The US Supreme Court Friday added four new cases to its docket, including two cases concerning the Navajo Nation’s water rights and two intellectual property law disputes.
In Arizona v. Navajo Nation and the Department of the Interior v. Navajo Nation, the court will consider the ongoing dispute over rights to Colorado River water. Arizona v. Navajo Nation asks the court to answer whether the Navajo Nation can state a claim for breach of trust based on the Winters doctrine. The Winters doctrine refers to the 1908 case Winters v. United States, which established water rights for the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine people when the federal government created a reservation for them. By establishing a reservation, the court explained, the tribes reserved rights to a sufficient water supply while living on the reservation that was connected to the Milk River.
In Department of the Interior v. Navajo Nation, the court is asked to determine if the federal government owes the Navajo Nation the duty to address its need for water from the Colorado River in the absence of any authoritative source establishing a duty. The Navajo Nation explained that its reservation spans 17 million acres, and the mainstream of the Colorado River flows along the reservation’s borders. In its argument, the Navajo Nation contended the federal government has a duty to the tribe to assert rights from the river.
In Amgen Inc. v. Sanofi, the court must decide what information a patent applicant must include to meet the “enablement requirement” under Section 112 of the Patent Act. The enablement requirement requests that a patent applicant write out how to use their invention so that any “skilled artisan” can make and use it. According to the petition for a writ of certiorari, Amgen invented antibodies that can lower cholesterol. Two juries found Amgen’s patents valid after Amgen sued Sanofi and Regeneration for its patent infringement. Sanofi argued that Amgen’s patent failed to meet the enablement requirement.
Abitron Austria GmbH v. Hetronic International concerns the Lanham Act, which provides remedies for US trademark infringements. Specifically, the Act provides potential recovery for unregistered marks that are likely to confuse consumers about where the good originated. Abitron argued that Hetronic claims to own radio remote controls originally invented by Abitron. The court must decide whether the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit erred in applying the Lanham Act to Abitron’s foreign sales which never reached US consumers.