SCOTUS Will Determine Fate of Legal Falsity Under the FCA

k9263134By Miriam Swedlow

A core purpose of the Federal Claims Act (FCA) is to discourage and prevent the submission of fraudulent claims to the government. The statute imposes treble damages, civil penalties, and attorneys fees for “knowingly” submitting a “false . . . claim for payment or approval.” The Act further discourages violation by permitting private relators a portion of the damages awarded in a successful action.

The Supreme Court may halt the expanding scope of FCA liability as it considers what counts as “false” under the FCA. The Court granted Certiorari for one of two petitions asking to settle a circuit split over whether an implied certification of compliance is actionable under the FCA, 31 U.S.C. §3729. A wide range of industries will likely watch the Court’s decision because it impacts any person or corporation that contracts with the federal government. This includes defense industry contractors, banks, telecommunication companies, health-care providers, and hospitals. Continue reading

SCOTUS Dodges Privacy Issue … For Now

imrs (1)By Andrew H. Fuller

Last Monday (Nov. 9), the Supreme Court of the United States declined cert to petition Davis, Quartavius v. United States. The case focused on whether the police must obtain a warrant in order to access and review cellphone location data held by carriers. In brief, Davis was convicted of several counts of robbery based on evidence that was largely constructed from cellphone location data the state obtained from Davis’s mobile carrier, MetroPCS, without a warrant. Of particular concern to both Davis and privacy advocates was the data regarding the cell tower locations that Davis’s phone connected to at certain dates and times. The Eleventh Circuit held that Davis did not have a privacy interest in the historical cell site location data and therefore no warrant was necessary. Continue reading

“Consumer Data Breach Class Action Suits May Soon Be Standing Tall”

silver-hands-typing-blue-keyboard-digital-data-01_573x300By Beth St. Clair

A consumer uses her credit card to make a purchase at a major retailer. Six months later she’s notified that, due to a recent hack on the retailer’s computer systems, her credit card number has been stolen. She quickly checks her accounts but there’s no activity. All is quiet over the next few weeks. Nonetheless, she’s nervous. She cancels the credit card and enrolls in a $4.99/month credit monitoring service.

Based on these facts, should this consumer be able to join a class action suit against the retailer for the data breach? Continue reading

High Court Decides Whether to Change Standard for Treble Damages

Supreme.Court_.G-640x426By Vijay Kumar

The U.S. Supreme Court recently granted certiorari for two patent cases, Halo Electronics, Inc. v. Pulse Electronics, Inc. and Stryker Corp. v. Zimmer, to decide whether to relax the standard that determines if a district court can award treble damages to a patentee after a finding of infringement.

The legal authority for whether treble damages should be awarded is set forth in 35 § USC 284, which gives the district courts broad discretion to “increase the damages up to three times the amount found or assessed.” To clarify the rule, the Federal Circuit’s In re Seagate decision in 2007 set forth a two-part test, requiring the patentee to show that the infringer: (1) acted despite an objectively high risk of infringement, and (2) knew, or should have known, the risk of infringement. By granting cert, the Supreme Court will review this objective/subjective two-part test to determine its appropriateness. Continue reading

Clarified or Confused? SCOTUS Decision in Alice v. CLS Bank and Continued Mystification of Abstract Ideas

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By Chris Ferrell

On June 19th, the Supreme Court ruled on its sixth and final patent law case of this term, Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank. The case concerned the patentability of claims covering a computerized trading platform for exchanging financial obligations. The business method patents at issue in Alice were directed to a computer-implemented scheme for mitigating settlement risk in certain financial transactions. The claims included a method, a computer-readable medium, and a system. The key issue for the Court was to identify an appropriate test for determining whether a computer-related invention is an application of an abstract idea. In a unanimous decision authored by Justice Thomas, the Court held that Alice’s claims were not patent eligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101 because they were directed at an abstract idea of intermediated settlement. While the decision was not a surprise to some in the industry, others waited on baited breath to see just how far the Court would go in analyzing these software claims, and to what extent patent analysis would be moving forward. In previous cases, including Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Labs, Bowman v. Monsanto and Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, the Court took the opportunity to reign in overbroad positions in patent law and define the outer-boundaries of patentability; Alice was no different. However, in trying to contain patent law, the Court may have muddied the waters even more for those trying to decipher what may be patentable, especially in the realm of computer software. Continue reading