[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] agreed [order list, PDF] Friday to rule on seven cases. In Republic of Argentina v. NML Capital [docket materials], the court will consider whether a hedge fund could subpoena banks for information about Argentina’s non-U.S. assets following the country’s default on $100 billion in sovereign debt in 2002. The subpoenas were served in 2010 on Bank of America [corporate website] and Banco de la Nacion Argentina [corporate website, in Spanish], and sought documents relating to accounts or assets that Argentina might have at the banks. In August 2012, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] rejected [JURIST report] Argentina’s attempt to prevent bondholders from acquiring bank documents regarding the country’s assets outside US territory, declaring that sovereign immunity was not an acceptable defense in this case. The Obama administration backed Argentina in the case. The Supreme Court will answer to a split between the Second Circuit, and the Seventh, Fifth, and Ninth Circuits, which have found that post-judgment subpoenas are potentially limited under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 [text].
In POM Wonderful v. Coca-Cola [docket materials], the Court will determine whether a rival company can file a federal suit to challenge a food or beverage label as misleading under the Lanham Act [text]. Pom Wonderful [corporate website] sued Coca-Cola Co. [corporate website] for allegedly deceiving consumers about the amount of pomegranate juice in one of its beverages, labeled as “Pomegranate Blueberry Flavored Blend of 5 Juices.” Pom Wonderful contends that the label is misleading because the beverage contains less than one percent of pomegranate juice or blueberry juice. A federal appeals court barred the suit saying that Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] regulations authorize the beverage’s name. The Court will determine whether the Lanham Act, which authorizes false-advertising suits, can apply to FDA regulated products.
In Limelight Networks Ltd v. Akamai Technologies [docket materials] the Court will determine whether a company can be held liable for inducing patent infringement even when no one company has committed direct patent infringement. Akamai Technologies Inc. [corporate website] and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [official website] sued Limelight Networks Inc. [corporate website] over Akamai’s patented method for redirecting requests for internet content to ensure access during periods of high demand. The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit [official website] held that Akamai could sue Limelight even though no single company performed every aspect of the patented method. Akamai contends that Limelight takes all but one step of the patented process and induces its customers to perform the final step. Google, Cisco, Oracle Corp., Red Hat Inc., Symantec Corp. and Xilinx Inc. [corporate websites] are backing Limelight, arguing that a decision for Akamai would leave technology companies vulnerable. The Obama administration is also urging the Supreme Court to rule for Limelight.
In Susan B Anthony List v. Driehaus [docket materials] the Court will rule on whether an Ohio law that imposes penalties for making knowingly false statements about political candidates violates the right to free speech. The Ohio law makes it a criminal offense to make knowingly or reckless false statements about a candidate, with a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and six months in prison. Despite never facing actual penalties, two conservative groups, Susan B. Anthony List and the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes [advocacy websites], argue that the possibility that the Ohio statute would be enforced against them deterred them from issuing statements during the 2010 election campaign criticizing a Congressman Steven Driehaus for supporting President Obama’s healthcare law. Lawyers for the state of Ohio say that the groups could not show that the law threatened their First Amendment right to free speech, or that they were likely to be prosecuted. A federal judge in Ohio dismissed the groups’ challenge in 2011, and in May 2013 the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] upheld that decision. The Court will determine whether the two groups had grounds to challenge the law.
In United States v. Clarke [docket materials] the Court will determine whether an unsupported allegation that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) [official website] issued a summons for an improper purpose entitles an opponent to an evidentiary hearing to question IRS officials on their reasons for issuing the summons. The case involves the IRS issuance of five summonses during an investigation into the tax liabilities of Dynamo Holdings Ltd [corporate website]. Those summoned, including Dynamo’s chief financial officer Michael Clarke, contend that they were entitled to discovery and an evidentiary hearing before the district court granted the IRS’s petitions to enforce the summonses. Clarke and the others argue that the IRS sought to enforce the summonses for an improper purpose, including in retribution for Dynamo’s refusal to extend a statutes of limitations deadline. In April 2013, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] in favor of Clarke, stating that “in situations such as this, requiring the taxpayer to provide factual support for an allegation of an improper purpose, without giving the taxpayer a meaningful opportunity to obtain such facts, saddles the taxpayer with an unreasonable circular burden.”
In CTS Corp. v. Waldburger [docket materials] the Court will determine whether the discovery rule set forth in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) [text] preempts a state’s law limiting the time to seek remedies. The case arose after North Carolina landowners filed a claim against CTS Corp. [corporate website] for allegedly contaminating their well water with concentrated levels of chemicals with carcinogenic effects. Because the corporation has not had any operations at the site since it was sold in 1987, CTS argued that the case should be dismissed under North Carolina’s 10-year limitation on the accrual of real property actions. The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] held [opinion, PDF] that CERCLA does preempt state law, or else states could obliterate legitimate causes of action before they exist.
The Court also agreed to hear Nautilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc. [docket materials], a long-running patent infringement case. Biosig sued Nautilus [corporate websites] in 2004, alleging that Nautilus infringed its patent for a heart rate monitor. A district court found Biosig’s patent invalid because of “indefiniteness.” However, the Federal Circuit reversed the lower court and found that the patent was clear and valid, as long as the ambiguity is not insoluble. The Court will determine whether ambiguous patent claims with multiple reasonable interpretations defeats the statutory requirement of particular and distinct patent claiming.
Oral arguments for the new cases are expected to be heard in April.