Federal Circuit

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


Less than a month ago the Supreme Court granted cert in Teva v. Sandoz, a case where the Court must determine the proper standard of review when reviewing a patent inventor's claim. While most other federal appeals courts review a trial court's conclusions to see if they are "clearly erroneous," the Federal Circuit has had a practice of reviewing an inventor's claims using de novo review, reports SCOTUSblog.

The Court is no longer accepting cases for this term, so Teva is on the October 2014 docket. Because there are patents at issue that may expire before the Court decides the case, there is uncertainty as to what the companies should do, and they are seeking guidance from the Court.

Attention attorneys practicing in the Federal Circuit: mark your calendars. There are two events coming up in May and June, and registration is now open for both of them.

The Federal Circuit has announced that it will be hosting the 2014 Federal Practice Summit, and the Federal Circuit Bar Association has announced the 16th Annual Bench & Bar Conference.

Read on to learn more about both events, and to find out how to register.

You may remember back on 2008 when George W. Bush released a statement of the Government's intention to assist automakers in the midst of the economic downturn. As a result of the government assistance, two groups of former General Motors Corporation ("GM") and Chrysler LLC ("Chrysler") car dealers, whose franchises were terminated as a result of the bankruptcies, sued the Government alleging regulatory takings.

The Government's Financial Assistance

The franchise dealers have state and federal laws to protect them from terminations that are not available to them in bankruptcy proceedings. In reviewing GM and Chrysler's viability proposals, the Government specifically noted that the dealer terminations were not happening fast enough to maintain viability, and suggested bankruptcy, which the companies accepted.

The Transportation Security Administration learns about a credible hijacking plot. It then pulls air marshals off of certain long-distance flights because of a budget shortfall. This was, in a word, stupid.

Robert MacLean was one of those air marshals. After going to his supervisors and other proper channels, and after he was rebuked with warnings about his career, he anonymously tipped off the press. He was later fired.

We've covered his case extensively, from the Federal Circuit's opinion in his favor, holding that the Whistleblower Protection Act applied to his case, to that court's denial of banc rehearing.

In January, the Department of Homeland Security submitted its petition for certiorari, arguing that applicable security regulations prohibited MacLean's disclosures and that the Federal Circuit's opinion "effectively permits individual federal employees to override the TSA's judgments about the dangers of public disclosure."

What was MacLean's response? Let's take a look at his Brief in Opposition:

The third time is the charm. After being distributed for three judicial conferences, the Supreme Court granted Teva Pharmaceutical's petition for writ of certiorari on Monday.

The Stakes Are High

The Teva case is a patent dispute surrounding the multiple-sclerosis drug Copaxone. Teva Pharmaceuticals holds the patents for Copaxone, and a decision in its favor would keep the patents alive until September 2015. Generic manufacturers want to release their generic drug in May -- which technically they could, under the Federal Circuit's decision. Annual U.S. sales of Copaxone make up more than half of Teva's profit, and reach over $3 billion annually, so there is much at stake for both Teva, and generic manufacturers, reports Blooomberg.

The facts of this case are not terribly exciting. Robert Allen had a payment system used in the automotive industry. With David Gillman's help, he filled out patent paperwork, giving Allen sole inventorship, for using the system to process health care claims. Other licensing agreements and ownership agreements gave Gillman some rights, though it seems most of those rights seemed were transferred to Allen's company, StoneEagle, in 2010.

In 2011, it turned out that the patent was valuable. Gillman got angry, the relationship soured, and StoneEagle sought a declaratory judgment that Allen was the sole inventor and owner of the patent. A defective injunction was issued, then "clarified" in 2013, yet Gillman tried to start a competing venture anyway.

Now, he's appealing the declaratory judgment and injunction.

Another week passed, and still no word whether the Supreme Court will hear a decision originating in the Federal Circuit, that could have an effect on how soon generic versions of a drug show up on the market, reports Reuters. And in more recent Federal Circuit jurisprudence, the court looks at overtime compensation for Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") air-traffic control specialists.

Teva et al., v. Sandoz, Inc., et al.

Teva manufactures Copaxone, a multiple-sclerosis drug, and has been seeking to delay introduction of generic competing drugs. In a patent infringement claim against Novartis's Sandoz, Mylan and Momenta, the Federal Circuit "upheld four Teva patents that expire in May while invalidating a separate patent that would have blocked generic competition until September 2015," according to Bloomberg.

Some days, it just seems like we should burn down our entire patent system and redesign it from the ground up. Today is one of those days.

How complicated is venue in a patent case? Take a look at Apple. They're in Cupertino, California, right? Except, they have a one-person subsidiary in Luxembourg, which itself has a six-person subsidiary that does nothing but patent work, and is located in the patent plaintiff-friendly Eastern District of Texas.

Where do they sue? Probably Texas, since it's so patent-friendly. Of course, that's probably why they located a new subsidiary there. And when a defendant has to travel to Texas to be sued, well, it's probably too bad. And two recent decisions by the Federal Circuit won't help, as the panel took an already murky procedural question and made it worse.

Google's not off the hook. What a California district court did to get it out of court was undone last week by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Vederi's Patents

The Google product up for debate is Street View. Vederi, LLC sued Google alleging that Google's Street View violates four of Vederi's patents: U.S. Patent Nos. 7,239,760; 7,577,316; 7,805,025; 7,813,596. The four patents together are for a "system and method for creating, storing, and utilizing composite images of a geographic location." That is, they define a method of "generating a composite image that provides a field of view that is wider than that provided by a single image." They all share common specification, and claim priority.

Nautilus v. Biosig Instruments: SCOTUS Oral Arguments Almost Here

With oral arguments slated for April, anticipation continues to build in the U.S. Supreme Court case Nautilus Inc. v. Biosig Instruments Inc.

Stemming from the Federal Circuit, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the legal standard of invalidity for indefiniteness.