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

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Two named inventors of a patent, directed to portable antenna positioners, assigned their interests to their respective employers, AntennaSys and Windmill. Windmill acquired an exclusive license to AntennaSys’s one-half interest in the patent. Windmill formed GBS to hold its interests in the patent and agreed to pay AntennaSys a royalty; if Windmill fails to meet certain minimum sales requirements, its exclusive license to AntennaSys’s interest becomes non-exclusive. The agreement provides that, if Windmill loses its exclusivity, either party may commence a lawsuit against “third-party” infringers. Windmill failed to meet those requirements; its license to AntennaSys’s one-half interest is now non-exclusive. AntennaSys sued AQYR, Windmill’s wholly-owned subsidiary, for infringement. Following claim construction, AntennaSys conceded that it could not prevail. The court entered judgment for the defendants.The Federal Circuit vacated. On remand, the district court should resolve factual issues pertaining to AntennaSys’s ability to bring its infringement claim against AQYR: whether Windmill waived the right to object to AntennaSys’s failure to meet 35 U.S.C 262's prerequisite that each joint owner of a patent may make, use, offer to sell, sell, or import the patented invention, without the consent of or accounting to other owners; whether GBS or Windmill holds or retains an ownership interest in the patent; and whether AntennaSys’s infringement suit is barred because of an express or implied license from the real patent owner to AQYR. View "AntennaSys, Inc. v. AQYR Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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GSK’s 067 patent for “carvedilol” issued in 1985. The FDA initially approved carvedilol for treating hypertension; the product was marketed with the brand name Coreg®. Scientists continued to study carvedilol. In 1997, the FDA approved carvedilol for the additional treatment of congestive heart failure. GSK’s 069 patent issued in 1998, describing and claiming treatment with a combination of carvedilol and an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor, a diuretic, and digoxin. The patent was listed in the FDA’s Orange Book. In 2003, the FDA approved this Coreg® combination for use by patients suffering from left ventricular dysfunction following myocardial infarction. In 2002, Teva applied for FDA approval of generic carvedilol, certifying in the ANDA that its product would not be launched until the 067 patent expired and that the 069 patent was “invalid, unenforceable, or not infringed.” Teva received FDA tentative approval “for treatment of heart failure and hypertension,” to become effective in 2007. GSK, in 2003, sought reissue of the 069 patent, 35 U.S.C. 251. The 000 patent issued in 2008. In 2011 the FDA required Teva to amend its carvedilol label to be “identical in content to the approved [GSK Coreg®] labeling.GSK sued for infringement.A jury found the 000 patent valid and infringed, assessed damages, and found the infringement willful. The district court granted Teva judgment of non-infringement as a matter of law. The Federal Circuit reinstated the jury verdicts as supported by substantial evidence. View "GlaxoSmithKline LLC v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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Mote served in the Air Force, 1961-1965, participating in missions to Vietnam, where Agent Orange was deployed. Mote later developed coronary artery disease and lung cancer. In 2010, Mote filed a disability claim based. In 2013, Mote filed his Notice of Disagreement with the denial of that claim. He died months later. Mrs. Mote substituted for his claim and filed a dependency-and-indemnity compensation claim. The VA denied Mrs. Mote’s claim in 2015; she filed her Notice of Disagreement and requested a Board of Veterans’ Appeals “Travel Board hearing.”Mote sought mandamus relief, 28 U.S.C. 1651, alleging unreasonable delay. The Veterans Court denied the petition, applying the “Costanza” standard. The government claimed, due to limited resources, it “could not predict how long” Mote might have to wait for a hearing. The Federal Circuit consolidated her appeal with others and held that the Veterans Court should use the Telecommunications Research & Action Center v. FCC (TRAC) standard to evaluate unreasonable-delay mandamus petitions rather than the Costanza standard. On remand, Mote requested a “reasoned decision” from the Board (within 45 days) and periodic progress reports. In March 2019. the Board scheduled her Travel Board hearing for May 2019. The Veterans Court dismissed Mrs. Mote’s mandamus petition without applying the TRAC standard. The Board subsequently remanded for further factual findings.The Federal Circuit again remanded, for a TRAC analysis, noting that Mote sought progress reports, in addition to a decision, and that the Veterans Court was not powerless to fashion other relief, such as a more lenient, specific, deadline. Whether a delay is so egregious as to justify the extraordinary writ depends on issues that are likely to arise frequently among veterans. The Veterans Court is uniquely well-positioned to address these issues first. View "Mote v. Wilkie" on Justia Law

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Biogen’s patent is directed to a method of treating a viral condition, a viral disease, cancers, or tumors, by the administration of a pharmaceutically effective amount of a recombinant polypeptide related to human interferon-β (IFN-β). Biogen sued Serono, alleging contributory and induced infringement of the patent by the sale and marketing in the U.S. of Rebif, a recombinant IFN-β product used for the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis. A jury found that the patent claims were anticipated by two references teaching the use of native IFN-β to treat viral diseases; that the asserted claims not invalid for lack of enablement or written description, or for obviousness; that patients and prescribers directly infringed the asserted claims; and that Serono contributorily infringed the claims but did not induce infringement thereof. The district court granted judgment as a matter of law of no anticipation in favor of Biogen and conditionally granted a new trial on anticipation; sustained the jury’s verdict of no invalidity based on written description or enablement; overturned the verdict of no induced infringement; sustained the verdict of contributory infringement; and held that the claims were not patent ineligible.The Federal Circuit reversed with respect to anticipation and the conditional grant of a new trial. A reasonable jury could find the claims of the patent anticipated on the record presented. The court remanded with instructions to reinstate the verdict of anticipation. View "Biogen MA Inc. v. EMD Serono, Inc." on Justia Law

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Voip-Pal’s patents, titled “Producing Routing Messages for Voice Over IP Communications,” describe the field of invention as “voice over IP communications and methods and apparatus for routing and billing” and relate to routing communications between two different types of networks—public and private. Voip-Pal sued Apple for infringement. Apple petitioned for inter partes review (IPR) of several claims of the asserted patents in two separate proceedings before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, which determined that the claims not invalid for obviousness. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s non-obviousness determinations as to certain claims and its sanctions ruling, based on a finding that Voip-Pal engaged in sanctionable ex parte communications. The Board’s decision to allow Apple to petition for rehearing before a new panel, and provide Apple with a meaningful opportunity to respond to VoipPal’s letters was a reasonable course of action. The court vacated with respect to 19 claims, on grounds of mootness. View "Apple Inc. v. Voip-Pal.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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Network-1’s 930 patent, titled “Apparatus and Method for Remotely Powering Access Equipment over a 10/100 Switched Ethernet Network,” issued in 2001. Network-1 sued HP for infringement. A jury found the patent not infringed and invalid. Following post-trial motions, the district court denied Network-1’s request for a new trial on infringement but granted Network-1’s motion for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) on validity, holding that HP was estopped from raising certain validity challenges under 35 U.S.C. 315(e)(2) based on HP’s joinder to an inter partes review (IPR) before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.The Federal Circuit vacated in part and remanded. The district court correctly construed “low-level current” but erred in its construction of “main power source,” and as a result of that error, Network-1 is entitled to a new trial on infringement. Network-1 was prejudiced by the incorrect claim construction. HP was not statutorily estopped from challenging the asserted claims of the patent based on prior art, which was not raised in the IPR and which could not have reasonably been raised by HP. The court affirmed that certain asserted claims were not improperly broadened. View "Network-1 Technologies, Inc. v. Hewlett-Packard Co." on Justia Law

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The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) exempts from overtime requirements those employed in an executive, administrative, or professional capacity, 29 U.S.C. 213(a)(1). If an employer violates the overtime requirement, it is liable for unpaid overtime compensation plus an equal amount as liquidated damages. If the employer shows “good faith and that [it] had reasonable grounds for believing that [its] act or omission was not a violation," the court may award no liquidated damages. The FLSA applies to civilian employees of the federal government. In 2007, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) classified Shea’s position, Investigations Specialist, as exempt from the overtime requirements.The Claims Court held that NCIS that it had not willfully misclassified Shea, so that the relevant period started in 2014, and found that Shea’s team leader duty was optional and comprised a minority of the Investigations Specialist position’s duties so that Shea’s primary duty was not management but was “conducting surveillance,” which would not qualify for the administrative exemption. The court awarded Shea compensatory damages and back pay but denied liquidated damages, finding NCIS’s classification decision objectively reasonable and in good faith. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The statute does not require documentation of the original classification decision and requiring frequent classification review would be untenable. Between the position description and the testimony of Shea, his supervisor, and NCIS’s classification witness, the evidence supports the holding that NCIS reasonably believed that Shea’s position had substantial managerial duties. View "Shea v. United States" on Justia Law

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Ramirez was a Customs Officer, required to remain medically qualified to carry a service firearm. His wife reported to the police that he had cocked his service weapon and pointed it at her head. The police concluded that the allegations were unfounded. Ramirez was not charged. The Agency temporarily revoked Ramirez’s authority to carry a firearm and ordered a fitness-for-duty evaluation, with a psychiatric evaluation. His first evaluation was inconclusive. A second psychiatrist was also unable to assess Ramirez’s dangerousness but recommended that Ramirez be restricted from weapons-carrying positions based on his “lack of full cooperativeness.” A third-party psychologist had determined that Ramirez’s Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory results were invalid due to “extreme defensiveness.” Ramirez answered every MMPI question; the finding was based on his answers. The Agency terminated him.In arbitration, the Agency denied Ramirez access to the MMPI assessments and interpretations. Ramirez offered the testimony of his own expert, who administered another MMPI and interpreted his scores as within a range typical among law enforcement personnel. After a fourth fitness-for-duty evaluation and MMPI assessment, the same psychologist again interpreted the results as invalid “because of high defensiveness.” The arbitrator affirmed Ramirez’s removal and denied Ramirez’s request to order the Agency to produce the records of his MMPI assessments.The Federal Circuit vacated. The arbitrator did not exceed his authority by seeking additional evidence after issuing his interim award but Ramirez was entitled to a meaningful opportunity to review and challenge the assessments underlying his adverse psychiatric evaluations. View "Ramirez v. Department of Homeland Security" on Justia Law

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John served in the Army in the 1960s. In 1972, John and Roberta married. In 2001, they separated. In 2005, a New York court issued a Separation Judgment, requiring John to pay Roberta $300 per month in spousal maintenance. In 2006, the VA granted John service connection for various disabilities; he began receiving monthly compensation. The New York court held a hearing where both parties appeared with counsel with a proposed settlement. That Stipulation provided that no later than December 2006 John was to pay Roberta $7,000 for past and future maintenance, health insurance, and other obligations. John made the payment. In 2010, following John’s relocation, a Pennsylvania state court issued a Divorce Decree.In 2008, Roberta had filed a VA claim for apportionment, 38 U.S.C. 5307, of John’s disability benefits. John objected, arguing only that the 2006 Stipulation “precluded” the claim. The VA denied Roberta’s claim, despite her demonstrated financial need, concluding she had “voluntarily renounced" maintenance or support. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals granted Roberta special apportionment from the 2008 date of her claim until the date of her 2010 divorce. The Veterans Court and Federal Circuit affirmed. A state court domestic relations separation agreement plays no role in VA’s determination of entitlement to special apportionment. John’s remedy lay in state court where he could sue for breach of contract. Special apportionment turns not on the veteran’s degree of support but on the dependent’s showing of hardship. View "Batcher v. Wilkie" 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