Justia U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Procedure
Static Media LLC v. Leader Accessories LLC
Static sued Leader in Wisconsin for infringing its D400 design patent. The parties entered into a court-approved protective order, under which they could designate certain material produced during discovery as “Confidential,” to be used solely for the purpose of the litigation, with disclosure limited to certain people. Outside independent persons retained for the Wisconsin action were bound by the protective order because they were obligated to sign a “Written Assurance.” After the parties agreed to the protective order, Static sent a cease-and-desist letter to OJ, also alleging infringement of the D400 patent. OJ’s attorney, Hecht, contacted Leader’s attorney, Lee; the parties entered into a Joint Defense Agreement.Static sued OJ for infringement in Florida. Lee sent Hecht copies of the protective order and Written Assurance from the Wisconsin action. Hecht signed and returned the Written Assurance to Lee. Lee emailed Hecht deposition transcripts and related exhibits from the Wisconsin action; only a few pages were marked confidential, reminding Hecht to “adhere to the protective order.” During settlement negotiations in the Florida action, Hecht improperly used royalty agreements he obtained from Lee to assess a settlement proposal.The court found Leader and Lee in civil contempt for violating the protective order and ordered Leader to pay Static’s attorney’s fees and a $1,000 sanction. The Federal Circuit reversed. The disclosure was not a clear violation of the protective order. View "Static Media LLC v. Leader Accessories LLC" on Justia Law
Centripetal Networks, Inc. v. Cisco Systems, Inc.
Centripetal sued Cisco for the infringement of 10 patents relating to systems that perform computer networking security functions. Centripetal successfully requested that the case be reassigned to Judge Morgan, who had recently presided over a trial involving related technology and five of the same patents. While the case was pending, Judge Morgan sent the parties an email, stating that the previous day, his assistant had discovered that his wife owned 100 shares of Cisco stock valued at $4,687.99. He stated that the “shares did not and could not have influenced [his] opinion.” The disqualification statute, 28 U.S.C. 455, refers to financial interests held by family members. Centripetal had no objection to the judge’s continuing to preside over the case.Cisco sought recusal. Judge Morgan stated that section 455(b)(4) did not apply because he had not discovered his wife’s interest in Cisco until he had decided “virtually” every issue and that placing the Cisco shares in a blind trust “cured” any conflict, then found that Cisco willfully infringed the asserted claims and awarded Centripetal damages of $755,808,545 (enhanced 2.5 times to $1,889,521,362.50), pre-judgment interest ($13,717,925), and “a running royalty."The Federal Circuit reversed the denial of Cisco’s motion for recusal, vacated all orders and opinions of the court entered on or after August 11, 2020, including the final judgment, and remanded for further proceedings before a different district court judge. View "Centripetal Networks, Inc. v. Cisco Systems, Inc." on Justia Law
Mitek Systems, Inc. v. United Services Automobile Association
USAA, a reciprocal inter-insurance exchange organized under Texas law with its principal place of business in San Antonio, owns the four patents, which address the use of a mobile device to capture an image of a bank check and transmit it for deposit. Mitek filed suit in the Northern District of California, seeking a declaratory judgment (28 U.S.C. 2201(a)), that Mitek and its customers have not infringed, either directly or indirectly, any valid and enforceable claim of USAA’s patents. USAA moved for dismissal of the complaint, arguing that there was no case or controversy between USAA and Mitek and that the court should exercise discretion not to hear Mitek’s claim. In the alternative, USAA requested the transfer of the action to the Eastern District of Texas under 28 U.S.C. 1404. The California court, without ruling on the dismissal motion, ordered the case transferred to Texas.The Texas court dismissed for want of a case or controversy, stating that, even if jurisdiction existed, it would exercise its discretion to decline to entertain the action. The Federal Circuit vacated the Texas court’s dismissal and remanded, affirming the California court’s transfer order. To make the “case or controversy” determination, the district court’s primary task will be to ascertain the alleged role of the Mitek technology in the banks’ applications and the alleged role that the Mitek technology plays in infringement claims. View "Mitek Systems, Inc. v. United Services Automobile Association" on Justia Law
Atlanta Gas Light Co. v. Bennett Regulator Guards, Inc
Bennett sued Atlanta Gas, a Georgia distributor of natural gas, for infringement of Bennett's patent, directed to an anti-icing device for a gas pressure regulator. Atlanta Gas was served with the complaint on July 18, 2012. That litigation was dismissed without prejudice for lack of personal jurisdiction. On July 18, 2013, Atlanta Gas filed an inter partes review (IPR) petition concerning the patent.The Patent Trial and Appeal Board rejected Bennett’s argument that Atlanta Gas was time-barred from petitioning for IPR under 35 U.S.C. 315(b) and determined that the challenged claims were unpatentable over the prior art. The Federal Circuit held that Atlanta Gas should have been barred, vacated the unpatentability determination, and remanded with directions to dismiss the IPR and to further consider a sanctions order. Before the Board acted, the Supreme Court held that time-bar determinations were unreviewable, "Thryv," (2020). On remand, the Federal Circuit affirmed the unpatentability determination on the merits and again remanded for the Board to reconsider and finalize its sanctions order. The Board then terminated the proceeding due in part to reconsideration of its decision on the time bar. Atlanta Gas appealed.The Federal Circuit dismissed, holding that it lacked jurisdiction to review the Board’s decision to vacate its institution decision, a decision made based in part on the Board's evaluation of the time bar and changed Patent and Trademark Office policy. View "Atlanta Gas Light Co. v. Bennett Regulator Guards, Inc" on Justia Law
Apple, Inc. v. Zipit Wireless, Inc.
Zipit, a Delaware corporation with a principal place of business in South Carolina, and with all of its employees in South Carolina, is the assignee of the patents-in-suit, which are generally directed to wireless instant messaging devices that use Wi-Fi. In 2013, Zipit contacted Apple in California. For three years, the parties exchanged correspondence and met in person at Apple’s Cupertino headquarters. Zipit filed a patent infringement action against Apple in Georgia but later dismissed the case without prejudice.Apple sought a declaratory judgment of noninfringement in the Northern District of California. The district court dismissed, holding that it lacked specific personal jurisdiction over Zipit (general jurisdiction was not asserted). The court concluded that Apple had established the requisite minimum contacts but that “the exercise of personal jurisdiction . . . would be unconstitutional when ‘[a]ll of the contacts were for the purpose of warning against infringement or negotiating license agreements, and [the defendant] lacked a binding obligation in the forum.’” The Federal Circuit reversed, Zipit is subject to specific personal jurisdiction in the Northern District of California for purposes of Apple’s declaratory judgment action. Zipit has not presented a compelling case that the relevant factors in the aggregate would render the exercise of jurisdiction unreasonable. View "Apple, Inc. v. Zipit Wireless, Inc." on Justia Law
Red Sun Farms v. United States
“Red Sun Farms” is the trade name under which various entities do business as “U.S. producers of fresh tomatoes grown in the United States, U.S. importers and resellers of fresh tomatoes from Mexico, and foreign producers and exporters of fresh tomatoes from Mexico.”Red Sun filed suit against the government based on an antidumping duty investigation to determine whether fresh Mexican tomatoes were being imported into the United States and sold at less than fair value. In its motion to dismiss, the government observed, with respect to the five identified entities doing business as “Red Sun Farms,” that “[i]t is unclear whether all of these parties possess standing or can be considered real parties in interest” and reserved its right to raise additional arguments on the subject. In a discovery filing, the government noted the varying singular/plural usage by Red Sun Farms and stated that “‘Plaintiff’ Red Sun Farms actually consists of several companies.”The Federal Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit. Red Sun challenged the Department of Commerce’s Final Determination resulting from a continued investigation under 19 U.S.C. 1516a(a)(2)(B)(iv); although no final antidumping order had been issued, its claims are not premature. Jurisdiction exists based on 28 U.S.C. 1516a(g)(3)(A)(i) and 1516a(a)(2)(B)(i). View "Red Sun Farms v. United States" on Justia Law
In Re: Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.
Stratos filed patent infringement complaints in the Western District of Texas against Volkswagen and Hyundai, car distributors that are incorporated in New Jersey and California, respectively, and hence do not “reside” for venue purposes in the Western District, 28 U.S.C. 1400(b); The defendants moved to dismiss or transfer the cases under 28 U.S.C. 1406(a). The district court denied the motions, concluding that venue in the Western District was proper. The court cited independent car dealerships located in the Western District that sell and service cars after purchasing them from the defendants under franchise agreements that impose transfer restrictions, staffing and reporting requirements, minimum inventory levels, employee training, and equipment requirements. The district court concluded those agreements gave the defendants sufficient control over the dealerships to establish a regular and established place of business for the defendants, although Texas law prohibits auto manufacturers and distributors from directly or indirectly “operat[ing] or control[ling] a franchised dealer or dealership.” The court noted, “the only way that [Volkswagen and Hyundai] can distribute [their] vehicles to consumers in this District is through [their] authorized dealerships.” The Federal Circuit disagreed, noting disagreement on the issue among the district courts. The district court clearly abused its discretion in failing to properly apply established agency law and reaching a patently erroneous result. View "In Re: Volkswagen Group of America, Inc." on Justia Law
In Re Violation of the Revised Protocols for In-Person Arguments
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Circuit issued administrative orders that prohibited public access to the National Courts Building. When the court resumed allowing counsel in the courthouse for argument in September 2021, it implemented protocols, including “[o]nly arguing counsel and no more than one attendee whose presence is necessary to assist or supervise arguing counsel” were permitted access. All persons entering the building had to complete Form 33C declaring under penalty of perjury that the individual was “scheduled to appear” and that the individual was either fully vaccinated for or received a negative test result for COVID-19 within 48 hours. Arguing counsel also completed Form 33A, certifying that “I am personally responsible for ensuring all individuals attending argument with me" will comply with the protocols.Attorneys unsuccessfully sought permission to bring additional attendees. On the day of their argument, four attorneys proceeded together to the courtroom. The clerk informed special counsel and a non-arguing partner that they could not be in the courtroom. They were escorted out. The attorneys argued that their non-compliance was not intentional and that it was not unreasonable for special counsel and the non-arguing partner to come to court to seek permission to attend the argument.The Federal Circuit did not impose discipline. The court noted that while there was no ambiguity in the instructions, the attorneys expressed earnest remorse, have not previously been accused of misconduct, and this situation has not arisen before. View "In Re Violation of the Revised Protocols for In-Person Arguments" on Justia Law
Washington Federal v. United States
The Enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, suffered financial losses in 2008 when the housing market collapsed. The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA), created the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), tasked with regulating the Enterprises, including stepping in as conservator, 12 U.S.C. 4511. FHFA placed the Enterprises into conservatorship, then negotiated preferred stock purchase agreements (PSPAs) with the Treasury Department to allow the Enterprises to draw up to $100 billion in exchange for senior preferred non-voting stock having quarterly fixed-rate dividends. A “net worth sweep” under the PSPAs replaced the fixed-rate dividend formula with a variable one that required the Enterprises to make quarterly payments equal to their entire net worth, minus a small capital reserve amount, causing the Enterprises to transfer most of their equity to Treasury, leaving no residual value for shareholders.In a companion case, the Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of shareholders’ direct claims challenging the net worth sweep and concluded that the shareholders’ derivatively pled allegations should also be dismissed.The Washington Federal Plaintiffs alleged direct takings and illegal exaction claims, predicated on the imposition of the conservatorships, rather than on FHFA's subsequent actions. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of those claims. Where Congress mandates the review process for an allegedly unlawful agency action, plaintiffs may not assert a takings claim asserting the agency acted in violation of a statute or regulation. These Plaintiffs also lack standing to assert their substantively derivative claims as direct claims. View "Washington Federal v. United States" on Justia Law
VAS Realty, LLC v. United States
VAS leased a facility that housed “ICE” in Warwick, Rhode Island. In 2017, the General Services Administration (GSA) issued a request for lease proposals for a facility to house ICE in Rhode Island. VAS offered the building that ICE was already occupying, indicating that the building met the requirements. After several revisions, GSA awarded the contract to a competitor. An Office of the Inspector General report found that the procurement was “significantly flawed,” because GSA accepted a late proposal; used a calculation of the lease’s present value that favored the chosen bid; awarded the contract to a bidder that did not own or control the property at the time of its proposal; failed to timely and adequately debrief VAS; and used unclear acquisition terminology. GSA declined to take any corrective action.The Claims Court dismissed VAS’s bid protest for lack of standing, reasoning that VAS failed to show it has a substantial chance of winning the lease. The Federal Circuit reversed. If VAS’s protest proves successful, VAS would have an opportunity to participate in any new procurement. Under such circumstances, a protester has a substantial chance of winning the award for standing purposes. View "VAS Realty, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law