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

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Pentagon Force Protection Agency officers filed claims for overtime compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 207(a)(1). Officers worked 8.5-hour shifts, with two 35-minute breaks, and were compensated for their entire shift except for one 30-minute meal period. Plaintiffs argue that they did not receive a bona fide meal period because they were required to work during breaks; they were not allowed to leave the Pentagon or remove their uniforms, nor to congregate in public or publicly engage in leisure activities. While on break, they had to remain ready to respond to emergencies, which occurred frequently. If an officer responded to an emergency during both break periods (unable to take a bona fide meal break), an overtime request was granted for one break period. Officers were to constantly monitor their radios and respond to questions from other employees or members of the public, which occurred frequently but could be avoided by going to a break room. They often used breaks for processing paperwork, completing mandatory training courses online, and refueling Pentagon vehicles.The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the government. The Claims Court properly used the predominant benefit test and considered whether the employees were required to perform any “substantial duties” or give up a “substantial measure” of time and effort during a meal break, correctly focusing on “actual obligations,” rather than witness characterization. In the totality of the circumstances, Plaintiffs were the primary beneficiaries of their meal breaks. View "Akpeneye v. United States" on Justia Law

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The parties compete in the market for veterinary orthopedic implants. DePuy sued VOI, alleging patent infringement. The district court entered the parties’ joint proposed protective order, designating certain information as “Confidential Material” and “Highly Confidential Material—Attorney Eyes Only.” The information designated “Highly Confidential” encompassed “supplier . . . names and identifying information.” DePuy filed under seal an unopposed motion for leave to amend the complaint to join as a defendant the manufacturer of VOI’s accused products, disclosing the manufacturer’s identity and information about the business relationship between the manufacturer and VOI.According to VOI, the manufacturer identity and other information are Highly Confidential and constitute trade secrets, so that it was necessary to file the amended complaint under seal, with only a redacted version publicly available. DePuy argued that the manufacturer’s public website advertises its business; that VOI and the manufacturer have no confidentiality agreement; that the manufacturer ships its products to VOI using a public carrier; and that a third party was aware that the manufacturer supplied products to VOI.The district court ordered that the amended complaint be filed on the public record without redaction of either the manufacturer's identity or other information. The order did not specifically analyze the other information. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The district court did not abuse its discretion in performing its obligation to ensure public access to court documents. View "DePuy Synthes Products, Inc. v. Veterinary Orthopedic Implants, Inc." on Justia Law

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Janssen sued Mylan for infringing claims in the 906 patent. Less than six months later, Mylan petitioned for inter partes review (IPR) of that patent, raising four grounds for the unpatentability under 35 U.S.C. 103. Opposing institution, Janssen claimed IPR would be an inefficient use of Patent Trial and Appeal Board resources because of two co-pending district court actions: the suit against Mylan and another suit against Teva. The Board agreed and denied the petition. Applying its six-factor standard, the Board found substantial overlap between the issues raised in Mylan’s IPR petition and the co-pending district court actions and that both actions would likely reach final judgment before any final written decision. The Teva trial date was only weeks away.Mylan argued that the Board’s determination, based on the timing of separate litigation to which Petitioner is not a party, undermines its constitutional and other due process rights and that the Board’s continued adoption and application of non-statutory institution standards through ad hoc proceedings lie in contrast to congressional intent. The Federal Circuit denied relief, stating that it lacks jurisdiction over appeals from decisions denying institution. Although the court has jurisdiction over mandamus petitions challenging such decisions, Mylan has not shown it is entitled to such an extraordinary remedy. View "Mylan Laboratories Ltd. v. Janssen Pharmaceutica, N.V." on Justia Law

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Stanford’s 925 application is directed to methods and computing systems for determining haplotype phase--an indication of the parent from whom a gene has been inherited. Improved haplotype phasing techniques “promise[] to revolutionize personalized health care by tailoring risk modification, medications, and health surveillance to patients’ individual genetic backgrounds.” Achieving the understanding necessary to accomplish those goals requires “interpretation of massive amounts of genetic data produced with each genome sequence.” The 925 application describes a method for receiving genotype and pedigree data and processing the data by performing mathematical calculations and statistical modeling to arrive at a haplotype phase determination.The Federal Circuit affirmed the Patent Trial and Appeal Board in rejecting the claims as patent-ineligible under 35 U.S.C. 101 because they are drawn to abstract mathematical calculations and statistical modeling, and similar subject matter that is not patent-eligible. Claim 1 recites no steps that practically apply the claimed mathematical algorithm; instead, claim 1 ends at storing the haplotype phase and “providing” it “in response to a request.” Simply storing information and providing it upon request does not alone transform the abstract idea into patent-eligible subject matter. View "In Re Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University" on Justia Law

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Santos’s affiliation with NASA started in 1997. In 2018, Santos, then a NASA mechanical engineer and a commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, was transferred to a new division, under the supervision of Balles, chief of the Ground Systems Branch of the Commercial Division. Despite receiving multiple accolades for his service in previous years, Santos began receiving letters of instruction and reprimand under Balles, alleging deficient performance. Although Balles maintained that she had no problems with Santos’s mandatory military obligations, the timing of many letters coincided with Santos’s requests for military leave. The letters emphasized Santos’s ability to “report to work in a timely manner and maintain regular attendance at work.” After months of difficulties, Balles formally placed Santos on a performance improvement plan (PIP) and later issued a notice of proposed removal. The Merit Systems Protection Board upheld his removal, rejecting Santos’s claim under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. 4331(a).The Federal Circuit vacated. The Board’s decision to not consider Santos’s allegation that he should never have been placed on a PIP was based on a misinterpretation of 5 U.S.C. 4302(c)(6). The events leading to Santos’s PIP may be directly relevant to Santos’s ability to satisfy his initial burden under USERRA. View "Santos v. National Aeronautics and Space Administration" on Justia Law

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In 2008, severe storms hit Indiana. Columbus Hospital sustained significant damage. President Bush authorized FEMA assistance through disaster grants under the Stafford Act, 42 U.S.C. 5121–5206. The state agreed to be the grantee for all grant assistance, with the exception of assistance to individuals and households. FEMA reserved the right to recover assistance funds if they were spent inappropriately or distributed through error, misrepresentation, or fraud. Columbus apparently submitted its request directly to FEMA, instead of through the state. FEMA approved Columbus projects, totaling approximately $94 million. Funds were transmitted to Columbus through the state. In 2013, the DHS Inspector General issued an audit report finding that Columbus had committed procurement violations and recommended that FEMA recover $10.9 million. FEMA reduced that amount to $9,612,831.19 and denied Columbus’s appeal. Columbus did not seek judicial review. FEMA recovered the disputed costs from Columbus in 2014.In 2018, Columbus filed suit, alleging four counts of contract breach and illegal exaction. The Claims Court dismissed Columbus’s illegal exaction claim, holding that Columbus did not have a property interest in the disputed funds and that FEMA’s appeal process protected Columbus’s rights to due process, and dismissed Columbus’s contract-based claims, finding that Columbus had no rights against FEMA under that contract or otherwise. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the illegal exaction and express and implied contract claims. The court vacated the dismissal of the third-party beneficiary contract claim. View "Columbus Regional Hospital v. United States" on Justia Law

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Uniloc’s patent is directed to “a system and method for enabling local and global instant [Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)] messaging over an IP network.” Facebook filed two petitions for inter partes review (IPR) of the patent, challenging claims as obvious under 35 U.S.C. 103. Apple's IPR proceeding was already pending. Facebook filed a third petition, identical in substance to Apple’s petition, with a motion to join the Apple IPR. The Board granted Facebook’s motion. LG filed IPR petitions identical in substance to Facebook’s original petitions, with motions to join both Facebook IPRs. The Board instituted IPRs based on LG’s petitions and granted LG’s motion. In the Apple IPR, the Board upheld the patentability of all challenged claims. The Board dismissed-in-part Facebook, finding that Facebook was estopped under 35 U.S.C. 315(e)(1), as to the claims challenged in the Apple IPR. The Board concluded that the dismissal of Facebook did not limit LG’s participation. In consolidated IPRs, the Board found all of the challenged claims unpatentable. Uniloc unsuccessfully sought rehearing, arguing that the proceeding should have been terminated once the original petitioner, Facebook, was deemed estopped,The Federal Circuit affirmed; 35 U.S.C. 314(d)’s “No Appeal” provision did not bar review of the Board’s conclusion that under section 315(e)(1) a petitioner is not estopped from maintaining the IPR proceeding before it. The Board did not err in finding that LG was not estopped from maintaining its IPR challenge to claims 1–8 and that Facebook is not estopped from challenging claim 7. There was no error in the Board’s unpatentability findings. View "Uniloc 2017 LLC v. Facebook, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 1992, Brenner joined the VA as an attorney. In 2015, he suffered an accident that resulted in the amputation of his lower leg. He missed approximately six months of work and was reassigned to the Collections National Practice Group (CNPG). He received an overall “unacceptable” rating for 2017. Brenner unsuccessfully challenged the rating. In 2018, his supervisor proposed Brenner’s removal under 38 U.S.C. 714, listing 31 instances in which Brenner failed to meet deadlines and other errors. Brenner challenged the charges, citing his assignment to the CNPG and the “discrimination, retaliation, hostile work environment[,] and abuse of authority he has endured since.” Brenner also asserted that he had previously engaged in protected EEO and whistleblowing activity and attached copies of his complaints filed with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) and Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP). He argued that the deciding official, Hipolit, was required to recuse himself, given his prior involvement in Brenner’s complaints and discipline.Following the conclusion of Brenner's OSC and OAWP cases, Hipolit upheld the proposed removal as supported by substantial evidence. The Merit Systems Protection Board affirmed, finding that Brenner had not proven his affirmative defenses. The Federal Circuit vacated. The MSPB erred when it concluded that the Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, 38 U.S.C. 714, precluded, rather than required, review of the penalty imposed on Brenner and erred in applying the Act retroactively. View "Brenner v. Department of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law

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Edgewell manufactures and sells Diaper Genie, a system comprising a pail for the collection of soiled diapers and a replaceable cassette that is placed inside the pail and forms a wrapper around the soiled diapers. The 420 and 029 patents relate to alleged improvements in the cassette design. Edgewell accused Munchkin’s refill cassettes, which Munchkin marketed as being compatible with Edgewell’s Diaper Genie-branded diaper pails, of infringement. The district court granted, summary judgment of non-infringement of both patents.The Federal Circuit vacated with respect to the 420 patent. The district court erred in construing the term “clearance” on summary judgment in a manner dependent on the way the claimed cassette is put to use in an unclaimed structure. The 420 patent claims are directed only to a cassette; absent an express limitation to the contrary, the term “clearance” should be construed as covering all uses of the claimed cassette. The court reversed with respect to the 029 patent, directed to a cassette with a cover extending over pleated tubing housed therein. The district court correctly construed “annular cover” and “tear-off section” but there remained a genuine issue of material fact for the jury, sufficient to preclude summary judgment of noninfringement under the doctrine of equivalents. View "Edgewell Personal Care Brands, LLC v. Munchkin, Inc." on Justia Law

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Taylor Energy leased and operated Gulf of Mexico oil and gas properties, on the Outer Continental Shelf, offshore Louisiana. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan destroyed those operations, causing oil leaks. The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Oil Pollution Act required Taylor to decommission the site and stop the leaks. Taylor and the Department of the Interior developed a plan. Interior approved Taylor’s assignments of its leases to third parties with conditions requiring financial assurances. Three agreements addressed how Taylor would fund a trust account and how Interior would disburse payments. Taylor began decommissioning work. In 2009, Taylor proposed that Taylor “make the full final deposit into the trust account,” without any offsets, and retain all insurance proceeds. Interior rejected Taylor’s proposal. Taylor continued the work. In 2011, Taylor requested reimbursement from the trust account for rig downtime costs. Interior denied the request. In 2018, the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) affirmed Interior’s 2009 and 2011 Decisions.Taylor filed suit in the Claims Court, asserting contract claims. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit, rejecting “Taylor’s attempt to disguise its regulatory obligations as contractual ones,” and stating an IBLA decision must be appealed to a district court.In 2018, Taylor filed suit in a Louisiana district court, seeking review of the IBLA’s 2018 decision and filed a second complaint in the Claims Court, alleging breach of contract. On Taylor's motion, the district court transferred the case, citing the Tucker Act. The Federal Circuit reversed. The Claims Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over this case. Taylor is challenging the IBLA Decision and must do so in district court under the APA. View "Taylor Energy Co., L.L.C. v. Department of the Interior" on Justia Law