Justia Legal Ethics Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
Transweb, LLC v. 3M Innovative Props. Co.
3M and TransWeb manufacture respirator filters, consisting of “nonwoven fibrous webs.” 3M sued Transweb for infringement of several patents. TransWeb sought a declaratory judgment of invalidity and non-infringement. A jury found the patents to be invalid based on TransWeb’s prior public use of the patented method. In accordance with an advisory verdict from the jury, the district court found the patents unenforceable due to inequitable conduct. An inventor for the patents and a 3M in-house attorney acted with specific intent to deceive the patent office as to the TransWeb materials. The district court awarded approximately $26 million to TransWeb, including trebled attorney fees as antitrust damages. The Federal Circuit affirmed, finding sufficient corroborating evidence to support the finding of prior public use by TransWeb, and that attorney fees are an appropriate basis for damages under the antitrust laws in this context. TransWeb’s attorney fees appropriately flow from the unlawful aspect of 3M’s antitrust violation and are an antitrust injury that can properly serve as the basis for antitrust damages. View "Transweb, LLC v. 3M Innovative Props. Co." on Justia Law
Lumen View Tech., LLC v. Findthebest.Com, Inc
Lumen’s 073 patent is directed to facilitating multilateral decision-making by matching parties, using preference data from two classes of parties. FTB operates a search website with a comparison feature, “AssistMe,” that provides personalized product and service recommendations by asking the user questions about attributes of the desired product or service. Lumen alleged infringement. FTB repeatedly informed Lumen that FTB’s accused feature did not involve bilateral or multilateral preference matching. Before receiving any discovery, Lumen served preliminary infringement contentions, including a chart identifying the allegedly infringing features of AssistMe. The district court granted FTB judgment on the pleadings, holding that the patent’s claims are directed to an abstract idea and invalid for failure to claim patent-eligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. 101. The court found claim construction unnecessary and awarded attorney fees. Finding the case exceptional under 35 U.S.C. 285, the court stated “basic” pre-suit investigation would have shown that AssistMe only used one party's preference data. The court explained factors that supported enhancing the lodestar amount, including “the need to deter the plaintiff’s predatory strategy, the plaintiff’s desire to extract a nuisance settlement, the plaintiff’s threats to make the litigation expensive, and the frivolous nature of the plaintiff’s claims.” The Federal Circuit affirmed the "exceptional" finding, but remanded for proper explanation of the calculation of fees. View "Lumen View Tech., LLC v. Findthebest.Com, Inc" on Justia Law
Haggart v. United States
Landowners filed a class action suit challenging the federal Surface Transportation Board’s approval of King County using a Burlington Northern Railroad corridor as a public trail, pursuant the National Trails Systems Act Amendments of 1983, 16 U.S.C. 1247(d). The Claims Court approved a $110 million settlement agreement and an award to class counsel of approximately $35 million in attorney fees under the common fund doctrine. Two class members challenged the approval and award. The Federal Circuit vacated, noting that the government also challenged the approval, claiming that class counsel failed to disclose information necessary to allow class members to assess the fairness and reasonableness of the proposed settlement. The government had standing to raise its challenge under the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act (URA), 42 U.S.C. 4654(c) and its arguments were not barred by waiver or estoppel.The Claims Court erred in approving a settlement agreement where class counsel withheld critical information not provided in the mailed notice to class members, but which had been produced and was readily available. Although a “common fund” exists in this case, the URA attorney fee provision provides for reasonable fees and preempts application of the common fund doctrine. View "Haggart v. United States" on Justia Law
Tesco Corp. v. Nat’l Oilwell Varco, L.P.
Tesco sued NOV for infringement of patents that involve an apparatus and method for handling sections of pipe used for lining a well-bore. NOV filed an answer, counterclaims, a request for attorney’s fees, and motions to compel requesting information about documents to show what occurred during the six months before the on-sale bar date. Ultimately, based on non-production of an original brochure, the court sanctioned Tesco by reversing the burden of proof on validity, setting the burden at a preponderance of evidence. The jury concluded that NOV infringed the relevant claims, found certain of those claims to be not invalid, and found that the brochure was not enabling. During post-trial discovery on the brochure. NOV filed “post-trial summary judgment motions of invalidity” (35 U.S.C. 102(b) and 103) based on what it asserts was disclosed in the brochure. The court granted NOV’s motion for obviousness, relying on an obvious-to-try analysis, set a trial date for the exceptional case counterclaim, and, later, issued an order sua sponte dismissing the case with prejudice under its inherent authority, finding that certain testimony was “contrary to the representations Tesco made to the Court during trial,” stating that the attorneys’ conduct was “entirely out of character ... serious and has had significant and costly ramifications.” The parties, including the attorneys, later entered into a settlement resolving all outstanding issues, and signed releases. The attorneys contend that, despite the settlement, the harm to their reputation from the court’s opinion justified continued jurisdiction. The Federal Circuit dismissed, finding no remaining case or controversy. View "Tesco Corp. v. Nat'l Oilwell Varco, L.P." on Justia Law