January 15, 2009
Personal Jurisdiction and Patent Litigation
A divided panel of the Federal Circuit recently affirmed a district court's finding that an international corporation did not submit itself to specific personal jurisdiction in Alabama by sending three letters asserting patent infringement. Avocent Huntsville Corp. v. Aten International Co., No. 2007-1553, 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 25477 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 16, 2008) involved a declaratory judgment action filed by a Delaware corporation located in Alabama (Avocent Huntsville) against a Taiwanese corporation (Aten International). Both companies are involved in the manufacture and sale of keyboard-video-mouse switches. After Aten International sent three letters seeking to enforce a patent, Avocent Huntsville sought a declaratory judgment of non-infringement in the Northern District of Alabama. The district court granted the defendant's 12(b)(2) motion concluding that Aten International "did not purposefully submit itself to jurisdiction in Alabama by sending the three letters..."
On appeal, the divided panel agreed with the district court's finding that specific jurisdiction was not proper. First, the court easily dismissed of the argument that specific jurisdiction could be established by mere letters asserting patent infringement. Next, the court examined the argument that specific jurisdiction was proper because some of the products subject to the patent were sold within the forum:
In short, a defendant patentee’s mere acts of making, using, offering to sell, selling, or importing products—whether covered by the relevant patent(s) or not—do not, in the jurisdictional sense, relate in any material way to the patent right that is at the center of any declaratory judgment claim for non-infringement, invalidity, and/or unenforceability. Thus, we hold that such sales do not constitute such "other activities" as will support a claim of specific personal jurisdiction over a defendant patentee.
In the twenty-eight page opinion the court provides an excellent overview of its personal jurisdiction jurisprudence in the patent context. The dissenting justice argued that the majority's holding contravenes precedent and ignores all factors related to the relationship among plaintiff, defendant, and the forum. You can read the full opinion here.
January 14, 2009
7th Circuit Makes It Harder for Plaintiffs to Keep Securities Class Actions in State Court
The folks at Law.com have reported a new decision of the Seventh Circuit that holds that the grant of federal jurisdiction in CAFA trumps the anti-removal provisions of the Securities Act of 1933. Read their report on the case, or the case itself.
January 13, 2009
Federal Rulemaking Website Adds "Quick Links"
For those of you that utilize the resources at the Federal Rulemaking Website of USCourt.gov, they're in the process of adding "Quick Links" to frequently used Rules Committee records and other information:
Our "Quick Links" are divided into two categories: (1) links relating to the Federal Rules, including current rules and forms in effect, proposed rules amendments that take effect in the future, and comments received on proposed rules amendments; and (2) links relating to the Rules Committees, such as the committee reports, committee minutes, committee agenda materials, and schedule of upcoming committee meetings and hearings.
January 12, 2009
Is dispositive procedure "fatally flawed"?
Professor Suja Thomas from the University of Illinois has posted a new article to SSRN arguing the answer to that question is emphatically yes. The new article, "The Fallacy of Dispositive Procedure" is forthcoming in Volume 50 of the Boston College Law Review. Professor Thomas published an article two years ago arguing "Why Summary Judgment is Unconstitutional." This abstract follows for her new article:
I have another seemingly heretical proposition - that dispositive procedure is fatally flawed. The Supreme Court has held that a judge can dismiss a case before, during, or after trial if he decides a reasonable jury could not find for the plaintiff. The Court has also held that a judge cannot dismiss a case based on his own view of the sufficiency of the evidence. I contend, however, that judges do exactly that. Judges dismiss cases based simply on their own views of the evidence, not based on how a reasonable jury could view the evidence. This phenomenon can be seen in the decisions dismissing cases. Judges describe how they perceive the evidence, interchangeably use the terminology of reasonable jury, reasonable juror, rational juror, and rational fact-finder among others although very different in meaning, and indeed, disagree among themselves on what the evidence shows. I further argue that the reasonable jury standard involves several layers of legal fiction. Those fictions include the current substitution of a judge's views for a reasonable jury's views, the speculative determination by a judge of whether a reasonable jury could find for the plaintiff, the assumption that disagreement among judges on the sufficiency of the evidence does not show a reasonable jury could find for the plaintiff, and the assumption that disagreement among judges on the sufficiency of the evidence demonstrates unreasonableness on the part of some of the judges. These legal fictions, which underlie the reasonable jury standard, show that the basis of dispositive procedure is fatally flawed.