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

January 2014 Archives

Feds Try to Take Air Marshal Whistleblower's Case to SCOTUS

Last year, the Federal Circuit gave us that warm-and-fuzzy feeling. You know the feeling -- it's the one you get at the end of the movie where the good guy wins. That feeling.

Robert MacLean was a federal air marshal. Shortly after learning of a hijacking plot, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) decided to pull air marshals off of certain flights. If that sounds like an idiotic response to you, you're simpatico with MacLean, who first complained to his supervisors, then leaked the plan to MSNBC.

Long story short: MacLean was fired, even though the information wasn't classified as Sensitive Security Information (SSI) until after he leaked it. Fortunately, as we reported last year, the Federal Circuit came to the rescue, holding that the Whistleblower Protection Act could apply to his case, and later denied an en banc rehearing. The government is now petitioning for Supreme Court review.

SCOTUS Shifts Burden of Proof Back, Reverses Fed. Circuit

The facts of this case are unremarkable. Medtronic licenses patents from Mirowski for some products. Mirowski noticed that Medtronic was about to release new products, which they claimed infringed upon their patents. They wanted more royalties. Medtronic decided not to wait to be sued and filed a declaratory judgment action, seeking to have a judge rule that the new products didn't implicate the patents at issue.

The trial court ruled in Medtronic's favor, holding that even though they brought the declaratory judgment suit, the burden of proof still fell upon the party alleging infringement. The Federal Circuit disgreed, and reversed, holding that the burden fell on the party that brought the lawsuit.

The Supreme Court, however, disagreed, and shifted the burden of proof back to the patent holder.

Double Play: Security Warning; Apple Beats Motorola

It's been a big week at the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, with a decision in Motorola's patent war with Apple and a computer virus spreading via bogus court emails.

Ready for the roundup? It's Friday, so we'll make it quick:

The Supreme Court is back in action (or, as I like to say, back in full effect), and cases originating in the Federal Circuit are moving up the ranks with cert petitions being granted. But they all can't be winners, and some petitions are getting denied as well. Here's a quick look at some of the hot cases.

Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, et al., v. Monsanto Company, et al.

The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association ("OSGTA"), though noble in their efforts, don't know when enough is enough. They preemptively sued Monsanto to protect themselves from a potential patent infringement claim, in case their fields became contaminated with Monsanto's genetically modified seed. The district court found no case or controversy.

The Federal Circuit is in the unique position of hearing very specialized and specific types of cases. If you're an IP attorney, or work with veterans, then it's important to keep a close eye on the cases coming out of this circuit, and 2013 was a pretty interesting year for the Federal Circuit.

Federal Circuit in the News

The infamous government bailout of 2008 still haunts us as the issue of whether Ben Bernanke could be deposed, while still in his position, was raised in a lawsuit from Maurice Greenberg, owner of Starr International, Co., a 12% stake holder in AIG. The last word by the Federal Circuit was that Bernanke may not be deposed while he is Chairman, but considering he steps down in less than a month, we're guessing this is not the last we'll hear on this issue.

The Federal Circuit also made history in September when Judge Hughes was confirmed as the first openly gay judge to sit on a Court of Appeals.