SCOTUS Begins November Sitting with Oral Arguments in Five Case
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court returned to the bench for its November sitting. The justices heard oral arguments in five very diverse cases. The issues before the Court ranged from cheerleading uniform designs to government fraud.
Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools: While the case involves whether a Michigan girl with cerebral palsy should be able to bring her service dog to school, the key issue is rather technical. The Handicapped Children’s Protection Act of 1986 (HCPA) mandates that plaintiffs exhaust all state administrative remedies available under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for non-IDEA actions “seeking relief that is also available under” the IDEA. The Court has been asked to resolve the circuit split regarding: “Whether the HCPA commands exhaustion in a suit, brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, that seeks damages-a remedy that is not available under the IDEA.”
Star Athletica, LLC v. Varsity Brands, Inc.: The intellectual property case will address the appropriate test to determine when a feature of a useful article is protectable under section 101 of the Copyright Act, an issue upon which the circuit courts do not agree. The Copyright Act prohibits copyright registration of “useful article.” The article’s component features or elements cannot be copyrighted either, unless capable of being “identified separately from, and . . . existing independently of, the utilitarian aspects of the article.” The justices must determine which test should be used to analyze whether the designs on the cheerleading uniform at issue are separate from the functional aspects of an article.
State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. v. United States ex rel. Rigsby: The case revolves around the “seal requirement” under the False Claims Act (FCA). It requires that a relator’s complaint “shall be filed in camera, shall remain under seal for at least 60 days, and shall not be served on the defendant until the court so orders.” Depending on the circuit, such a violation (i) mandates dismissal of the relator’s claim, as the Sixth Circuit has held; (ii) mandates dismissal if the violation incurably frustrates the congressional goals served by the seal requirement, as the Second and Fourth Circuits have held; or (iii) warrants dismissal only if the seal violation caused actual harm to the Government pursuant to the balancing test applied by the Fifth Circuit in this case and the Ninth Circuit. The Supreme Court will now decide what standard to adopt.
SCA Hygiene Products Aktiebolag v. First Quality Baby Products, LLC: The Supreme Court will determine whether and to what extent the defense of laches may bar a claim for patent infringement brought within the Patent Act’s six-year statutory limitations period. In 2014, the justices held that the defense of laches can’t be used to shorten the three-year copyright limitations period set forth in 17 U.S.C. § 507(b), reasoning that “we have never applied laches to bar in their entirety claims for discrete wrongs occurring within a federally prescribed limitations period.” They will now determine whether the reasoning employed in Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 134 S. Ct. 1962 (2014) also applies to patent infringement cases.
Venezuela v. Helmerich & Payne International: The case involves the expropriation exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). Under FSIA, “a foreign state shall be immune from the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States and of the States except as provided in sections 1605 to 1607 of this chapter.” The statute’s expropriation exception further states that “[a] foreign state shall not be immune… in any case… in which rights in property taken in violation of international law are in issue.” The specific question the justices agreed to consider is: “Whether the pleading standard for alleging that a case falls within the FSIA’s expropriation exception is more demanding than the standard for pleading jurisdiction under the federal- question statute, which allows a jurisdictional dismissal only if the federal claim is wholly insubstantial and frivolous.”
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Congress of the United States begun and held at the City of New-York, on Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.
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