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Pay for doctors employed at VA hospitals, consisting of base pay, market pay, and performance pay is governed by 38 U.S.C. 7431. A pay panel meets at least every two years to determine market compensation for an individual physician and must consider new pay tables, issued by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Two women physicians at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System were hired in 2008 for an annual pay of $195,000, slightly less than the maximum allowed by the pay table. One year later, their base pay increased. As of November 2010, both were due for adjustments to market pay. In December 2010, VHA initiated a pay freeze. In 2012, each doctor filed an EEOC complaint, identifying male doctors whom they alleged were similarly situated and were being paid more. An EEOC officer concluded that they could not prove that the reasons for the salary differences were pretextual or resulted from unlawful discrimination. The pay freeze continued until December 2013. Both doctors then received base increases according to their longevity and received market pay increases to make their compensation “more in line with other emergency department physicians.” Each was restored to the middle of the salary spread. The doctors sued under the Equal Pay Act The Claims Court did not analyze whether they had established a prima facie case of salary discrimination, holding that they had not shown that discrimination was the reason for a male physician’s raise one year after being hired or for delays in processing their raises in time to avoid the pay freeze. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The doctors presented no evidence that the pay differential was based on sex, either historically or presently. View "Gordon v. United States" on Justia Law

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Worlds’s patents relate to the computer-generated display of avatars in a virtual world, including methods to determine which avatars are displayed in a given situation. In 2012, Worlds asserted infringement against Activision, which develops, publishes, licenses, and distributes video games. Bungie developed the Destiny products, which are distributed by Activision. In 2014, Worlds notified Activision that it intended to add Destiny as an additional accused product. Six months later, more than a year after Activision was served with the infringement complaint, Bungie filed inter partes reviews petitions, challenging Worlds’s patents. Worlds sought discovery regarding whether Activision should have been named as a real party in interest, making the petitions time-barred under 35 U.S.C. 315(b). Worlds submitted evidence of an agreement between Bungie and Activision: Destiny would be developed by Bungie and published by Activision; Bungie is responsible for “legal reviews,” “subject to prior review and approval of Activision.” The Agreement contemplates financial support from Activision to Bungie for development of Destiny. The Patent Board denied the motion and invalidated the patents. The Federal Circuit vacated. A mere assertion that a third party is an unnamed real party in interest, without any support, is insufficient to put the issue into dispute, but Worlds presented evidence sufficient so the Board was required to make factual determinations necessary to evaluate whether Bungie had established that its petition was not time-barred based on the complaints served upon Activision. View "Worlds, Inc. v. Bungie, Inc." on Justia Law

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IV’s 248 patent describes “an application-aware resource allocator” that allocates bandwidth resources to transmit information from software applications over a packet-switched network. The patent explains that quality of service (QoS) requirements may vary among applications, with some types of applications demanding, for instance, error minimization, and others prioritizing speed. To meet these varying requirements, the application-aware resource allocator “allocates bandwidth resource to an application based on an application type.” The district court rejected an infringement suit on summary judgment. The Federal Circuit vacated in part. The plain meanings of “application-aware resource allocator” in claim 1 and “application-aware media access control (MAC) layer” in claim 20 permits the resource allocator to allocate resources based on application type, which can be discerned using information from any of network layer 3, transport layer 4, and application layer 7. The district court’s grant of summary judgment of non-infringement resulted from a contrary construction. The court affirmed a determination that the “allocating means” in claim 20 are indefinite. The patent described QoS as “subjective” and varying based on individual preferences; the patent does not “provide adequate guidance.” View "Intellectual Ventures I LLC v. T-Mobile USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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Diamond Hong petitioned for cancellation of Cai’s mark, “WU DANG TAI CHI GREEN TEA,” based on a likelihood of confusion with its registered TAI CHI mark. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) found a likelihood of confusion, giving limited consideration to Cai’s briefing because it contravened provisions of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board Manual of Procedure (TBMP). The Federal Circuit affirmed the cancellation of Cai’s mark under 15 U.S.C. 1052(d). The TBMP states that the TTAB is not required to permit “a party in the position of defendant” to file a reply brief. Diamond Hong initiated the cancellation proceedings by filing a petition;Cai was in the position of a defendant and was not entitled to file a reply brief. In its likelihood of confusion analysis, the TTAB considered the first three "DuPont factors," treating the rest as neutral because neither party submitted evidence related to them. Substantial evidence supports the TTAB’s findings with respect to each DuPont factor: the similarity of the nature of the goods, the similarity of established trade channels, and the similarity of the marks. View "Zheng Cai v. Diamond Hong, Inc." on Justia Law

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The patent, which expired in 2015, is entitled “Optimizing packet size to eliminate effects of reception nulls,” and is directed to increasing the reliability of a wireless communications system when a wireless receiver is moving by minimizing the effects of burst errors (nulls) that occur at the receiver. Although nulls occur randomly, they can be predicted based on signal drop characteristics, such as the speed the receiver is moving. In describing prior art, the patent notes another technique for reducing the effects of burst errors "involves interleaving multiple message packets together.” On inter partes review, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board found various claims not unpatentable under 35 U.S.C. 103. The Federal Circuit vacated, finding that the Board improperly failed to consider a portion of the petitioner’s (Ericsson) reply brief, having characterized that portion of the reply as raising a new theory of obviousness, not addressed in the Petition or responding to arguments raised in the Patent Owner Response. “The Board’s error was parsing Ericsson’s arguments on reply with too fine of a filter.” Given the acknowledgment in the patent that interleaving was known in the art, Ericsson was entitled to argue on reply that the distinction in the specific type of interleaving between prior art and the patent would have been insubstantial to a person of skill in the art. The error was exacerbated by the fact that the significance of interleaving arose after the Petition was filed. View "Ericsson Inc. v. Intellectual Ventures I LLC" on Justia Law

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Villareal began working for the Bureau of Prisons in 2007 and had no disciplinary record; all of his evaluations were rated satisfactory or higher. In 2012, while Villareal was a Senior Corrections Officer at FDC Houston, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigated Villareal’s relationship with female inmates, Solis and Santana. Villareal was reassigned to a phone monitor position; he was not allowed to interact with the inmates or to work overtime. After a seven-month investigation, OIG concluded that Villareal violated several Bureau policies: placed and failed to report calls on his cellular phone to Solis’s family; engaged in an inappropriate relationship with Solis and showed preferential treatment toward Solis and Santana; misused his work computer, failed to properly monitor inmates around computers, failed to properly secure his office, and made derogatory remarks to inmates. Then-Warden Babcock stated to Villareal’s union representative that Villareal would be given a 30-day suspension. Pearce succeeded Babcock and testified that during their transition meeting, Babcock referred to Villareal as a “potential termination.” Villareal's termination was proposed as consistent with the Bureau’s table of penalties and Villareal’s lack of remorse. Villareal’s union filed a grievance, emphasizing that 1,265 days had passed between the investigation's beginning and Villareal’s removal. An arbitrator found removal justified. The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting due process claims. Villareal made no claim of prejudice resulting from the delay. Warden Pearce properly considered the relevant factors in reaching his decision. View "Villareal v. Bureau of Prisons" on Justia Law

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Scotty, born in 1979 at Madigan Army Medical Center, suffered injuries during childbirth, resulting in brain damage, cerebral palsy, seizures, and blindness, necessitating ongoing, around-the-clock care. The Shaws sued and agreed to a settlement, which stated that payments described in paragraph 5 and the purchase of annuities described in paragraph 6 “shall constitute a complete release.” Paragraph 5 provided that the government would pay: $500,000 to the Shaws; $500,000 to Scotty's medical trust; $850,000 to the Shaws’ attorneys; and, for the purchase of annuities to provide payments set forth in paragraph 6, $2,950,000.00. Paragraph 6 set forth the terms for the annuities. Four annuities are at issue: one each for Mr. and Ms. Shaw, one for the guardianship for the benefit of Scotty, and one for the medical trust. The government made each of the specified payments, including $2,846,095 to purchase the annuities. The agreement stated that payments from the annuities for Mr. and Ms. Shaw “are guaranteed for a period of twenty (20) years.” Paragraph 7 noted that the “settlement is contingent on a total, final cost of $4,800,000.00.” The annuities were purchased from ELNY, which later encountered financial difficulties and entered into court-ordered liquidation in 2012. The Shaws's annuity payments were reduced by 20%; payments to the guardianship and the medical trust were reduced by 62.4%. The Shaws sued. The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the government, which was obligated to guarantee the annuity payments only for the first 20 years. The reduction in payments began after that period. The Shaws lacked standing to sue on behalf of the medical trust. View "Shaw v. United States" on Justia Law

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Maatita filed a design patent application, covering the design of an athletic shoe bottom, with two figures showing a plan view of the claimed shoe bottom design. As is customary, the solid lines of Figure 1 show the claimed design, whereas the broken lines show structure that is not part of the claimed design—the shoe bottom environment in which the design is embodied. An examiner rejected the application’s single claim as non-enabled and indefinite under 35 U.S.C. 112 because the plan left the design open to multiple interpretations regarding the depth and contour of the claimed elements. The Federal Circuit reversed. The Board misapplied section 112 in the design patent context. The standard for indefiniteness is connected to the standard for infringement. A design patent is infringed if “an ordinary observer, familiar with the prior art, would be deceived into thinking that the accused design was the same as the patented design.” Maatita’s decision not to disclose all possible depth choices would not preclude an ordinary observer from understanding the claimed design since the design is capable of being understood from the two-dimensional, plan- or planar-view perspective shown in the drawing. View "In re: Maatita" on Justia Law

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In April 2009, E.O. visited a pediatrician for his six-month visit and received several vaccinations. That night, Mrs. Oliver found E.O. seizing in his bed and called 9-1-1. At the emergency room, E.O. presented with a fever, red eyes with discharge, and a runny nose. The next day, E.O.’s pediatrician diagnosed E.O. with “complex febrile seizure and conjunctivitis.” E.O. did not have any health issues or seizures for two months but had several seizures over the summer and began to experience prolonged seizures in March 2010. Each seizure resulted in an emergency room visit. A pediatric neurologist diagnosed E.O. with an SCN1A gene defect. E.O. exhibited developmental delay. A pediatric neurologist performed examinations, which demonstrated “intractable, symptomatic childhood absence and complex partial seizures of independent hemisphere origin secondary to SCN1A gene defect (borderline SMEI syndrome) and encephalopathy characterized by speech delay.” E.O.’s family sought compensation under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, 42 U.S.C. 300aa-2–300aa-33, alleging that E.O. developed Dravet syndrome as a result of the vaccinations. The Claims Court and Federal Circuit affirmed the rejection of their claim. The government’s expert provided strong evidence that Dravet syndrome will develop in children with the SCN[1]A mutation, whether or not they receive vaccinations; the Olivers failed to establish that their theory has garnered widespread acceptance, as evidenced by an extensive discussion of articles with contradictory findings. View "Oliver v. Secretary of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Missouri River overlies the western boundary of South Dakota's Crow Creek Indian Reservation, established in 1863. Under the Supreme Court’s 1908 “Winters” decision, the creation of a Reservation carries an implied right to unappropriated water “to the extent needed to accomplish the purpose of the reservation.” The Tribe possesses “Winters rights.” The Tribe sued, seeking $200 million in damages for the taking of its water rights. The complaint notes the federal Pick-Sloan flood control project on the River, with construction of the Fort Randall and Big Bend Dams; a 1996 statute that established a trust fund for the Tribe, funded with $27.5 million in hydroelectric-power revenue from Pick-Sloan; a 2012 settlement between the Tribe and the government, unrelated to water rights; and the generally poor economic prospects of the Reservation; it alleged that the government breached its fiduciary duty to “[a]ppropriately manag[e] the natural resources" of the Reservation, 25 U.S.C. 162a(d)(8). The complaint did not allege that the government’s actions deprived the Tribe of sufficient water to fulfill the reservation’s purposes or that those actions would cause the Tribe to lack sufficient water in the future. The Claims Court dismissed, stating that the complaint did not suggest that the Tribe is experiencing a water shortage and that it could not identify an injury "that has yet occurred.” The Federal Circuit affirmed, concluding that the Tribe failed to even allege that it has suffered the requisite injury in fact. View "Crow Creek Sioux Tribe v. United States" on Justia Law