Federal Circuit

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


Back in 2012, a federal jury awarded Apple a staggering one billion dollars after finding that rival smartphone maker Samsung infringed Apple's design and utility patents, as well as Apple's trade dress.

Samsung appealed to the Federal Circuit, which yesterday handed Samsung a mixed bag. Everything but the trade dress claims could stand, the court said, setting the stage for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In September 1997, the patent office issued Patent No. 5,663,757, which allows software to add interactive elements to a live television broadcast; for example, by allowing "impulse purchase transactions with immediate payment." So, basically, you can buy what you see on TV.

In 1997, there was no such thing as a smartphone. But the current holder of that patent, EON Corp. IP Holdings, claimed that watching live TV on a smartphone is the "modern iteration of that patent." And so, they sued AT&T, Sprint, Qualcomm, and so on.

Well, that's interesting. Yesterday, the Federal Circuit sua sponte ordered an en banc hearing in Lexmark International v. Impression Products, Inc. A three-judge panel just heard oral arguments on March 6, but that apparently wasn't sufficient for the Federal Circuit.

According to the order, the parties must resubmit new briefs and address the applicability of Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons and patent exhaustion in the face of a single-use-and-return restriction. This case is actually pretty huge.

Sharon Prost joined the Federal Circuit in 2001 and began service as Chief Judge when Judge Randall Rader stepped down as Chief in 2014. Some of Prost's most important opinions involve smart phone patent infringement litigation, including her dissent in Apple v. Motorola.

Prost also is one of the few circuit court judges who is more famous as a litigant than judge. After working for years in the federal government and putting herself through school at nights, an early '90s custody battle made her famous as a working mother being penalized for trying to balance home life and career.

Another day, another patent infringement suit with Apple on the other side of the "v." This time, the plaintiff is a patent licensing company, but slightly different than what we typically see from those kinds of entities.

MobileMedia is a patent licensing company formed by MPEG LA, Nokia, and Sony -- in other words, not one-off companies that make all their money from patent settlements. MobileMedia claimed that Apple's iPhone infringed on 16 of its patents. A jury found that Apple did infringe, but following a renewed motion for JMOL, the district court reversed some parts of the verdict.

Eight days after the New Year and we finally have the Federal Circuit's first precedential opinion of 2015. Patents? Trademarks? Tariffs? You wish!

Instead, Schwalier v. Hagel is about a promotion that never came to pass. Air Force Brigadier General Terryl Schwalier was nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate to the rank of major general. He was supposed to be appointed in 1997, but the appointment got delayed and President Clinton decided not to appoint him after all.

Schwalier tried to use the defense of "no backsies" to claim that he had been appointed, but the Federal Circuit didn't think so.

Year in Review 2014: The 10 Most Popular Federal Cir. Blog Posts

This circuit. This glorious Federal Circuit, with its unique, specialized jurisdiction over a few niche areas of law. Typically, this circuit's run-of-the-mill patent decisions are a bit dry.

But 2014 was different. This past year brought a whole lot of Supreme Court intervention, a scandal that led to a resignation and reprimand, and a new chief judge. In other words: juicy blog material.

Here's what you found most interesting, judging by traffic numbers:

Over here at FindLaw's Federal Circuit blog, we're no fans of business method patents. Every chance we get, we write about, and celebrate, another Federal Circuit opinion using Alice v. CLS Bank to invalidate phony baloney "on a computer" method patents.

After a string of Alice success stories, in which the Federal Circuit struck patents for regular old, ordinary, analog things done on a computer, the court has upheld a business method patent because the problem the patent sought to solve actually was something unique to the Internet.

The "entire market value rule" (EMVR) is a way of limiting damages on patent infringement. It requires the prevailing party in a patent infringement case to base its damages only on the value of the infringing component in a device, not the value of the entire device itself.

Ericsson sued big-name makers of network technology like D-Link and Netgear, and computer manufacturers like Toshiba and Dell, claiming they made devices with 802.11n-compliant wireless chips and therefore needed a license.

Ericsson won at trial, but the real question on appeal is whether its damage award broke the EMVR.

Following Alice v. CLS Bank last term, all those "on a computer" business method patents were seriously called into question. We've seen new lawsuits spring up over invalidating old patents, and Alice get invoked in current litigation over "on a computer" patents.

One of the highest-profile cases was Ultramercial v. Hulu, also known as the WildTangent case for one of its other defendants. The short, short version is that Ultramercial owns a patent that purports to cover viewing free streaming videos online in exchange for watching a little advertising throughout -- basically, exactly what Hulu and YouTube do.