Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

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Eight of Rembrandt’s at-issue patents address cable modem technology; the ninth involves over-the-air signals. Rembrandt filed multiple infringement suits against dozens of cable companies, cable equipment manufacturers, and broadcast networks. The cases were consolidated. After several years of litigation, the court entered final judgment against Rembrandt on all claims. Many of the defendants sought attorney fees under 35 U.S.C. 285. Nearly four years after the litigation ended, the court issued a brief order granting that motion, declaring the case exceptional, and granting the bulk of the requests for fees, including nearly all of the attorney fees incurred in the litigation: more than $51 million. The Federal Circuit affirmed the exceptional case designation but remanded, finding that the court erred by failing to analyze fully the connection between the fees awarded and Rembrandt’s misconduct. While the court’s findings that that Rembrandt: wrongfully gave fact witnesses payments contingent on the outcome of the litigation; engaged in, or failed to prevent, widespread document spoliation; and should have known that the revived patents were unenforceable, were “remarkably terse” and “shed little light on its justifications” none of those findings was based “on an erroneous view of the law or on a clearly erroneous assessment of the evidence. View "In re Rembrandt Technologies, LP Patent Litigation" on Justia Law

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The 2001 patent application, directed to a method of treating cancer by administering natural killer cells, was rejected on obviousness grounds, after years of examination. The Patent and Trial Appeal Board affirmed. The assignee of the application appealed to the district court under 35 U.S.C. 145, in lieu of an immediate appeal to the Federal Circuit. The statute provides that the applicant must pay “[a]ll of the expenses of the proceeding,” “regardless of the outcome.” After prevailing in the district court, the Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) sought to recover $111,696.39 in fees under section 145. Although the district court granted the USPTO’s expert fees, it denied attorneys’ fees. Initially, the Federal Circuit reversed. On reconsideration, the court affirmed. The American Rule prohibits courts from shifting attorneys’ fees from one party to another absent a “specific and explicit” directive from Congress. The phrase “[a]ll the expenses of the proceedings” falls short of that stringent standard. View "Nantkwest, Inc. v. Iancu" on Justia Law

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The Claims Court entered judgment in favor of Starry on its bid protest claim, concluding that the Department of Health and Human Services acted arbitrarily and capriciously in canceling its solicitation seeking to procure certain business operations services. The Claims Court thereafter awarded Starry attorney fees at the rates actually billed to Starry by its counsel, finding that the “extreme measures that [Starry] was forced to pursue to vindicate its right to a rational and lawful federal procurement process, combined with the shocking disregard of the truth by” HHS, constituted a “special factor” justifying an award of fees above the EAJA’s “default rate” of $125 per hour. EAJA, the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. 2412(d)(2)(A), provides that when a trial court finds that a “special factor” exists, it is authorized to increase the statutory attorney fee rate in certain cases brought by or against the government. The Federal Circuit vacated the award, holding that the Claims Court erred as a matter of law in holding that an agency’s improper or dilatory conduct during the administrative process that gave rise to the litigation between the parties can constitute a “special factor.” EAJA does not contain any reference to prelitigation activities. View "Starry Associates, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Stone sued Cook in the Eastern District of Texas, alleging infringement of the 327 patent, which relates to a basket-type medical device used to remove stones from biological systems. Venue was transferred to the Southern District of Indiana. Cook deposed the patent’s inventor, who stated, regarding the addition of the “sheath movement element” in claim 1 to overcome an examiner’s rejection, “I realize there is nothing novel about it.” Cook then petitioned the Patent and Trademark Office for inter partes review of all claims. Following the institution of IPR, one of Stone’s managing members offered to license the 327 patent to Cook for $150,000.00 but negotiations broke down. The Patent Board canceled all of the patent’s claims. Following a dismissal with prejudice, the court denied Cook’s motion for attorney fees, 35 U.S.C. 285. The Federal Circuit affirmed, agreeing the case was not “exceptional” and that Stone lacked any type of “clear notice” of the 327 patent’s invalidity by service of Cook’s invalidity contentions. While one might view Stone’s litigating position as weak given the inventor’s deposition testimony regarding the novelty and origin of claim 1’s sheath handle element, exceptionality is not assessed by a strong or even correct litigating position. View "Stone Basket Innovations, LLC v. Cook Medical LLC" on Justia Law

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Robinson, a Marine Corps veteran, served in Vietnam from 1966-1969 and later had coronary problems. He sought treatment at a VA medical facility. In 2006, a VA cardiologist recommended that he undergo certain medical testing. The tests, performed 14 months later, revealed that Robinson suffered from left ventricular diastolic dysfunction. The VA granted Robinson a 60% disability rating effective April 2, 2007, the date he underwent cardiac testing. The Board denied Robinson entitlement to a higher rating. In the Veterans Court, Robinson argued for the first time—through the same counsel that represented him before the Board—that his rating should have been assigned an effective date in February 2006, when his doctor ordered tests. The court did not identify any error by the Board but “set aside” its decision and remanded for it to address Robinson’s argument in the first instance. Robinson sought attorney fees, arguing that, because he secured remand, he was a prevailing party under the Equal Access to Justice Act. The Federal Circuit affirmed denial of Robinson’s application. This particular remand did not confer prevailing party status on Robinson because it “was not predicated on administrative error by the Board,” did not materially alter the legal relationship of the parties, and was solely to allow the Board to consider an issue first raised on appeal. View "Robinson v. O'Rourke" on Justia Law

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In 1995, Raniere assigned all rights in the five patents to GTI. Raniere is not listed on GTI’s incorporation documents as an officer, director, or shareholder. GTI dissolved in 1996. In 2014, Raniere executed a document on behalf of GTI, as its “sole owner,” purportedly transferring the patents to himself. Raniere subsequently sued Microsoft and AT&T for infringement, identifying himself as the patents’ owner. Microsoft moved to dismiss for lack of standing, noting that the PTO’s records indicated that Raniere did not own the patents. Raniere produced documents that, according to the court, failed to indicate that Raniere had an ownership interest in GTI at any time or had the right to assign the patents. Raniere obtained documents from an attorney, showing the GTI shareholders’ consent to a transfer of shares from Raniere’s ex-girlfriend (75% owner of GTI) to Raniere. The documents did not indicate that any transfer was completed and did not establish that Raniere owned the patents. The district court held a hearing, found that Raniere’s testimony contradicted Raniere’s earlier representation that the shares had already been transferred and was “wholly incredible and untruthful,” concluded that Raniere was unlikely to be able to cure the standing defect, dismissed the case, and found that Raniere’s conduct demonstrated “a clear history of delay and contumacious conduct.” The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal and a subsequent award of prevailing parties attorney fees and costs, 35 U.S.C. 285. View "Raniere v. Microsoft Corp." on Justia Law

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IH’s patent relates to a method of purchasing goods at a local point-of-sale system from a remote seller. IH sued Bed Bath & Beyond for infringement. Two months later, the district court granted BBB summary judgment, concluding that the Supreme Court’s intervening decision, Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank, rendered the asserted claims invalid under 35 U.S.C. 101 because the asserted claims are directed to the abstract idea of “local processing of payments for remotely purchased goods.” The Federal Circuit affirmed. BBB moved for an award of attorney fees under 35 U.S.C. 285, arguing that, once Alice issued, IH should have reevaluated its case and dismissed the action. The district court granted BBB’s fees motion, holding that, “following the Alice decision, IH’s claims were objectively without merit,” and awarded BBB its attorney fees beginning from the date of the Alice decision, including fees incurred during the section 101 appeal. The Federal Circuit affirmed. IH’s claims were “dubious even before the Alice decision” and Alice was a significant change in the law as applied to the facts of this particular case. View "Inventor Holdings, LLC v. Bed Bath & Beyond, Inc." on Justia Law

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Simmons contacted counsel in 2011, claiming that he developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome as a result of his 2010 flu vaccination. He provided his vaccination record. Counsel agreed to represent him. Counsel was subsequently unable to contact Simmons and sent a letter in 2013, stating that their attorney-client relationship had terminated. That letter was returned as undeliverable. Nearly two years later, shortly before the limitations period on his Vaccine Act claim would expire, Simmons contacted counsel’ and expressed that he would like to proceed. Counsel spoke with Simmons one additional time. The next day, on October 22, 2013, counsel filed Simmons’s petition, without any medical records or other supporting evidence. In January 2014, the special master ordered counsel to produce medical records. Counsel stated that counsel had again lost contact with Simmons and was unable to acquire those records. The master dismissed the case for failure to prosecute. Counsel then filed petitions seeking $8,267.89 in fees and costs. The master noted that because there was no direct evidence of bad faith and counsel had a vaccination receipt, counsel had satisfied the good faith and reasonable basis requirements and awarded fees. The Claims Court and Federal Circuit disagreed. The master erred in finding that counsel had a reasonable basis for Simmons’s claim. The fact that the statute of limitations was about to expire did not excuse counsel’s obligation to show some basis for the claim that Simmons suffered Guillain-Barre beyond their conversations. View "Simmons v. Secretary of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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Rumsey, a Department of Justice employee, protested grant-making decisions and ultimately went to the media and members of Congress and filed a complaint with the Inspector General, alleging fraud. Her efforts resulted in corrective action. Rumsey alleged that the agency subsequently gave her improperly low performance ratings, moved some of her job duties to other employees, and canceled her telework agreement. She prevailed in an individual right of action appeal with the Merit Systems Protection Board, alleging whistleblower reprisal. Rumsey sought attorney’s fees under 5 U.S.C. 1221(g)(1)(B). At the time of that request, Rumsey and Slavet, one of the three lawyers that represented Rumsey during the Board proceedings, were in fee dispute before the District of Columbia Bar, Attorney/Client Arbitration Board. Rumsey “distanced herself from Slavet,” who had been Rumsey’s principal lawyer before and during the initial hearing before the administrative judge. The AJ had previously awarded sanctions based on Slavet’s failure to respond to discovery requests. The Board affirmed the AJ’s refusal to award attorney’s fees for Slavet’s services. Slavet and Rumsey settled their fee dispute, agreeing that Rumsey would pay $120,000 of the $145,445 sought by Slavet. The Federal Circuit reversed. Rumsey carried her burden of showing entitlement to some award of attorney’s fees. View "Rumsey v. Department of Justice" on Justia Law

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AdjustaCam’s patent, which issued in 1999, discloses a camera clip that supports a camera both on a flat surface and when attached to a computer monitor. AdjutaCam’s infringement litigation against Newegg included a Markman order, indicating that AdjustaCam's suit was baseless, and extended expert discovery. Just before summary judgment briefing, AdjustaCam voluntarily dismissed its infringement claims against Newegg with prejudice. Newegg then sought attorneys’ fees under 35 U.S.C. 285. Following a remand in light of intervening Supreme Court precedent clarifying what constitutes an exceptional case, the district court again denied Newegg’s motion for fees. The Federal Circuit reversed. Based on the circumstances presented here, the wholesale reliance on the previous judge’s fact-finding was an abuse of discretion. The record points to this case as standing out from others with respect to the substantive strength of AdjustaCam’s litigating position. Where AdjustaCam may have filed a weak infringement lawsuit, accusing Newegg’s products of infringing the patent, AdjustaCam’s suit became baseless after the district court’s Markman order. View "AdjustaCam, LLC v. Newegg, Inc." on Justia Law