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

Articles Posted in Antitrust & Trade Regulation
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Under 35 U.S.C. 292(a) it is unlawful to engage in specified acts of false patent marking, such as affixing a mark that falsely asserts that the item is patented, with intent to deceive the public. Prior to 2011, the statute authorized private parties (relators) to bring a qui tam or informer’s suit for violations, but did not specify procedures or authorize the government to file its own suit to collect the penalty. The 2011 AIA eliminated the qui tam provision, but authorized actions for damages by any person “who has suffered a competitive injury as a result of a violation.” The AIA provides that marking products with expired patents is not a violation and that it applies to all pending cases. In 2010, Brooks sued, alleging that Dunlop marked a guitar string winder with the number of a patent that was both expired and invalidated. The AIA was enacted while the case was stayed, pending the outcome in another case. The district court held that the application of the AIA to pending actions did not violate the Due Process Clause and that the legislation rationally furthered a legitimate legislative purpose. The Federal Circuit affirmed. View "Brooks v. Dunlop Mfg., Inc." on Justia Law

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SanDisk allegedly controls the market for NAND flash memory, a computer chip that can be erased and reprogrammed that is widely used in consumer products such as digital cameras, mobile phones, and USB drives. Retailers purchase from SanDisk, the patentee, and its licensees. Ritz filed a class action, alleging that SanDisk violated the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 2 by fraudulently procuring patents by failing to disclose prior art and making misrepresentations to the Patent and Trademark Office and established its monopoly by enforcing patents against competitors and by threatening competitors’ customers. SanDisk asserted that Ritz lacked standing to bring a Walker Process antitrust because Ritz faced no threat of an infringement action and had no other basis to bring a declaratory judgment action challenging the patents. The district court rejected the argument, acknowledging that such claims normally are brought by competitors of the patentee as counterclaims in infringement actions, but noting that the Walker Process decision places no limitation on eligible plaintiffs. On interlocutory appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed that a direct purchaser is not categorically precluded from bringing a Walker Process antitrust claim, even if it would not be entitled to seek declaratory relief against the patentee under the patent laws. View "Ritz Camera & Image, LLC v. Sandisk Corp." on Justia Law

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Avisma produces magnesium and titanium sponge in Russia. The process starts with a dehydration step. Most of the resultant raw magnesium is then processed into pure and alloyed magnesium, the subject of an antidumping order issued by Commerce in response to a petition by domestic producers. A portion of the raw magnesium is used to produce titanium sponge. After Commerce imposed a 15.77 percent duty, the Trade Court remanded the case. On remand, Commerce declined to alter the determination. The Trade Court then held that, when determining Avisma’s magnesium production costs for purposes of calculating the constructed value of Avisma’s magnesium, Commerce was required to take into account Avisma’s entire production process, which includes titanium, as well as magnesium. In its second remand determination, Commerce determined the constructed value of Avisma’s magnesium by taking into account Avisma’s entire production process, resulting in an antidumping duty of 8.51 percent. The Trade Court issued final judgment accordingly. The Federal Circuit reversed and reinstated Commerce’s earlier decision. The Trade Court erred in requiring Commerce to consider an affidavit by Avisma’s accountant that Commerce had determined was untimely. View "PSC VSMPO-Avisma Corp. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, California grape growers who purchased grapevines covered by the USDA's patents, brought this action to challenge the validity and enforceability of the USDA's patents on three varieties of grapes, as well as the conduct of the California Table Grape Commission (Commission) and the USDA in licensing and enforcing the patents. The court held that the district court correctly held that the USDA was a necessary party to plaintiffs' declaratory judgement claims based on the Patent Act, 35 U.S.C. 1 et seq. The court also held that the waiver of sovereign immunity in section 702 of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 500 et seq., was broad enough to allow plaintiffs to pursue equitable relief against the USDA on its patent law claims. The court further held that plaintiffs' claims were sufficient to overcome any presumption of regularity that could apply to a certain USDA employee who was one of the co-inventors of each of the three varieties of grapes. The court finally held that because plaintiffs failed to point to anything other than the issuance of a patent for the Sweet Scarlet grapes that would provide a plausible basis for finding that Sweet Scarlet grapes form a relevant antitrust market, the court upheld the district court's decision dismissing plaintiffs' antitrust claim.