Supreme Court rules in patent, police chase, interstate commerce cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] handed down decisions in five cases Monday, including Microsoft v. AT&T [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], where the Court held that Microsoft was not liable for patent infringement under 35 USC 271(f) [text] for foreign installations of Windows. AT&T filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Microsoft because Microsoft provides foreign manufacturers copies of its Windows operating system which contain computer codes patented by AT&T. AT&T argued that Microsoft's actions were in violation of Section 271(f), which prohibits a party from supplying "from the United States all or a substantial portion of the components of a patented invention, where such components are uncombined in whole or in part, in such manner as to actively induce the combination of such components outside of the United States in a manner that would infringe the patent if such combination occurred within the United States." The Supreme Court reversed the federal appeals court opinion [PDF text] in the case, holding that Microsoft's liability does not "extend to computers made in another country when loaded with Windows software copied abroad from a master disk or electronic transmission dispatched by Microsoft from the United States." Read the Court's opinion [text] per Justice Ginsburg, along with a concurrence [text] from Justice Alito, and a dissent [text] from Justice Stevens. Chief Justice Roberts did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case. AP has more.

In another patent case, KSR International v. Teleflex [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court reversed the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in a dispute over adjustable pedal assemblies for automobile engines, holding that the lower court considered the question of whether a patent claim is "obvious" under 35 USC 103(a) [text] in a "manner inconsistent with §103 and [Supreme Court] precedents." The appeals court reversed [opinion, PDF] the district court's grant of summary judgment for KSR, holding that it erred in deeming the invention obvious, but the Supreme Court said the appeals court "analyzed the issue in a narrow, rigid manner." Read the Court's unanimous opinion [text] per Justice Kennedy.

In Scott v. Harris [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court held that a police officer who bumped his police car into a fleeing suspect's car in order to end a high speed chase acted "reasonably" under the Fourth Amendment [text]. Harris, who was driving the fleeing car, sued Scott after the collision resulted in Harris' car being pushed off the road and Harris' paralysis. The Supreme Court reversed the Eleventh Circuit's decision [PDF text] in the case and held that "The car chase that respondent initiated in this case posed a substantial and immediate risk of serious physical injury to others; no reasonable jury could conclude otherwise. Scott's attempt to terminate the chase by forcing respondent off the road was reasonable, and Scott is entitled to summary judgment." Read the Court's opinion [text] per Justice Scalia, which also includes a link to video of the police chase that Scalia says "clearly contradicts the version of the story told by respondent and adopted by the Court of Appeals." This marks the first time the Court has linked to recorded video. Also available are a concurrence [text] from Justice Ginsburg, a second concurrence [text] from Justice Breyer, and a dissent [text] from Justice Stevens. AP has more.

In United Haulers Association v. Oneida-Herkmer Solid Waste Management [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court held that local ordinances which require garbage haulers to use municipal facilities to process, sort and ship garbage to permanent disposal stations do not violate the US Constitution's Commerce Clause. The Court affirmed the Second Circuit's decision [PDF text] in the case, holding that the "flow control ordinances, which treat in-state private business interests exactly the same as out-of-state ones, do not 'discriminate against interstate commerce' for purposes of the dormant Commerce Clause." In 1994, the Court held 6-3 in C & A Carbone, Inc. v. Town of Clarkstown [opinion text] that a similar ordinance unconstitutionally restricted interstate commerce; in that instance, the mandated facility was privately owned. Read the Court's opinion [text] per Chief Justice Roberts, along with a concurrence [text] from Justice Scalia, a second concurrence [text] from Justice Thomas, and a dissent [text] from Justice Alito. AP has more.

Finally, in EC Terms of Trust v. US [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court held that the trust, which sought to recover over $3 million the trust said was wrongfully levied, could not challenge the levy by bringing an action for a tax refund under 28 USC 1346(a)(1) [text] after missing the nine-month deadline for a wrongful levy action under 28 USC 7426(a)(1) [text]. Read the Court's unanimous opinion [text] per Justice Souter.

 

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