Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Patents
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The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) established many global standards for 3G, 4G, and 5G cellular communications technology. ETSI members that own standard-essential patents must provide “an irrevocable undertaking in writing that [they are] prepared to grant irrevocable licenses on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND)” terms. Ericsson holds patents that are considered essential to the ETSI standards and agreed to grant licenses to other companies to use its standard-essential patents on FRAND terms. HTC produces mobile devices that implement those standards; to manufacture standard-compliant mobile devices, HTC has to obtain a license to use Ericsson’s patents. Ericsson and HTC have previously entered into three cross-license agreements for their respective patents. Negotiations to renew one of those agreements failed.HTC filed suit, alleging that Ericsson had breached its commitment to provide a license on FRAND terms and had failed to negotiate in good faith. The jury found in favor of the defendants. The district court entered a separate declaratory judgment that the defendants had affirmatively complied with their contractual obligations. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the district court’s exclusion of HTC’s requested jury instructions, its declaratory judgment that Ericsson had complied with its obligation to provide HTC a license on FRAND terms, and the exclusion of certain expert testimonial evidence as hearsay. View "HTC Corp. v. Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson" on Justia Law

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After ATOM filed for bankruptcy, plaintiff and ATOM initiated an adversarial proceeding against Petroleum Analyzer, alleging claims of misappropriation of trade secrets, unfair competition, and civil theft. On the bankruptcy court's recommendation, the district court withdrew the reference to the bankruptcy court and asserted jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1334, and entered partial summary judgment for plaintiff and ATOM. Four years later, the district court held a bench trial and entered judgment in favor of Petroleum Analyzer and later awarded attorneys' fees to Petroleum Analyzer.The Fifth Circuit held that the district court did not clearly err by finding that Petroleum Analyzer did not use plaintiff's trade secrets in Petroleum Analyzer's sulfur-detecting excimer lamp called a MultiTek. Furthermore, the district court did not ignore the "law of the case" doctrine. The court also held that the district court did not err by awarding Petroleum Analyzer attorneys' fees under the Texas Theft Liability Act. The court remanded to allow the district court to make the initial determination and award of appellate attorneys' fees to Petroleum Analyzer. View "ATOM Instrument Corp. v. Petroleum Analyzer Co., LP" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether a jury should hear Xitronix's claim that KLA-Tencor violated the Sherman Act's prohibition of monopolies by obtaining a patent through a fraud on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO).The Fifth Circuit could not conclude that the Federal Circuit's decision to transfer this case to it was plausible, given the Supreme Court's and Congress's decisions to the contrary. The court held that the case belongs in the Federal Circuit because it presented a standalone Walker Process claim and there are no non-patent theories that would divert it to the Fifth Circuit. The court held that, under any reading of Gunn v. Minton, 568 U.S. 251 (2013), the court would deem it implausible that it could decide this appeal. Therefore, the court transferred the case back to the Federal Circuit. View "Xitronix Corp. v. KLA-Tencor Corp." on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed the district court's remand to state court. Plaintiff moved to dismiss the case. At issue was whether the district court has jurisdiction over an inventorship dispute where the contested patent has not yet been issued. The court concluded that, regardless of whether the removed complaint included an inventorship dispute, that dispute was inadequate to establish the district court's jurisdiction because the allegations indicated that no patent had issued; by raising a timely objection to removal, plaintiff properly preserved its jurisdictional argument; and because removal was improper and the case had not yet been tried on the merits, binding precedent dictated that the court remand the case to state court. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's remand order as amended and dismissed plaintiff's motion and cross-motion. View "Camsoft Data Sys., Inc. v. Southern Electronics Supply, et al." on Justia Law

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This appeal arose out of a contract dispute between Verint and Tekelec where Tekelec sought a right to payment stemming from a patent dispute between two corporate entities not directly involved in this appeal. The district court awarded summary judgment to Tekelec and denied Verint's cross-motion for summary judgment. The court rejected Verint's claims that Tekelc lacked constitutional standing to enforce its right to the payments at issue. Because the court concluded that Verint's fixed, contractual payment obligations under the Blue Pumpkin/IEX Agreement unambiguously fell outside of the scope of the subsequent Verint/NICE Settlement's boilerplate Non-Accrual Clause, the court need not consider Tekelec's alternative argument that the disputed payments accrued prior to the effective date of the Verint/NICE Settlement. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Tekelec, Inc. v. Verint Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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This suit stemmed from the efforts of plaintiff and its owner and founder to obtain a patent for an invention related to personalized postage stamps and the suit involved state law claims of fraud and breach of fiduciary duty in connection with a patent application. Plaintiff appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants, holding that there was no genuine issue of material fact as to whether plaintiff's claims were time-barred such that defendants were entitled to judgment as a matter of law and that in the alternative, there was no genuine issue of material fact as to the causation elements of plaintiff's claims. The court held that this case raised issues of patent law, and those issues were substantial because of the special federal interest in developing a uniform body of patent law in the Federal Circuit as recognized in Scherbatskoy v. Halliburton Co. and expressed by Congress's grant of exclusive appellate jurisdiction over patent cases to that court. Therefore, the court held that it lacked jurisdiction over the appeal and transferred the suit to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1631.

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Plaintiff sued defendant alleging that defendant misappropriated plaintiff's trade secrets related to a meat-packing method, which used a zero parts-per-million oxygen-storage atmosphere, after plaintiff visited defendant's plant to demonstrate its meat-packing method. At issue was whether the district court considered plaintiff's affidavit on reconsideration and whether defendant's motion for summary judgment was properly granted. The court held that the district court properly considered plaintiff's objected-to evidence when ruling on its motion for consideration; that the district court erred by entering summary judgment in favor of defendant when it incorrectly defined plaintiff's trade secrets and failed to consider that a unique combination of elements already publicly disclosed or generally known were protectable as trade secrets under Texas law; and that the district court properly denied plaintiff's partial summary judgment claim on the existence of a fiduciary duty and did not err when it failed to sua sponte enter judgment in plaintiff's favor.