trade Court rejected Habas’s argument that, even if Commerce was justified in using “facts otherwise available” to select a CVD rate, Commerce’s selection of the 14.01 percent rate was unreasonable because it was not adequately corroborated by the 1986 investigation. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Habas has not shown that Commerce exceeded its statutory authority. View "Habas Sinai Ve Tibbi Gazlar Istihsal Endustrisi A.S. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Vollono served on active duty in the Navy, 1996-1997 and 2001-2005. Vollono’s second stint was compulsory as a condition of his Naval Academy education. Vollono used chapter 30 Montgomery G.I. Bill educational benefits to pursue post-graduate education, 38 U.S.C. 3001, 3011. In 2009, the VA notified Vollono that he might be eligible for chapter 33 Post-9/11 G.I. Bill educational assistance. Vollono was mistakenly found eligible and elected to receive Post-9/11 benefits in lieu of Montgomery benefits to complete post-graduate education. In 2011, the VA regional office (RO) notified Vollono that he had erroneously received $60,507.08 in benefits, because his post-9/11 service was obligatory, precluding his eligibility for such benefits. The VA did not recoup the benefits. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals and Veterans Court affirmed the decision.The Board found that Vollono did not waive entitlement to Montgomery benefits; the RO found Vollono eligible for $29,107 in Montgomery benefits for completing his studies but found that it could not release payment of these funds that would be duplicative of his previous receipt of Post-9/11 benefits. The Board agreed, reasoning that 38 C.F.R. 21.7143(a) and 38 U.S.C. 3033 preclude the payment of duplicative educational benefits regardless of current eligibility. The Veterans Court and Federal Circuit affirmed. Awarding Montgomery benefits to Vollono would “lead to an absurd result of placing the appellant in a better position than that of those worthy veterans who were actually eligible for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.” View "Vollono v. McDonough" on Justia Law

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Stanford’s 2012 patent application is directed to computerized statistical methods for determining haplotype phase. A haplotype phase acts as an indication of the parent from whom a gene has been inherited. The written description explains that accurately estimating haplotype phase based on genotype data obtained through sequencing an individual’s genome “plays pivotal roles in population and medical genetic studies.” The application is directed to methods for inferring haplotype phase in a collection of unrelated individuals.The Federal Circuit affirmed the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s final rejection of the patent claims, applying the two-step “Alice” analysis to determine patent eligibility under 35 U.S.C. 101 and finding that the claims involve patent-ineligible subject matter. The rejected claims are drawn to abstract mathematical calculations and statistical modeling, and similar subject matter that is not patent-eligible. The improvement in computational accuracy alleged by Stanford does not qualify as an improvement to a technological process; rather, it is merely an enhancement to the abstract mathematical calculation of haplotype phase itself. View "In Re Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University" on Justia Law

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The Greens opened a Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) account around 1980, with their daughter, Kimble, as a joint owner. Kimble directed UBS to maintain the account as a numbered account and to retain all correspondence at the bank. Kimble married an investment analyst who agreed to preserve the secrecy of the account. The couple’s joint federal tax returns did not report any income derived from the UBS account nor disclose the existence of the foreign account. After the couple divorced, Kimble's tax returns were prepared by a CPA, who never asked whether she had a foreign bank account. In 2003-2008, Kimble’s tax forms, signed under penalty of perjury, represented that she did not have a foreign bank account.In 2008, Kimble learned of the Treasury Department’s investigation into UBS for abetting tax fraud; she retained counsel. UBS entered into a deferred prosecution agreement that required UBS to unmask numbered accounts held by U.S. citizens. Kimble was accepted into the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) and agreed to pay a $377,309 penalty. Kimble withdrew from the OVDP without paying the penalty.The IRS determined that Kimble’s failure to report the UBS account was willful and assessed a penalty of $697,299, 50% of the account. Kimble paid the penalty but sought a refund. The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment against Kimble, finding that she violated 31 U.S.C. 5314 and that her conduct was “willful” under section 5321(a)(5). The IRS did not abuse its discretion in setting a 50% penalty. View "Kimble v. United States" on Justia Law

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The statutory presumption of soundness states: [E]very veteran shall be taken to have been in sound condition when examined, accepted, and enrolled for service, except as to defects, infirmities, or disorders noted at the time ... or where clear and unmistakable evidence demonstrates that the injury or disease existed before acceptance and enrollment and was not aggravated by such service, 38 U.S.C. 1111. The VA’s prior section 1111 implementing regulation did not require clear and unmistakable evidence of lack of aggravation by service for rebuttal but required only clear and unmistakable evidence that the disorder “existed prior [to service].” In 2003, the VA invalidated the regulation for conflicting with the statutory language and amended the regulation to require evidence of both preexisting condition and no aggravation, 70 Fed. Reg. 23,027, 23,028. The Federal Circuit affirmed.Veterans, whose claims for disability benefits were denied decades ago, sought revision of the denial decisions, alleging that the VA had committed clear and unmistakable error (CUE). The Veterans Court affirmed the Board of Veterans’ Appeals’ denials of the motions, reasoning that the VA did not commit a clear and unmistakable legal error when it faithfully applied the version of the presumption of soundness regulation that existed at the time. The Federal Circuit affirmed. A legal-based CUE requires a misapplication of the law as it was understood at that time, and cannot arise from a subsequent change in interpretation in the law. View "George v. McDonough" on Justia Law