Has final judgment day arrived at the district court? In the first week of May, the Federal Circuit issued several orders addressing this question. The Federal Circuit concluded that 2 cases had reached the end of their lower court days, but 1 case still had some life left.
Civix-DDI, LLC v. Hotels.com GP, LLC, No. 2011-1599 (Fed. Cir. May 1, 2012) (Chief Judge Rader) (nonprecedential order)
Monsanto Co. v. Loren David, No. 2012-1128 (Fed. Cir. May 2, 2012) (Chief Judge Rader) (nonprecedential order)
Metso Minerals, Inc. v. Powerscreen Int’l Distribution, Ltd., Nos. 2011-1572, 2012-1168, -1169 (Fed. Cir. May 3, 2012) (Chief Judge Rader) (nonprecedential order)
In Civix, the district court granted summary judgment of noninfringement to Hotels.com on all the patent claims that Civix asserted. But the lower court didn’t rule on Hotels.com’s invalidity counterclaims. The district court ordered the clerk to enter judgment for Hotels.com, Civix appealed the district court’s summary judgment order to the Federal Circuit, and Hotels.com asked the Federal Circuit to dismiss the appeal the invalidity counterclaims were still alive. The Federal Circuit agreed with Hotels.com that it didn’t have jurisdiction over the case until the district court entered judgment under Rule 54(b), so it dismissed the appeal.
The Monsanto order is the latest event in a long string of litigation that’s been going on since 2004. The merits of the case have been decided, but Monsanto is still trying to collect the $626,632.88 judgment David is supposed to pay it. David appealed a district court order that the $86,000 and change he’s paid only partially satisfies what he owes Monsanto. (He claims the judgment is fully satisfied.) Monsanto argued that the Federal Circuit lacked jurisdiction since the district court will probably have to be involved in further collection efforts. The Federal Circuit disagreed, stating that collection activities are just “ministerial actions,” so the district court order is a final, appealable judgment. The court noted that if David wins his appeal, the case would be over. So, said the court, it’s really more efficient for the Federal Circuit to deal with the appeal now.
Metso Minerals also deals with final judgments and money. Metso argued that because the district court had started, but not finished, the damages accounting process, there wasn’t a final judgment at the district court. But the Federal Circuit reminded Metso that the statute allows a party to appeal a patent infringement judgment that’s “final except for an accounting.” The court said that the fact that the accounting process had already started didn’t change the general rule, so it denied Metso’s request to dismiss the appeal.
I guess the old adage “You can’t take it with you” holds true in appellate jurisdiction as well as in life.
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