SCOTUS Opinion: Federal Circuit reversed on smartphone infringement damages, insider trading conviction upheld, FCA seal violation does not mandate dismissal
|Topics:||Federalism & Separation of Powers|
Yesterday the Supreme Court issued three unamimous opinions:
(1) Samsung Electronics v. Apple. By a vote of 8-0, the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is reversed and the case remanded. Per Justice Sotomayor's opinion for a unanimous Court: "Section 289 of the Patent Act provides a damages remedy specific to design patent infringement. A person who manufactures or sells 'any article of manufacture to which [a patented] design or colorable imitation has been applied shall be liable to the owner to the extent of his total profit.' 35 U. S. C. §289. In the case of a design for a single component product, such as a dinner plate, the product is the 'article of manufacture' to which the design has been applied. In the case of a design for a multicomponent product, such as a kitchen oven, identifying the 'article of manufacture' to which the design has been applied is a more difficult task. This case involves the infringement of designs for smartphones.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit identified the entire smartphone as the only permissible 'article of manufacture' for the purpose of calculating §289 damages because consumers could not separately purchase components of the smartphones. The question before us is whether that reading is consistent with §289. We hold that it is not.... The parties ask us to go further and resolve whether, for each of the design patents at issue here, the relevant article of manufacture is the smartphone, or a particular smartphone component. Doing so would require us to set out a test for identifying the relevant article of manufacture at the first step of the §289 damages inquiry and to parse the record to apply that test in this case. The United States as amicus curiae suggested a test, see Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae 27–29, but Samsung and Apple did not brief the issue. We decline to lay out a test for the first step of the §289 damages inquiry in the absence of adequate briefing by the parties. Doing so is not necessary to resolve the question presented in this case, and the Federal Circuit may address any remaining issues on remand."
(2) Salman v. United States: By a vote of 8-0, the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is affirmed. Per Justice Alito's opinion for a unanimous Court: "In Dirks v. SEC, 463 U.S. 646 (1983), this Court explained that a tippee’s liability for trading on inside information hinges on whether the tipper breached a fiduciary duty by disclosing the information. A tipper breaches such a fiduciary duty, we held, when the tipper discloses the inside information for a personal benefit. And, we went on to say, a jury can infer a personal benefit—and thus a breach of the tipper’s duty—where the tipper receives something of value in exchange for the tip or 'makes a gift of confidential information to a trading relative or friend.' Id., at 664. Petitioner Bassam Salman challenges his convictions for conspiracy and insider trading. Salman received lucrative trading tips from an extended family member, who had received the information from Salman’s brother-in-law. Salman then traded on the information. He argues that he cannot be held liable as a tippee because the tipper (his brother-in-law) did not personally receive money or property in exchange for the tips and thus did not personally benefit from them. The Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that Dirks allowed the jury to infer that the tipper here breached a duty because he made a 'gift of confidential information to a trading relative.' 792 F. 3d 1087, 1092 (CA9 2015) (quoting Dirks, supra, at 664). Because the Court of Appeals properly applied Dirks, we affirm the judgment below."
(3) State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. United States ex rel. Rigsby: By a vote of 8-0, the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is affirmed. Per Justice Kennedy's opinion for a unanimous Court: "This case addresses the question of the proper remedy when there is a violation of the False Claims Act (FCA) requirement that certain complaints must be sealed for a limited time period. See 31 U. S. C. §3730(b)(2). There are two questions presented before this Court. First, do any and all violations of the seal requirement mandate dismissal of a private party’s complaint with prejudice? Second, if dismissal is not mandatory, did the District Court here abuse its discretion by declining to dismiss respondents’ complaint?.... The FCA’s structure is itself an indication that violating the seal requirement does not mandate dismissal. This adheres to the general principle that Congress’ use of 'explicit language' in one provision 'cautions against inferring' the same limitation in another provision. Marx v. General Revenue Corp., 568 U. S. ___, ___ (2013) (slip op., at 12). And the FCA has a number of provisions that do require, in express terms, the dismissal of a relator’s action. Supra, at 2 (citing §3730(b)(5)); see also §§3730(e)(1)–(2) ('[n]o court shall have jurisdiction' over certain FCA claims by relators against a member of the military or of the judicial, legislative, or executive branches). It is proper to infer that, had Congress intended to require dismissal for a violation of the seal requirement, it would have said so..... Petitioner’s secondary argument is that the District Court did not consider the proper factors when declining to dismiss respondents’ complaint or, at a minimum, that it was plain error not to consider respondents’ conduct after the seal was lifted in part. This Court holds the District Court did not abuse its discretion by denying petitioner’s motion, much less commit plain error. In light of the questionable conduct of respondents’ prior attorney, it well may not have been reversible error had the District Court granted the motion; that possibility, however, need not be considered here."