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Posts Tagged: "sovereign immunity"

Second Circuit Affirms Welsh Government Advertising Activity Triggered Exception to Sovereign Immunity

On June 8, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in Pablo Star Ltd. V, Welsh Gov’t, affirmed a decision of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York denying the Welsh government’s motion to dismiss a claim of copyright infringement on the ground of sovereign immunity. In particular, the circuit court held that the activity resulting in the lawsuit fell within the commercial-activity exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA)…. The circuit court explained that whether an activity is considered ‘commercial’ depends on the ‘nature’ of the activity, rather than the ‘purpose’, wherein nature is defined as ‘the outward form of the conduct that the foreign state performs or agrees to perform’ and purpose is defined as ‘the reason why the foreign state engages in the activity.’

Oral Arguments in Allen v. Cooper Pit Court Precedent Against Rising Tide of State Copyright Infringement

The Supreme Court heard oral argument in Allen v. Cooper (Case No. 18-877) on Monday, November 5, 2019. Petitioner Allen claims that the State of North Carolina infringed his copyrights in images and video of the salvage of Blackbeard’s famed pirate ship. Relying on the Copyright Remedies Clarification Act (CRCA), Allen seeks monetary damages against the State. The State argues, and many lower courts have agreed, that the CRCA is unconstitutional and state sovereign immunity precludes Allen from recovering copyright infringement damages against the State.

CAFC Reiterates Sovereign Immunity Is a Shield, Not a Sword

On September 5,  the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) held that state sovereignty principles asserted by the Board of Regents of the University of Texas System (UT) do not give UT the right to bring suit in an improper venue. The appeal clarifies once again that sovereign immunity may be used only as a shield, not a sword. UT argued that Boston Scientific Corporation’s request that the case be transferred to the District of Delaware should be reversed because venue was proper in the Western District of Texas since a state has the right to sue a nonresident in a forum of its choosing where personal jurisdiction is satisfied. It argued that the federal patent venue statute cannot override this sovereign right. UT also argued that the District of Delaware lacks jurisdiction because UT never consented to suit in Delaware, nor did it waive its sovereignty in Delaware or abrogate its sovereignty by statute. The CAFC disagreed with the above, holding that state sovereignty does not allow states to bring patent infringement suits in an improper venue, as is the case where BSC does not have a place of business in Texas. It also held in Regents of University of Cal. V. Eli Lilly & Co. that sovereign immunity does not apply where the state acts only as the plaintiff, and therefore the right of UT to choose the forum does not apply because the Eleventh Amendment only applies to suits against a state, not by a state.

The Year in Patents: The Top 10 Patent Stories from 2018

Before proceeding it is worth noting two things. First, that my list focuses on specific and identifiable events. Second, there are a number of stories worth mentioning, but which just missed the cut for one reason or another. The two that will probably be most glaring omissions are the Federal Circuit’s decision in Vanda Pharmaceuticals v. Westward Pharmaceuticals, 887 F.3d 1117 (Fed. Cir. 2018), and the final rules implementing the Phillips claim construction standard. With respect to Vanda, while it is a pro-patent decision, the claims found eligible are virtually indistinguishable from those held ineligible in Mayo, so it seems virtually certain a different panel of the Federal Circuit would have ruled differently. Thus, all Vanda did was seem to create uncertainty, which may be good for settlements, but likely not a repeatable decision. As for the Phillips standard, while it makes perfect sense for the PTAB to be using the same claim construction standard as used in federal district courts, many have questioned whether it will make any real difference in outcomes. Still, it is a big event and would have been 11th on my list. Had a chance to Phillips been accompanied by patent claims being presumed valid and requiring clear and convincing evidence to be declared invalid at the PTAB, that would certainly be worthy of top 10 inclusion. Alas, that would require an amendment to the statute and beyond the powers of Director Iancu. Thus, the banishment of BRI, while important, finds itself on the outside looking just in at this year’s top 10.

Federal Circuit rules tribal sovereign immunity cannot be asserted in IPRs

Federal Circuit, in an opinion authored by Judge Moore, affirmed the determination of the PTAB, holding that tribal sovereign immunity cannot be asserted in IPRs. the decision of the Federal Circuit is rather seriously flawed. The PTAB is simply not capable of exercising jurisdiction over a patent through in rem jurisdiction. The ruling of the PTAB only implicates the rights of certain persons, and because the patent and all patent claims remains open to challenge by others in the future. That truth means the PTAB acts, at best, quasi in rem, which thanks to Supreme Court jurisprudence should be extremely relevant when determining the applicability of tribal sovereign immunity.

Askeladden LLC Submits Another Amicus Brief Advocating Against Tribal Sovereign Immunity for PTAB Proceedings

In this regard, a PTAB proceeding is not a suit in court, but instead an administrative proceeding in which the Patent Office (through the PTAB) takes “a second look at an earlier administrative grant of a patent.” Cuozzo, 136 S. Ct. at 2144 (2016); see also Oil States, slip op. at 7 (“[T]he decision to grant a patent is a matter involving public rights—specifically, the grant of a public franchise. Inter partes review is simply a reconsideration of that grant, and Congress has permissibly reserved the PTO’s authority to conduct that reconsideration.”). Like other administrative actions in which States and Federal Agencies (e.g., the Federal Power Commission) may regulate rights or responsibilities of Tribes with respect to off-reservation activities, a PTAB proceeding is one of the “other mechanisms” available to the USPTO to resolve questions of patent validity as the administrative authority granting the patent in the first instance. Cf. Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Cmty., 134 S. Ct. 2024, 2028 (2014).Even if the Tribe cannot be compelled to participate in this proceeding, the PTAB retains authority to adjudicate the validity of patents under review. Indeed, there is no requirement under the AIA that a patent owner participate in a proceeding in order for it to proceed.

Mohawks appeal PTAB denial of Sovereign Immunity defense

The appellants are appealing from a series of inter partes review (IPR) proceedings at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) where the Board made the controversial decision to deny motions to dismiss the IPRs on a sovereign immunity defense raised by the St. Regis tribe. On appeal, St. Regis and Allergan asks the Federal Circuit to determine whether the PTAB erred either in holding that tribal immunity does not apply to IPR proceedings and in deciding that Allergan was the “effective patent owner,” enabling the IPRs to proceed in the St. Regis tribe’s absence even if tribal immunity applied.

Mohawk Tribe wins stay from Federal Circuit in sovereign immunity fight

The Federal Circuit issued an Order staying further proceedings at the PTAB relating to the RESTASIS patents now owned by the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe. The stay will remain in place until at least one day after the oral argument scheduled for June 2018. The Court will consider whether the stay shall remain in effect or be lifted based on the merits of the case.

PACED Act has nothing to do with drug prices, discriminates against Native Americans

The bill has nothing to do with drugs or drug prices, how how much Missourians desire cheaper generics. The PACED Act is discriminatory, has nothing to do with lowering drug prices, and doesn’t change the fact that to date no Indian Tribe has ever asserted sovereign immunity in a patent dispute in federal court… Ironically, if the PTAB and PTAB process were seen as fair and even-handed, there would be no incentive for any company to transfer its patents to sovereign tribes or State universities in order to escape the clutches of PTAB jurisdiction. Simply stated, the problem is IPRs, not Native American Tribes or sovereign immunity.

Mohawk Tribe Ready to Battle over Ex Parte Communications between PTAB Judges

Attorneys for the Mohawk tribe have notified the USPTO that ex parte communications between an APJ assigned to the IPRs and an APJ not assigned to the IPRs cannot possibly fall within the deliberative privilege of (b)(5), as it is commonly referred to in FOIA matters… Shore concluded his e-mail to the USPTO putting the Office on notice of impending litigation, reminding the USPTO of its obligation to retain all information and documents in anticipation of a FOIA lawsuit that would seek to compel release of documents in non-redacted form… In reviewing the March 9, 2018 document release there are several other e-mail communications that raise the specter of improper ex parte communications in violation of the APA, both relating to the Mohawk RESTASIS IPRs, as well as the IPRs where an expanded panel of the PTAB refused to recognize a sovereign immunity defense made by the State of Minnesota.

Law Professor Notes PTAB’s Decision on Sovereign Immunity Goes Well Beyond the Constitution

As Sherkow’s Twitter critique notes, however, this hesitation to extend sovereign immunity to tribes in proceedings at the PTAB without precedent for doing so presumes that such an immunity defense would be denied by default, a presumption Sherkow called “painfully, absolutely wrong.” The abrogation of tribal sovereign immunity can be legislated by Congress, (which, as has been noted, was already attempted by Sen. Claire McCaskill [D-MO]) but without Congressional action specific to this abrogation, the default presumption would be that tribes have sovereign immunity to assert. “Hesitancy extending the immunity where immunity is unclearly presented is one thing,” Sherkow wrote. “But upending the Constitutional scheme on Kiowa’s dicta is another.”

PTAB Denies St. Regis Mohawk Assertion of Sovereign Immunity

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office denied the Motion to Dismiss filed by the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe. The Tribe asserted sovereign immunity and requested the IPRs be dismissed. The PTAB denies the request finding an IPR to not be an exercise of power over the Tribe… And therein lies the problem the PTAB faces. The Administrative Patent Judges routinely demonstrate an acute lack of understanding relative to very basic legal matters.

PTAB Chief Attempts to Explain Expanded Panel Decisions, Sovereign Immunity at PPAC

Given the PTAB’s ability to make decisions precedential, Ruschke’s argument about how important and meaningful it is to have expanded panels to ensure uniformity misses the mark. The PTAB does not designate many cases as precedential (another problem for a different day), but it is possible for a three-judge panel decision to be made precedential. In fact, there have been a number of cases that have been pronounced as precedential by the PTAB where the decision was made by a three-judge panel. That being the case, why is it necessary for any expanded panels unless PTAB leadership is trying to influence Administrative Patent Judges despite the lack of a precedential designation? And doesn’t such an attempt to influence call into question the decisional independence of APJs?

IP and Sovereign Immunity: Why You Can’t Always Sue for IP Infringement

The overlap between sovereign immunity and IP issues is not something that comes up all of the time. However, when it does, the impact of the immunity can be significant. The law for certain matters, such as lawsuits in Federal court, is fairly well resolved. However, its application when new procedures are made available, such as for IPRs which were established in 2012, has provided new challenges and opportunities… So can the Federal or State government be sued for infringement under Federal patent, trademark, or copyright law? The answer often depends on the particular facts and specific legal issues of a dispute. That said, in most cases the answer is Yes for the U.S. Government and No for states and Tribal Nations, unless they have taken a specific action to waive immunity for that matter. A brief summary follows.

Why did two APJs issue an identical concurring opinion in separate cases?

Notice what APJ Harlow wrote relating to IPR2017-01068 is word for word identical to what APJ Bisk wrote relating to IPR2017-01186. Indeed, the entirety of the concurring opinions are word for word identical. Obviously, the concurring opinions were shared internally in some form or fashion prior to being issued by the PTAB. But why? It seems perfectly reasonable for the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe to want to know who actually wrote these two concurring opinions. Did APJ Harlow and APJ Bisk cooperate and jointly write a single concurring opinion filed in two separate cases? Why would two APJs not assigned to the same case take it upon themselves to collaborate in writing a single concurring opinion? Are APJs not assigned to a case typically consulted? Did someone else write those opinions for APJ Harlow and APJ Bisk to make sure this particular viewpoint was incorporated into the decisions? How did APJ Harlow and APJ Bisk have access to the concurring opinions each would file?