Federal Circuit

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

The long running patent battle between Apple and Samsung (now in year four) won't be ending anytime soon. Though a federal court had found that Samsung violated Apple's "slide to unlock" and auto-linking patents, it also refused to enjoin Samsung from selling those patent infringing products. According to the court, Apple simply couldn't show that Samsung's patent infringing features were harming its sales.

That was the wrong standard, the Federal Circuit ruled. Apple didn't have to show that a Galaxy phone's slide to unlock feature was directly connected to a loss of sales. A simple loss of sales due to Samsung is enough. Samsung will likely be forced to pull those phones from the market as a result of the ruling.

Contact manufactures can't patent a method for making contact lens material, the Federal Circuit ruled this week. That's because the process used is simply too obvious to be eligible for patent protection, the court found.

The court's ruling came 35 years Dome filed a patent for a method of making lenses which had increased oxygen permeability. When the patent was filed in 1980, contact lens makers were still struggling to move away from the unbreathable plexiglass lenses which were standard in the 70s. While a breakthrough, flexible, breathable polymer lenses were also so obvious at their time of invention that anyone could have made them.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodies, the Latin goes. Who watches the watchmen? Today, in certain circles, you might also hear people wondering, "Who judges the judiciary?" Given the fact that the Supreme Court has had a slightly less conservative term and that certain circuits -- we won't name any names -- often rule against conservative interests, many on the right wing are starting to discuss instituting an Inspector General of the Federal Courts to act as a check on supposed judicial activism, corruption or overreach.

The Inspector General of the Federal Courts would investigate alleged misconduct, seek out fraud and waste, and recommend changes in the judiciary -- even to our sleepy Federal Circuit.

If you've gotten a paternity test or fetal DNA test in the last twenty years, you have probably benefited from the discovery of cell-free fetal DNA, or cffDNA. This DNA is non-cellular bits of DNA floating freely in the blood stream of a pregnant woman, which can be extracted from maternal plasma and serum and tested for paternity and other genetic information.

After cffDNA was discovered, a method of detecting and interpreting it was commercialized by Sequenom and patented by Drs. Dennis Lo and James Wainscoat. Paternity and genetic tests based on cffDNA are significantly less invasive than other forms of testing. Unfortunately for Sequenom, however, those methods are also unpatentable, the Federal Circuit ruled last week.

The Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act's petition support requirement does not violate due process, the Federal Circuit ruled recently. That Act, also known as the Byrd Amendment, though in effect only briefly, allowed for the collection and distribution of duties on imported goods found to have been dumped into the U.S. market by foreign producers. Only domestic producers who supported the petition are allowed to receive the collected funds.

That petition support requirement, however, effected support decisions that were made before the law was passed. Thus, producers who did not support a petition were stopped from receiving antidumping duties, even though they had no prior warning that this would be the case. That was a reasonable requirement, the court found, one which rewarded producers for the support of the law.

A Vaccine Injury Case Succeeds at the Federal Circuit

Vaccines are overwhelmingly safe, but in a few very rare instances, they can have unintended side effects. The National Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 provides a federal cause of action for parents whose children have been injured by vaccines.

The Paluck family sued the Secretary of Health and Human Services for compensation over a claim that an MMR vaccine caused infant K.P. to lapse into a "severe neurological disability." After the case bounced around the court system for a bit, the Court of Federal Claims vacated a special master's determination that K.P.'s deterioration wasn't caused by the vaccination. The Federal Circuit affirmed.

Apple Verdict Against Samsung Mostly Upheld by Fed. Cir.

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.

Fed. Cir. Invalidates Live TV Patent for Indefiniteness

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.

Fed. Cir. Will Rehear Lexmark Ink Cartridge Case En Banc

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.