Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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In an inter partes review proceeding (IPR), Arthrex disclaimed all the subject claims before the Patent and Appeal Board issued an institution decision. The Board entered an adverse judgment. The Federal Circuit affirmed, holding that the decision is appealable and that the Board’s interpretation is consistent with the regulation. The court did not address whether the regulation is authorized by the statute or whether it was properly promulgated. While 37 C.F.R. 42.107(e) states that no IPR "will be instituted based on disclaimed claims,” 37 C.F.R. 42.73(b) provides: A party may request judgment against itself at any time... Actions construed to be a request for adverse judgment include: (1) Disclaimer of the involved application or patent; (2) Cancellation or disclaimer of a claim such that the party has no remaining claim in the trial; (3) Concession of unpatentability or derivation of the contested subject matter; and (4) Abandonment of the contest. Although Arthrex stated that it was not requesting an adverse judgment, the rules permit the Board to construe a statutory disclaimer of all challenged claims as a request for adverse judgment, even when the disclaimer occurs before the Board has entered a decision, The court noted that the adverse judgment has an estoppel effect and that Arthrex had two pending continuation patent applications that have since issued as patents. View "Arthrex, Inc. v. Smith & Nephew, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Federal Claims enjoined the U.S. Army from proceeding with, or awarding, a contract to Airbus Helicopter, finding that Army Execution Order 109-14, which implemented the Army’s Aviation Restructure Initiative designating the UH-72A Lakota helicopter as the Army’s “Institutional Training Helicopter,” was a procurement decision in violation of the Competition in Contracting Act and the Federal Acquisition Regulation. The court also found the Sole Source Justification and Approval (J&A) was arbitrary and capricious. The Federal Circuit reversed and vacated the injunction, holding that Execution Order 109-14 was not a procurement decision subject to Tucker Act review because it did not begin “the process for determining a need for property or services.” The Order simply formalized the Army’s decision designating the UH-72A Lakota as the Army’s training helicopter. The Sole Source J&A was not arbitrary and capricious, and it was an abuse of discretion to supplement the administrative record. The J&A sufficiently supports the Army’s decision to award a sole-source follow-on contract because it is likely that award to any other source would result in substantial duplication of cost to the government that is not expected to be recovered through competition, or unacceptable delays in fulfilling the agency’s requirements.” View "AgustaWestland North America v. United States" on Justia Law

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A U.S. Department of Commerce regulation states: “The Secretary will rescind an administrative review ... if a party that requested a review withdraws the request within 90 days of the date of publication of notice ... The Secretary may extend this time limit if the Secretary decides that it is reasonable to do so,” 19 C.F.R. 351.213(d)(1). In 2011, Commerce announced in a published guidance document that parties seeking untimely withdrawals would no longer be able to get an extension based on what might be reasonable under the circumstances in light of the concerns previously identified and employed by Commerce, but would have to demonstrate the existence of an “extraordinary circumstance.” Commerce applied the 2011 guidance in the Glycine case. The Court of International Trade remanded, invalidating the change in methodology. Commerce, under protest, extended the deadline for Glycine to withdraw its request for administrative review of an antidumping order and rescinded the review. The Trade Court and Federal Circuit affirmed. Since the 2011 Notice was intended to effectively rewrite the substantive meaning of the regulation without going through the necessary notice-and-comment rulemaking, it has no legal standing. The Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 551, does not permit amendment of an agency regulation, previously adopted by formal notice-and-comment rulemaking procedure, by a guidance document that is not so enacted. View "Glycine & More, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Securiforce entered into a requirements contract with the government to deliver fuel to eight sites in Iraq. The government terminated the contract for convenience with respect to two sites because Securiforce intended to supply fuel from Kuwait, reasoning that delivery to those sites would violate the Trade Agreements Act, 19 U.S.C. 2501, and that obtaining a waiver would take too long. Weeks later, the government ordered small deliveries to two sites, to occur by October 24. Securiforce indicated that it could not deliver until November. The government notified Securiforce that it should offer justifiable excuses or risk termination. Securiforce responded that the late deliveries were excused by improper termination for convenience, failure to provide required security escorts, small orders, and other alleged irregularities. The government terminated the contract for default. Securiforce filed suit (Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1491; Contract Disputes Act, 41 U.S.C. 7101-09). The Claims Court found that it had jurisdiction to review both terminations; that the Contracting Officer abused her discretion in partially terminating the contract for convenience; and that the termination for default was proper. The Federal Circuit affirmed in part. The court lacked jurisdiction over the termination for convenience; a contractor’s request for a declaratory judgment that the government materially breached a contract violates the rule that courts will not grant equitable relief when money damages are adequate. The government did not breach the contract by terminating for convenience or with respect to providing security. View "Securiforce International America, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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The 215 patent is directed to improving the efficiency by which messages are sent from a receiver to a sender in a telecommunications system to advise the sender that errors occurred in a particular message. In inter partes review, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board found that various claims were anticipated. The Federal Circuit initially affirmed, holding that whether the petition for review was time-barred was not subject to judicial review. On rehearing, en banc, the Federal Circuit remanded. The Patent and Trademark Office is prohibited from instituting inter partes review if the petition requesting that review is filed more than one year after the petitioner, real party in interest, or privy of the petitioner is served with a complaint for patent infringement, 35 U.S.C. 315(b); under section 314(d) the determination “whether to institute an inter partes review under this section shall be final and nonappealable.” The court, noting the strong presumption in favor of judicial review of agency actions, found no clear and convincing indication of congressional intent to prohibit review of time-bar determinations under section 315(b). In finding such rulings appealable, the court overruled its own precedent. View "Wi-Fi One, LLC v. Broadcom Corp." on Justia Law

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In 1996, the Federal Communications Commission awarded spectrum licenses to Alpine, for use in the provision of wireless telecommunications services. Alpine bid approximately $8.9 million for one license and $17.3 million for the other. As a small business, Alpine was eligible to pay in installments over the 10-year term of the licenses. Alpine’s failure to make required payments in 2002 triggered automatic cancellation under FCC regulations. In addition to taking other steps in response, Alpine sought relief from the FCC and, on review under the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. 402(b)(5), from the District of Columbia Circuit. In 2016, Alpine filed this action against the United States under the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1491(a)(1), arguing that the FCC breached contractual obligations in canceling the licenses and that the cancellation was a taking for which Alpine was entitled to just compensation. The Federal Circuit affirmed dismissal by the Claims Court for lack of jurisdiction under the Tucker Act. The Communications Act provides a comprehensive statutory scheme through which Alpine could raise its contract claims and could challenge the alleged taking and receive a remedy that could have provided just compensation in this case, foreclosing jurisdiction under the Tucker Act. View "Alpine PCS, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, employed by the Office of Air and Marine (OAM), within the Department of Homeland Security, alleged that the agency’s actions and policies violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. 4301–4335. They were members of the Air Force and Navy Reserves. They subsequently resigned, claiming that they were “forced to quit.” An administrative judge (AJ) rejected Petitioners’ contention that the OAM violated USERRA by failing to grant them waivers from participating in training courses that conflicted with their military service dates, creating a hostile work environment, forcing them to surrender their badges and weapons during military leaves of 30 or more days, delaying within-grade pay increases, and requiring them to use annual, sick, or other leave in lieu of military leave. The AJ found “a legitimate basis for the [Agency’s] security policy,” and an “absence of any evidence that its [weapons] policy was adopted with discriminatory intent.” Allegedly hostile incidents were either “‘unavoidable’ workplace friction” or did not rise to the level of “humiliating,” “physically threatening,” or “so frequent and pervasive” to render their work environment hostile. They later filed a second complaint, alleging constructive discharge. The AJ, the Merit Systems Protection Board, and the Federal Circuit agreed that the constructive discharge claims were barred by collateral estoppel as “inextricably linked” to their previous hostile work environment claims. The standard for establishing constructive discharge is higher than that for hostile work environment, View "Bryant v. Merit Systems Protection Board" on Justia Law

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Tropp’s patents are directed to the use of dual-access locks in airline luggage inspection. Tropp’s system permits the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to unlock, inspect, and relock checked baggage. Sentry administers a similar system and has license agreements with lock and luggage manufacturers. Under an Agreement with TSA, Sentry provides TSA with passkeys for distribution to field locations. TSA takes no responsibility for damage to baggage secured with Sentry locks but will make good faith efforts to distribute and use the passkeys. TSA does not endorse any particular system. Following earlier appeals, the district court granted summary judgment, finding that Sentry and its licensees did not infringe Tropp’s patents under 35 U.S.C. 271(a). The Federal Circuit vacated. A reasonable jury could conclude that TSA’s performance of the final two claim steps is attributable to Sentry such that Sentry is liable for direct infringement. Although the partnership-like relationship between Sentry and TSA is unique, the court should have considered evidence that TSA, hoping to obtain access to certain benefits, can only do so if it performs certain steps identified by Sentry, under terms prescribed by Sentry. Sentry can stop or limit TSA’s ability to practice the final two steps by terminating the Agreement, discontinuing its practice of replacing passkeys that are damaged or lost or changing the design of future locks such that the TSA keys no longer work. View "Travel Sentry, Inc. v. Tropp" on Justia Law

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Crediford served with the Coast Guard in 1983-1985 and in 1990-1991. In 1985, he visited the VFW Club after work and drank alcohol, then was in a single-vehicle accident. A breath test registered a blood alcohol level of 0.12 percent, more than three hours later. The police charged him with DUI. Crediford's commanding officer’s report stated that fatigue and alcohol were responsible for the accident and that Crediford’s “injuries were not a result of his own misconduct and were incurred in the line of duty.” The conclusion was approved in an “ACTION OF THE CONVENING AUTHORITY.” In December 1985, the Commander of the Thirteenth Coast Guard District issued a Memorandum, that “approved a finding that injuries … were ‘not incurred in the line of duty and were due to his own misconduct.’” In 2004, Crediford sought compensation for chronic pain due to spinal and soft tissue injury resulting from the accident. The VA Regional Office denied compensation, characterizing the injuries as the result of willful misconduct, not occurring in the line of duty. Crediford argued that the Memorandum was issued “post-discharge, without notice that an investigation was ongoing. The Federal Circuit vacated. The Board erred in making its own findings when there were service department findings before it. VA regulations assign “binding” determination of “willful misconduct” and “line of duty” to the Service Department. The Coast Guard’s determinations, made in 1985, must be addressed. View "Crediford v. Shulkin" on Justia Law

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Ebanks sought veterans benefits for service-connected posttraumatic stress disorder, hearing loss, and arthritis. His claim for an increased disability rating was denied by the VA Regional Office (RO) in October 2014; in December he sought Board of Veterans Appeals review, with a video-conference hearing (38 U.S.C. 7107). Two years later, the Board had not scheduled a hearing. Ebanks sought a writ of mandamus. The Veterans Court denied relief. While his appeal was pending, the Board held his hearing in October 2017. The Federal Circuit vacated, finding the matter moot so that it lacked jurisdiction. The delay is typical and any Board hearings on remand are subject to expedited treatment under 38 U.S.C. 7112. Congress has recently overhauled the review process for RO decisions, so that veterans may now choose one of three tracks for further review of an RO decision, Given these many contingencies, Ebanks has not shown a sufficiently reasonable expectation that he will again be subjected to the same delays. Even if this case were not moot, the court questioned “the appropriateness of granting individual relief to veterans who claim unreasonable delays in VA’s first-come-first-served queue.” The “issue seems best addressed in the class-action context,.” View "Ebanks v. Shulkin" on Justia Law