Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals
Minkin v. Gibbons, P.C.
Plaintiff worked as an airplane mechanic, in the Navy and for several airlines. In the 1960s, he devised a tool that could reach deep inside airplane engines without disassembling external components. In 2000, a patent issued to plaintiff for the extended reach pliers, based on an application written and prosecuted by defendant. Danaher, a customer of plaintiff's business, subsequently developed its own version of the ERP and began competing against the device. Plaintiff sued for malpractice, alleging that the patent was so negligently drafted that it offered no meaningful protection against infringers. Its expert proposed alternate claim language that allegedly could have been enforced against Danaher. The district court granted defendant summary judgment, based on the element of causation. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Plaintiff did not raise a genuine dispute of material fact as to the patentability of its alternate claims. Plaintiff failed to raise a single material fact in dispute as to the nonobviousness of the proposed alternate claims. View "Minkin v. Gibbons, P.C." on Justia Law
Landmark Screens, L.L.C. v. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, L.L.P
Landmark invented an LED billboard and retained Kohler to file a patent application. Kohler filed the 096 application. USPTO indicated that the application contained multiple inventions. Kohler pursued two claims and withdrew others, intending that withdrawn claims would be pursued in divisional applications, to benefit from the 096 filing date. Kohler submitted an incomplete (916) divisional application, not using a postcard receipt to enable prompt notification of deficiencies. Months later, PTO issued notice of incomplete application. Kohler had changed firms. The anniversary of the 096 application’s publication passed; the 096 application became prior art against the 916 application under 35 U.S.C. 102(b). The attorneys did not immediately notify Landmark. Their petition to grant the 916 application an earlier filing date was dismissed. Landmark eventually filed suit alleging malpractice, negligence, and breach of fiduciary duty and reached a partial settlement. The state court dismissed remaining claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Landmark filed the same claims in federal court, adding claims for breach of contract and fraud. The district court dismissed all except the fraud claim under a one-year limitations period and later dismissed the fraud claim under a three-year limitations period. The Federal Circuit reversed. Under California equitable tolling law, the state law fraud claim was timely filed. View "Landmark Screens, L.L.C. v. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, L.L.P" on Justia Law
USPPS, Ltd. v. Avery Dennison Corp.
In 1999 Beasley filed a patent application for personalized postage stamps. In 2001 the PTO issued notice of allowance. Beasley then entered into a licensing agreement with Avery, specifying that Avery would assume responsibility for prosecution of the patent application and would pay patent prosecution expenses. Beasley appointed Renner to prosecute his application. A Renner attorney filed a supplemental information disclosure statement concerning prior art references. The PTO issued a second notice of allowance. Beasley transferred ownership USPPS. USPPS and Avery entered into an agreement. Later, the PTO vacated its notice of allowance and issued final rejections. Beasley and USPPS alleged that Avery mismanaged the application. Beasley’s suit for was dismissed for lack of standing. USPPS filed suit, alleging breach of fiduciary duty and fraud, based on Avery’s alleged representation that Beasley was the client of Renner. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants. The Fifth Circuit transferred to the Federal Circuit, finding that jurisdiction was based, in part, on 28 U.S.C. 1338 and that the alleged malpractice involves a question of patentability, even if no patent actually issued. The Federal Circuit affirmed, holding that it had jurisdiction and that the complaint was untimely. View "USPPS, Ltd. v. Avery Dennison Corp." on Justia Law