Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
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The Small Business Act requires that many federal agencies set aside contracts to be awarded to certain categories of small businesses, including service-disabled-veteran-owned (SDVO) small businesses, 15 U.S.C. 644(g)(1)(B). For a limited liability company (LLC) to qualify as SDVO, one or more SDVs must directly and unconditionally own at least 51% of each class of member interest. For an LLC to be controlled by SDVs, one or more SDVs must control the company’s long-term decision making, conduct its day-to-day management and administration of business operations, hold the highest officer position, serve as managing members, have “control over all decisions” of the LLC and “meet all supermajority voting requirements,”XOtech LLC, previously organized with Marullo (an SDV) as its only manager, became a multiple-manager company with four “Members” as owners. The Army issued a Request for Proposals seeking an SDVO contractor to provide logistics support for Army Reserve facilities. XOtech was awarded the contract. The Director of the SBA’s Office of Government Contracting determined that XOtech did not qualify for SDVO status and sustained a protest, finding that, although Marullo owned XOtech, he lacked sufficient control over XOtech’s operations because he required the vote of at least one non-SDV to make management decisions. The Claims Court and the Federal Circuit affirmed, finding that service-disabled veterans do not control “all decisions” of XOtech as required by 13 C.F.R. 125.13(d). View "XOTech, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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Before selling their business, Page Printing, the Pettinatis followed the tax strategy suggested by their attorney and formed BASR, a general partnership. BASR assumed Treasury Note obligations, which increased its cost basis; each of the partners contributed all their Page shares to BASR in 1999. Two months later, BASR sold 100% of its Page stock for $6,898,245. When offset against its overstated cost basis, BASR realized a gain of only $263,934. The Pettinati partners reported their shares on their 1999 individual returns. In 2010, the IRS issued a final partnership administrative adjustment (FPAA), disallowing the tax benefits generated from BASR’s 1999 tax filing. Pettinati challenged the FPAA as untimely under I.R.C. 6501(a)’s three-year statute of limitations. BASR had “zero assets,” and had filed its last partnership return in 1999. BASR offered the government $1.00 to settle; the government refused. In 2013, the Claims Court granted BASR summary judgment. The Federal Circuit affirmed. In 2016, BASR sought litigation costs under 26 U.S.C. 7430(c)(4)(E). The Federal Circuit affirmed an award of $314,710.69, rejecting the government’s arguments: that BASR does not qualify for lcosts under section 7430(a) because a partnership is not a prevailing “party,” that BASR did not pay or incur costs because a partnership has no legal obligation, that the amount of individual tax liability was not “in issue” during the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act (TEFRA) partnership-level court proceeding, and that the qualified offer rule did not apply. View "BASR Partnership v. United States" on Justia Law

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Maxchief has its principal place of business in China and distributes one of the plastic tables it manufactures (UT-18) exclusively through Meco, which is located in Tennessee. Meco sells the UT-18 tables to retailers. Wok competes with Maxchief in the market for plastic folding tables, and also has its principal place of business in China. Wok owns patents directed to folding tables. Wok sued Maxchief’s customer, Staples, in the Central District of California, alleging that Staples’ sale of Maxchief’s UT-18 table infringed the Wok patents. Staples requested that Meco defend and indemnify Staples. Meco requested that Maxchief defend and indemnify Meco and Staples. The Staples action is stayed pending the outcome of this case. Maxchief then sued Wok in the Eastern District of Tennessee, seeking declarations of non-infringement or invalidity of all claims of the Wok patents and alleging tortious interference with business relations under Tennessee state law. The district court dismissed the declaratory judgment claim for lack of personal jurisdiction. With respect to the state law tortious interference claim, the district court concluded it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Wok lacked sufficient contacts with the forum state of Tennessee for personal jurisdiction as to both the declaratory judgment claim and the tortious interference claim. View "Maxchief Investments Ltd. v. Wok & Pan, Ind., Inc." on Justia Law

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TAOS and Intersil were both developing ambient light sensors for electronic devices. Ambient light sensors use a silicon- or other semiconductor-based photodiode that absorbs light and conducts a current. The resulting photocurrent is detected by a sensor, and measurements of the current, a function of the ambient light, are used to adjust the brightness of an electronic screen display. One benefit is better visibility; another is improved battery efficiency. In 2004, the parties confidentially shared technical and financial information during negotiations regarding a possible merger that did not occur. Soon after, Intersil released new sensors with the technical design TAOS had disclosed in the confidential negotiations. TAOS sued for infringement of its patent, and for trade secret misappropriation, breach of contract, and tortious interference with prospective business relations under Texas state law. A jury returned a verdict for TAOS and awarded damages on all four claims. The Federal Circuit affirmed liability for trade secret misappropriation, though on a more limited basis than TAOS presented to the jury, and affirmed liability for infringement of the asserted apparatus claims of the patent, but vacated the monetary awards. The court noted that there was no evidence of Intersil’s independent design of the photodiode array structure. View "Texas Advanced Optoelectronic Solutions, Inc. v. Renesas Electronics America, Inc." on Justia Law

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TAOS and Intersil were both developing ambient light sensors for electronic devices. Ambient light sensors use a silicon- or other semiconductor-based photodiode that absorbs light and conducts a current. The resulting photocurrent is detected by a sensor, and measurements of the current, a function of the ambient light, are used to adjust the brightness of an electronic screen display. One benefit is better visibility; another is improved battery efficiency. In 2004, the parties confidentially shared technical and financial information during negotiations regarding a possible merger that did not occur. Soon after, Intersil released new sensors with the technical design TAOS had disclosed in the confidential negotiations. TAOS sued for infringement of its patent, and for trade secret misappropriation, breach of contract, and tortious interference with prospective business relations under Texas state law. A jury returned a verdict for TAOS and awarded damages on all four claims. The Federal Circuit affirmed liability for trade secret misappropriation, though on a more limited basis than TAOS presented to the jury, and affirmed liability for infringement of the asserted apparatus claims of the patent, but vacated the monetary awards. The court noted that there was no evidence of Intersil’s independent design of the photodiode array structure. View "Texas Advanced Optoelectronic Solutions, Inc. v. Renesas Electronics America, Inc." on Justia Law