Justia U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Procedure
Apple Inc. v. Vidal
Plaintiffs, Apple and four other companies, have repeatedly been sued for patent infringement and thereafter petitioned the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to institute inter partes reviews (IPRs), under 35 U.S.C. 311–319, with unpatentability challenges to patent claims that were asserted against them in court. They sued the PTO under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 701– 706, challenging instructions issued to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board concerning how to exercise, under delegation by the Director, the Director’s discretion whether to institute a requested IPR. Plaintiffs assert that the instructions are likely to produce too many denials.The district court dismissed the APA action, finding that the Director’s instructions were made unreviewable by 35 U.S.C. 314(d): “The determination by the Director whether to institute an inter partes review under [section 314] shall be final and nonappealable.” The Federal Circuit affirmed the unreviewability dismissal of plaintiffs’ challenges to the instructions as being contrary to the statute and arbitrary and capricious. No constitutional challenges are presented. The court reversed the unreviewability dismissal of the challenge to the instructions as having been improperly issued because they had to be, but were not, promulgated through notice-and-comment rulemaking under 5 U.S.C. 553. Apple had standing to present that challenge. View "Apple Inc. v. Vidal" on Justia Law
May v. McDonough
May is a disabled child of a deceased veteran. The VA found that May was disabled from birth, with permanent incapacity for self-support, and granted him entitlement to dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) benefits in October 2018, with an effective date of May 18, 2016, concluding that May’s entitlement to DIC benefits ended on February 1, 2017, when he married. May sought reinstatement of DIC benefits based on his divorce. May filed a notice of appeal to the Veterans Court in February 2021, listing the date of the Board’s decision as February 19, 2019. The Board had not rendered a decision on February 19, 2019; rather, May had received correspondence that day from a VA regional office certifying an appeal to the Board.The Veterans Court ordered May to show cause why his appeal should not be dismissed. In letters, May asked that his appeal not be dismissed and that his benefits be reinstated. May did not identify a Board decision from which he was appealing, nor did he argue that the Board had unreasonably delayed its decision. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The court’s jurisdiction is limited to appeals from Board decisions; absent such a decision, it could not consider May’s appeal, 38 U.S.C. 7252(a), 7266(a)). View "May v. McDonough" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Military Law, Public Benefits
American Federation of Government Workers v. Department of the Air Force
Johnson served as an Air Traffic Controller Watch Supervisor. The Air Force alleged that Johnson was at fault for a violation of FAA policy concerning the separation of aircraft during his watch in 2018 and that this was grounds for removal in light of his prior offenses. A notice of a removal decision was effective May 11, 2019. On May 7, 2019, the local Union initiated grievance procedures. When the dispute was not resolved, the Union invoked arbitration through the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. In November 2020, the Arbitrator upheld the removal decision.The Union appealed but withdrew from the appeal because its national union had placed the local Union in receivership and stripped its counsel of all authority to proceed. Without reaching the merits, the Federal Circuit dismissed Johnson’s motion (Federal Rule 43(b) of Appellate Procedure), to substitute the Union. A party may not substitute under Rule 43(b) where the original party to the appeal lacked standing; unions lack standing to initiate an appeal of an arbitration decision under 5 U.S.C. 7703(a). A party may not substitute under Rule 43(b) when the original party being substituted lacked standing to initiate the appeal. View "American Federation of Government Workers v. Department of the Air Force" on Justia Law
Posted in: Arbitration & Mediation, Civil Procedure, Labor & Employment Law
In Re Google LLC
Jawbone sued Google for patent infringement in the Western District of Texas after being assigned ownership of the nine asserted patents and seven months after being incorporated in Texas. Jawbone rents space in Waco to store documents relating to the patents, from which it conducts some distribution and sales activities. No Jawbone personnel work at any location in the Western District. Google moved under 28 U.S.C. 1404(a) to transfer the action to the Northern District of California, arguing that: the relevant technical aspects of the accused earbuds, smartphones, speakers, displays, and software products were researched, designed, and developed at Google’s headquarters within Northern California; the technology underlying the asserted patents assigned to Jawbone was likewise developed and prosecuted in Northern California; witnesses and sources of proof (prototypes, Google’s key personnel, and four of the six named inventors) were primarily located in Northern California; no witnesses or sources of proof were located in Western Texas.The Federal Circuit ordered the district court to grant the motion. The center of gravity of this action, focusing on the “Volkswagen factors” and the overriding convenience inquiry, is clearly in the Northern District of California, not in the Western District of Texas. Four factors favor transfer and four factors are neutral. No factor weighs against transfer. View "In Re Google LLC" on Justia Law
22nd Century Technologies, Inc. v. United States
Government agencies can issue Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity Multiple Award (IDIQ) contracts to multiple companies, which then compete for subsequent task orders. The Army solicited proposals for the RS3 IDIQ Contract. The solicitation was not set aside for small businesses but allowed the Army to restrict task orders to small businesses. In 2019, the Army awarded Century an RS3 IDIQ contract. In 2015, when Century submitted its proposal, it was a small business. A 2020 Task Order Request for Proposals required a contractor submitting a bid to represent whether it was a small business for purposes of the task order. Century was no longer a small business but represented that it had been a small business at the time of its original RS3 IDIQ proposal. The Army issued the task order to Century, Other companies filed size protests. The Small Business Association found that Century was “other-than-small” for purposes of the Task Order. The Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) affirmed. The Army terminated the award.Century filed a Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1491(b)(1), bid protest. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. OHA’s size determination was made in connection with the issuance of a task order, so the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994, 10 U.S.C. 3406(f), barred the Claims Court from exercising jurisdiction. A claim based on improper contract termination falls under the Contract Disputes Act, 41 U.S.C. 7101–09; Century failed to present its claim to the contracting officer as required by that statute. View "22nd Century Technologies, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law
In Re Stingray IP Solutions, LLC
Stingray filed patent infringement suits in the Eastern District of Texas against TP-Link (organized and headquartered in China). TP-Link moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction or, alternatively, to transfer to the Central District of California (CDCA) under 28 U.S.C. 1406. TP-Link argued it was not subject to personal jurisdiction i Texas and that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(2) “does not cure this jurisdictional defect because Defendants would be amenable to suit in the Central District of California.” TP-Link also moved for transfer under 28 U.S.C. 1404(a). The court transferred the cases to the CDCA under section 1406, stating that its exercise of personal jurisdiction "would be unreasonable” and, “Defendants are amenable to suit in the CDCA” and have made affirmative representations that CDCA has proper jurisdiction and venue.The Federal Circuit granted a mandamus petition. TPLink’s unilateral, post-suit consent to personal jurisdiction in another state did not defeat the application of Rule 4(k)(2), which closed a pre-1993 loophole by which a nonresident defendant who did not have minimum contacts with any individual state sufficient to support the exercise of jurisdiction but did have sufficient contacts with the United States as a whole, could escape jurisdiction every state. The district court may assess whether TP-Link can satisfy Rule 4(k)(2)’s negation requirement on the grounds that Stingray “could have brought suit” in the CDCA, independent of TP-Link’s post-suit consent or may consider transfer under section 1404(a). View "In Re Stingray IP Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law
Modern Font Applications LLC v. Alaska Airlines Inc.
The District of Utah uses a “Standard Protective Order.” Pursuant to that order, Alaska designated certain source code files as “CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION – ATTORNEYS’ EYES ONLY,” which precluded MFA’s in-house counsel from accessing those materials. MFA challenged Alaska’s designations and moved to amend the Standard Protective Order, seeking to permit its in-house counsel to access “all disclosed information,” including documents designated Attorneys’ Eyes Only, and to add additional designations to the Standard Protective Order specific to source code.The magistrate granted Alaska’s motions to maintain its protective order designations and denied MFA’s motion to amend, finding that Alaska had established that its source code contained trade secrets and merited “heightened protection.” The magistrate concluded that MFA’s in-house counsel was a “competitive decisionmaker” because of his licensing activities and because MFA’s “entire business model revolves around the licensing of patents through litigation with the assistance of its in-house counsel.” The district court affirmed, explaining that MFA had failed to support its argument that it should not bear the burden of proof to modify the Order and that the magistrate had appropriately cited cases “for their relevance to in-house counsel’s involvement in licensing making it a competitive decisionmaker.” The Federal Circuit rejected an interlocutory appeal for lack of jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine. It is reviewable after a final judgment. View "Modern Font Applications LLC v. Alaska Airlines Inc." on Justia Law
In Re: Apple Inc.
Aire sued Apple for patent infringement in the Western District of Texas in October 2021. In April 2022, Apple moved for transfer to the Northern District of California. Apple submitted a declaration from an Apple finance manager, “to establish certain facts, such as the relevance, role, and locations of witnesses and their teams, as well as the relevance and locations of various categories of documents.” Shortly before the close of venue discovery, Apple sought leave to supplement its motion with additional declarations, offering to make the declarants available for deposition and stating non-opposition to a “reasonable continuance” of the transfer proceedings.The district court granted Apple’s motion, but sua sponte ordered the parties to complete fact discovery on the merits (which it extended for an additional 30 weeks) and go through another six weeks of re-briefing of the motion before it would rule on Apple’s request to transfer. Apple then sought a writ of mandamus. Citing judicial economy, the Federal Circuit vacated the district court’s amended scheduling order and directed the court to postpone fact discovery and other substantive proceedings until after consideration of Apple’s motion for transfer. View "In Re: Apple Inc." on Justia Law
Uniloc USA, INC. v. Motorola Mobility, LLC
Uniloc sued Motorola for infringement of a patent that concerns pairing a telephone with another device and using the other device to make a telephone call using the telephone’s cellular capabilities. Motorola alleged that Uniloc lacked standing, having granted Fortress a license and an unfettered right to sublicense the asserted patent. The district court dismissed, agreeing that Uniloc had granted a license and that the existence of a license deprived it of standing. Related cases, in which Uniloc had alleged infringement, had been dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. On appeal, Motorola asserted collateral estoppel.The Federal Circuit affirmed. The court acknowledged that patent owners arguably do not lack standing simply because they granted a license that gave another party the right to sublicense the patent to an alleged infringer but declined to address that issue. , Uniloc was collaterally estopped from arguing that it did not grant a license, including a right to sublicense, to Fortress, and that the existence of that license deprived Uniloc of standing. View "Uniloc USA, INC. v. Motorola Mobility, LLC" on Justia Law
In Re Monolithic Power Systems, Inc.
Bel Power sued, alleging that Monolithic infringes Bel’s patents by selling certain power modules to original equipment manufacturers and other distributors and customers that use the products in their own electronic devices. Monolithic moved to dismiss or transfer for lack of venue under 28 U.S.C. 1406(a), arguing that, as a Delaware corporation, it does not “reside” in the Western District of Texas, that it does not own or lease any property in that district, and that the homes of four full-time remote employees in the Western District identified in the complaint to support venue do not constitute a “regular and established place of business.” Monolithic alternatively moved to transfer to the Northern District of California.The Federal Circuit upheld the denial of both requests. Monolithic viewed maintaining a business presence in the Western District as important, as evidenced by a history of soliciting employment in Austin to support local customers, even if none of its Western District employees were required to reside there. Monolithic provided certain Western District employees with lab equipment or products to be used in or distributed from their homes as part of their responsibilities. The convenience of parties and witnesses and the interests of justice did not weigh in favor of transfer under the multi-factor approach; Monolithic failed to demonstrate that California was clearly more convenient than the Western District. View "In Re Monolithic Power Systems, Inc." on Justia Law