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

Articles Posted in Contracts
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In 2010, the Army granted Authentic a nonexclusive license to manufacture and sell clothing bearing the Army’s trademarks. The agreement required the Army’s advance written approval of any products and marketing materials bearing the Army’s trademarks and included exculpatory clauses that exempted the Army from liability for exercising its discretion to deny approval. In 2011-2014, Authentic submitted nearly 500 requests for approval; the Army disapproved 41 submissions. During that time, Authentic received several formal notices of material breach for claimed failures to timely submit royalty reports and pay royalties. Authentic eventually paid its royalties through 2013. Authentic’s counsel indicated that Authentic would not pay outstanding royalties for 2014.Authentic's ensuing breach of contract suit cited the Army’s denial of the right to exploit the goodwill associated with the Army’s trademarks, refusal to permit Authentic to advertise its contribution to Army recreation programs, delay of approval for a financing agreement, denial of approval for advertising, and breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing by not approving the sale of certain garments. The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the government. The license agreement stated in no uncertain terms that the Army had “sole and absolute discretion” regarding approval of Authentic’s proposed products and marketing materials; the exercise of that broad approval discretion is not inconsistent with principles of trademark law. View "Authentic Apparel Geoup, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2017, the Department of Homeland Security issued the Solicitation as a Request for Proposal for a potentially multi-year contract for dorm management services at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia. During the evaluation process, the government eliminated Safeguard’s proposal from consideration because Safeguard omitted pricing information for 16 contract line item numbers totaling $6,121,228.The Claims Court and Federal Circuit upheld the award to another bidder. The Solicitation required offerors to submit the pricing information and provided notice that elimination was possible if that pricing information was omitted. Safeguard’s omissions were material and not subject to waiver or clarification. The court upheld the denial of Safeguard’s email request to supplement the administrative record through discovery and the denial of its motion to supplement the administrative record with affidavits. The Claims Court had jurisdiction over a claim that the government breached an implied-in-fact contract to fairly and honestly consider an offeror’s proposal in the procurement context under 28 U.S.C. 1491(b)(1). View "Safeguard Base Operations, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Army Corps of Engineers issued a request for proposals. NIKA bid but was not awarded a contract. NIKA made a timely request for debriefing. The Corps sent NIKA a written debriefing and alerted NIKA of the right to submit additional questions. NIKA did not submit additional questions. NIKA filed a protest at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) six days after the written debriefing. Under 31 U.S.C. 3553(d), bid protests filed at the GAO invoke an automatic stay of procurement during the pendency of the protest if the federal agency awarding the contract receives notice within five days of debriefing. GAO denied the stay as untimely.NIKA filed suit, citing 10 U.S.C. 2305(b)(5)(B)(vii), which states that “[t]he debriefing shall include . . . an opportunity for a disappointed offeror to submit, within two business days after receiving a post-award debriefing, additional questions related to the debriefing.” The Claims Court instituted the stay. The bid protest concluded and the stay has ended.The Federal Circuit reversed, first holding that the issue was not moot, being capable of repetition but evading review. The text of 31 U.S.C. 3553(d) indicates that when no additional questions are submitted, the “debriefing date” is the date upon which the party receives its debriefing. The five-day period begins on the debriefing date, rather than two days later. Because NIKA did not file at the GAO within the five-day period, it did not timely invoke the stay. View "NIKA Technologies, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Alleshouse and Yeh are named as the inventors on the 685 and 189 patents, which claim water-park attractions that individuals may ride as if surfing, and on the 433 patent, which claims nozzle configurations for regulating water flow in such attractions. Pacific, the company Alleshouse and Yeh formed to develop and market such attractions, is the assignee of the patents. Whitewater is the successor of Wave, which employed Alleshouse until just before he went into business with Yeh and the patented inventions were conceived. Whitewater sued Alleshouse, Yeh, and Pacific, claiming that Alleshouse had to assign each of the patents to Whitewater, as Wave’s successor, under the terms of Alleshouse’s employment contract with Wave. Whitewater also claimed that Yeh, who had not been employed by Whitewater or its predecessors and therefore was not under any alleged assignment duty, was improperly listed as an inventor on each of the patents.The district court held that Alleshouse breached the employment agreement, so Whitewater was entitled to an assignment of the patent interests, and Yeh was improperly joined as an inventor. The Federal Circuit reversed, The contract’s assignment provision is void under California law, (Labor Code 2870, 2872; Business and Professions Code 16600), so Whitewater lacks standing to contest inventorship. View "Whitewater West Industries Ltd. v. Alleshouse" on Justia Law

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Taylor's leases for the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), set to expire in 2007, incorporated Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), 43 U.S.C. 1301, regulations. They required Taylor to leave the leased area “in a manner satisfactory to the [Regional] Director.” Taylor drilled 28 wells, each connected to an oil platform. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan toppled Taylor’s platform, rendering the wells inoperable. Taylor discovered leaking oil but took no action. In 2007, Taylor was ordered to decommission the wells within one year. Taylor sought extensions. The government required Taylor to set aside funds for its decommissioning obligations. For Taylor to receive reimbursement, the government must confirm the work was conducted “in material compliance with all applicable federal laws and . . . regulations" and with the Leases. The resulting Trust Agreement states that it “shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of" Louisiana. Taylor attempted to fulfill its obligations. The government approved a departure from certain standards but ultimately refused to relieve Taylor of its responsibilities.Taylor filed claims involving Louisiana state law: breach of the Trust Agreement; request for dissolution of the trust account based on impossibility of performance; request for reformation for mutual error; and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. OCSLA makes federal law exclusive in its regulation of the OCS. To the extent federal law applies to a particular issue, state law is inapplicable. OCSLA regulations address the arguments underlying Taylor’s contract claims, so Louisiana state law cannot be adopted as surrogate law. View "Taylor Energy Co. LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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Phytelligence, an agricultural biotechnology company that used tissue culture to grow trees, and Washington State University (WSU) contracted for the propagation of WSU's patented “WA 38” apple trees. Section 4 of the agreement was entitled “option to participate as a provider and/or seller in [WSU] licensing programs.” The parties acknowledged that WSU would need to “grant a separate license for the purpose of selling.” Phytelligence expressed concern about the “wispy forward commitment.” WSU responded that “Phytelligence and others would have a shot at securing commercial licenses.”WSU later requested proposals for commercializing WA 38. Phytelligence did not submit a proposal. WSU accepted PVM’s proposal, granting PVM an exclusive license that required PVM to subcontract exclusively with NNII, a fruit tree nursery association, to propagate and sell WA 38 trees. Phytelligence later notified WSU that it wanted to exercise its option. WSU responded that PVM was WSU’s “agent.” Phytelligence rejected PVM’s requirement to become an NNII member and two non-membership proposals for obtaining commercial rights to WA 38. WSU terminated the Propagation Agreement, alleging that Phytelligence breached the Agreement when it sold WA 38 to a third-party without a license and that such actions infringed its plant patent and its COSMIC CRISP trademark.Phytelligence sued, alleging breach of the Agreement. The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of WSU. Section 4 is an unenforceable agreement to agree. WSU did not commit to any definite terms of a future license. View "Phytelligence Inc. v. Washington State University" on Justia Law

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In 2003, the government awarded Parsons a $2.1 billion indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract for planning and construction work to be described in subsequent task orders. In 2005, the government issued a $34 million task order to complete an existing, concept-level design and construct the Temporary Lodging Facility and Visiting Quarters, at the McGuire Air Force Base. Design and construction were completed. The Air Force accepted the completed facilities for “beneficial use” in September 2008. In 2012, Parsons submitted a claim for approximately $34 million in additional costs that Parsons allegedly incurred in the design and construction process. The Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals awarded Parsons about $10.5 million plus interest.The Federal Circuit reversed in part after holding that the Board had Contracts Dispute Act jurisdiction 41 U.S.C. 7102(a)(1), (3). The court dismissed Parsons’ appeal as to its payroll claim and reversed the Board’s denial of recovery to Parsons for its claim to construction costs. On remand, the Board must award Parsons the difference between its cost in constructing a substituted design compared to the cost Parsons would have incurred in constructing a structural brick design. The court affirmed the Board’s conclusion that Parsons’ costs awarded by the Board were reasonable. View "Parsons Evergreene, LLC v. Secretary of the Air Force" on Justia Law

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Takeda sued Mylan for patent infringement based on Mylan’s Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) for a generic version of Takeda’s Colcrys® version of the drug colchicine. The parties settled, entering into a License Agreement that allows Mylan to sell a generic colchicine product on a specified date or under circumstances defined in Section 1.2, which refers the date of a final court decision holding that all unexpired claims of the licensed patents that were asserted and adjudicated against a third party are not infringed, invalid, or unenforceable. The parties stipulated that Mylar's breach of Section 1.2 “would cause Takeda irreparable harm.”Takeda also sued Hikma based on Hikma’s FDA-approved colchicine product Mitigare®. The district court granted summary judgment of non-infringement. After Mylan launched its product, Takeda sued, alleging breach of contract and patent infringement.The Federal Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction. Takeda failed to show it is likely to succeed on the merits or that it will suffer irreparable harm. Section 1.2(d) was triggered by the third-party litigation; all unexpired claims of the three patents that were “asserted and adjudicated” were held to be not infringed. An objective, reasonable third party would not read Section 1.2(d) to be limited to generic equivalents of Colcrys® excluding section 505(b)(2) products like Mitigare®. Because Takeda had not established that Mylan breached the Agreement, the irreparable harm stipulation did not apply. Money damages would remedy any harm Takeda would suffer as a result of Mylan launching its generic product. View "Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A. v. Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2015, CPA’s predecessor was awarded Defense contracts to provide stevedoring and terminal services along the Eastern Seaboard, including Charleston. The contracts incorporated a Federal Acquisition Regulation provision that gave the government options to extend the term of the agreement for up to four one-year periods by giving “preliminary written notice of its intent to extend at least 60 days before the contract expire[d].” Such notice did not obligate the government to exercise the option. After the preliminary notice, the government was required to exercise the option itself within 15 days of the expiration date. On June 15, 2016, the government exercised the first-year option.During the extension period, CPA purchased its predecessor and began seeking revised pricings, asserting that it might default because the contracts were not profitable. On January 31, 2017, the government’s contracting officer sent an email to CPA, stating: The Government intends to exercise options at awarded rates … expects [CPA] to continue performing per the terms. A May 3, 2017, formal letter to CPA, stated the government's intent to extend the contract through 30 June 2018. CPA responded that the notice was untimely. The government pointed to the January 31 email as the preliminary written notice. In July 2017, CPA sought a declaration that the contract had expired and additional money for its performance under protest. A contracting officer denied the claims. The Board of Contracts Appeals and the Federal Circuit affirmed. The government satisfied the preliminary notice requirement; the email unambiguously provided preliminary written notice of the government’s intent to extend at least 60 days before the contract expired on May 1, 2017. View "Cooper/Ports America, LLC v. Secretary of Defense" on Justia Law

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Buffkin, a former teacher in the Department of Defense (DoD) school for the children of military personnel, challenged her termination. The collective bargaining agreement process for contesting adverse employment actions provides that any grievance will be mediated if requested by either party. A written request for arbitration must be served on the opposing party within 20 days following "the conclusion of the last stage in the grievance procedure.” “The date of the last day of mediation will be considered the conclusion of the last stage in the grievance procedure" for purposes of proceeding to arbitration.DoD denied Buffkin’s grievance. The union and DoD met with a mediator in December 2012. No agreement was reached. In July 2014, the union submitted a written request for arbitration. DoD signed the request and the parties received a list of arbitrators in August 2014. In March 2015, DoD listed Buffkin’s grievance as an open grievance and the parties held another mediation session. The union and DoD selected an arbitrator in January 2017. DoD then argued that the arbitration request was untimely. The arbitrator found that the union did not invoke arbitration within 20 days after the 2012 mediation concluded.The Federal Circuit vacated and remanded with instructions to address whether the union’s premature request for arbitration ripened into a timely request. Buffkin’s grievance was not resolved in the 2012 mediation; there was another mediation session in 2015, the last stage of the grievance procedure. Invoking arbitration in 2014 was premature, rather than too late. DoDs conduct and past practices indicate that it did not consider the arbitration request untimely. View "Buffkin v. Department of Defense" on Justia Law