Federal Circuit

Federal Circuit - The FindLaw Federal Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog


Does a data connection have to be completely established before it can transmit data? You'd think so, and if you didn't, you'd have lost a $147 million jury award and be out about $200,000 in court costs.

A company called mFormation Software Technologies (MST) claimed that BlackBerry infringed its patent to "the wireless activation and management of an electronic device without the need to have physical access to the device" -- in this case, basically remotely deleting the contents of the phone.

Following the Federal Circuit's 2011 opinion in Therasense Inc. v, Becton, Dickinson & Co., the "inequitable conduct" defense -- described by one Quinn Emanuel article on the subject as "the 'atomic bomb' of patent law" -- became much harder to invoke.

Last week, the Federal Circuit proved that news of its death had been greatly exaggerated, as it used inequitable conduct to invalidate a plaintiff's patent.

The Federal Circuit on Monday rejected a plea by a well-known patent troll to remain in federal court. MPHJ Technology purported to own the patents to scan-to-email technology. It sent demand letters to small businesses that use scan-to-email in their copy machines (which is to say, all of them) asking for license fees in the amount of $1,000 per employee, Ars Technica reported last year.

The State of Vermont had it up to here with MPHJ demanding license fees from Vermont corporations and nonprofits, so it filed a lawsuit in state court, alleging unfair and deceptive trade practices.

June's U.S. Supreme Court decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International struck a blow to software patents -- or at least the ones that didn't make any sense in the first place. To briefly recap: The Court invalidated a patent for a very generic, unpatentable abstraction whose only claim to patentability was that the abstract concept had been reduced to a computer program. The Court unanimously declared that merely attaching the words "on a computer" doesn't transform an unpatentable idea into a patentable one.

Where does that leave the venerable Federal Circuit, which has always been loath to invalidate a patent?

A lawsuit about an insomnia medication has kept lawyers awake at night for the last five years. Who would have thought?

Tyco Healthcare manufactures Restoril, an insomnia medication. The patent covers formulations of Restoril with a particular surface area. Its competitor, Mutual Pharmaceutical, wanted to make a generic version of Restoril with a larger surface area. Tyco sued for patent infringement, but a district court agreed with Mutual, finding that a generic version of Restoril with a larger surface area couldn't possibly infringe on Tyco's patent. It also ultimately invalidated Tyco's patent, which it acquired from another company, as being prior art.

After that lawsuit didn't work, Tyco filed a citizen petition with the FDA, urging it to reconsider its guidelines for generic makers of Restoril -- and conveniently, those guidelines suggested that the same larger surface area that Mutual wanted to manufacture shouldn't be approved for use. For safety, you know. The FDA denied the petition, which "reli[ed] entirely on uncorroborated generalities and theoretical speculation." Mutual then counterclaimed that Tyco was engaging in "sham" litigation and antitrust behavior to keep Mutual from selling generic Restoril.

For 17 years, two companies -- one American, the other Cuban -- have fought over who owns the U.S. trademark to the venerable Cohiba cigar brand. Both Cubatabaco, the original Cuban manufacturer of Cohiba cigars, and the U.S.-based General Cigar Co. claim a right to the trademark.

Last year, the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) granted summary judgment in favor of General Cigar on the issue of Cubatabaco's standing to General Cigar's trademark. But last month, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed.

In an effort to promote ownership of small businesses by veterans, Congress established a goal of awarding a certain percentage of Veterans Administration contracts to small businesses owned by both veterans and service-disabled veterans. In 2012, the VA chose to use an existing GSA contractor to install emergency notification services in several VA medical centers rather than put out bids for the work to veteran-owned businesses.

Kingdomware, a small business owned by a veteran, filed a complaint, claiming that the VA was required to solicit bids from veteran-owned small businesses before resorting to using an existing GSA contractor. The Court of Federal Claims found for the VA, and Kingdomware appealed.

In Kingdomware v. United States, the Federal Circuit Court affirmed the decision, 2-1.

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"Congress could not have intended that a single employee's objection to a TSA decision, no matter how well-intentioned that objection might be, would allow the employee to take matters into his own hands and divulge information that could be exploited to jeopardize the country's transportation infrastructure and the lives and livelihoods of those who depend upon it."

Legal arguments work so much better when you can undergird them with a bit of fear, don't they? Phrases like "another 9/11 incident" really underscore the stakes behind what is basically a case of statutory interpretation using legislative history.

But don't be mistaken: This is an interesting legal case, and not just briefs full of fluff, fear, fire and brimstone. As we've discussed repeatedly, the legal saga of whistleblower and former Air Marshal Robert MacLean boils down to a single phrase: "specifically prohibited by law," an issue which is clouded by a vague statute and mixed statutory history.

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Patent trolls have a bad rap, understandably so, and recently the Federal Circuit ruled against a patent troll whose actions were described as "unethical to say the least," by one print media consultant.

The Federal Circuit brings to a close litigation that the troll brought against the likes of Xerox, EFI, Konica Minolta, Fujifilm and Ricoh.

In 2011, the Navy was faced with a situation of "overmanning" and need to "optimize the quality of the navy," so it did the military's version of a layoff and created an Enlisted Retention Board, which resulted in the honorable discharge of many sailors. The Navy notified sailors about positions that were overmanned, quotas, and gave them the ability to convert to an undermanned position. After this process, 2,946 sailors were chosen for separation, and sailors were honorably discharged.

Three hundred sailors sued in the Court of Federal Claims for back pay, and challenged the Navy's decision to create the ERB, the decision to discharge, and also alleged the discharges violated due process, as well as statutory and regulatory requirements.