This morning the Federal Circuit issued a precedential opinion in a patent case, a nonprecedential opinion in a patent case, and a nonprecedential opinion in a veterans case. Here are the introductions to the opinions.
Security People, Inc. v. Iancu (Precedential)
Security People, Inc., appeals the district court’s dismissal of its Administrative Procedure Act suit challenging the constitutionality of the cancellation of its patent in an inter partes review proceeding. Because Congress foreclosed the possibility of collateral APA review of inter partes review decisions by district courts, and because Security People cannot bring an APA challenge when the statutory scheme separately establishes an adequate remedy in a court for its constitutional challenge, we affirm the district court’s dismissal.
Tormasi v. Western Digital Corp. (Nonprecedential)
Appellant Walter A. Tormasi (“Tormasi”) sued Appellee Western Digital Corporation (“WDC”) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (“District Court”), alleging infringement of claims 41 and 61–63 (“the Challenged Claims”) of U.S. Patent No. 7,324,301 (“the ’301 patent”). A.A. 13–25 (Complaint). The District Court issued an order concluding that Mr. Tormasi lacked capacity to sue under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”) 17(b), but did not “reach the standing issue.” See Tormasi v. W. Digital Corp., No. 19-CV-00772-HSG, 2019 WL 6218784, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 21, 2019) (Order); see id. at *2–3. For the limited purpose of reviewing the District Court’s determination as to whether Mr. Tormasi has capacity to sue, we have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(1). We affirm.
STOLL, Circuit Judge, dissenting.
I respectfully dissent because I disagree with the majority that Mr. Tormasi waived his argument that the “no business” rule does not limit the scope of an inmate’s capacity to sue under N.J. STAT. ANN. § 2A:15-1 (2013). See Maj. 8 n.7. To the contrary, in his briefing to the district court, Mr. Tormasi asserted that the “no business” rule “was never intended to supersede [his] right to file civil lawsuits in his personal capacity.” A.A. 123. Mr. Tormasi further explained that his capacity to sue is governed by § 2A:15-1, which requires only that he has “reached the age of majority” and possesses “mental capacity.” A.A. 124. (quoting § 2A:15-1). Mr. Tormasi added that his “imprisonment status or prison behavior is irrelevant to the capacity-to-sue standard.” Id. (citing § 2A:15-1). In my view, these assertions fairly preserved Mr. Tormasi’s legal argument that the “no business” rule cannot generally limit the scope of an inmate’s capacity to sue, especially in view of the fact that he is a pro se litigant. See McZeal v. Sprint Nextel Corp., 501 F.3d 1354, 1356 (Fed. Cir. 2007) (“Where, as here, a party appeared pro se before the trial court, the reviewing court may grant the pro se litigant leeway on procedural matters . . . .” (italics removed)).
Indeed, Mr. Tormasi makes an important legal argument that the district court should have addressed in the first instance. It makes little sense to narrow the New Jersey statute on capacity to sue in light of the “no business” rule, which is an administrative rule of the Department of Corrections that prescribes sanctions for certain “prohibited acts.” N.J. ADMIN. CODE § 10A:4-4.1(a) (2019). Under this “no business” rule, the prohibited act of “commencing or operating a business or group for profit . . . without the approval of the Administrator” is subject to “a sanction of no less than 31 days and no more than 90 days of administrative segregation,” id. § 10A:4-4.1(a)(3), as well as one or more of the sanctions listed at section 10A:4-5.1(i–j) of the New Jersey Administrative Code, which includes loss of correctional facility privileges, loss of commutation time, loss of furlough privileges, confinement, On-The-Spot Correction, confiscation, extra duty, or a referral of an inmate to the Mental Health Unit for appropriate care or treatment. On its face, the “no business” rule does not include the loss of the capacity to sue as a punishment. And, as Mr. Tormasi further noted in his briefing to the district court, limiting the capacity to sue statute based on the “no business” rule is inconsistent with another section of the same administrative code, which expressly provides that “[i]nmates have [the] constitutional right of access to the courts.” A.A. 123 (alterations in original) (quoting N.J. ADMIN. CODE § 10A:6-2.1).
The majority relies heavily on Tormasi v. Hayman, 443 F. App’x 742 (3d Cir. 2011), an earlier case also involving Mr. Tormasi, in which Mr. Tormasi asserted that his constitutional rights were violated when prison officials confiscated his unfiled patent application under the “no business” rule. Rejecting Mr. Tormasi’s argument that the “no business” rule did not apply to patent applications, the Third Circuit concluded that confiscation was a permissible punishment because Mr. Tormasi’s intent to assign the patent application to his own corporate entity for selling or licensing purposes qualified as a violation of the “no business” rule. Id. at 745. As noted above, confiscation is one of the prescribed punishments for a violation of the “no business” rule. See N.J. ADMIN. CODE § 10A:4-5.1(i)(6). The majority’s extension of the Third Circuit’s reasoning to affirm the district court’s holding that Mr. Tormasi lacks capacity to sue in this case is inappropriate given the facts of this case. See Maj. 7–10. Prison officials never enforced any disciplinary action or sanction under the “no business” rule against Mr. Tormasi; nor does Mr. Tormasi challenge any such action. Because the present lawsuit involves only Mr. Tormasi’s claim for alleged patent infringement, the Third Circuit’s decision in Tormasi, 443 F. App’x 742, and the “no business” rule should not be at issue at all. I respectfully dissent.
Payne v. Wilkie (Nonprecedential)
Pro se Appellant Frederick Payne, a United States Air Force veteran, appeals the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims that affirmed a determination by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals denying an increase in his disability rating for his service-connected disabilities. Mr. Payne also raises new issues on appeal. The resolution of the issues raised by Mr. Payne would require this court to reweigh the factual findings of the Board, to engage in new factual findings, and review the application of law to facts. While this court has jurisdiction to review certain constitutional and legal issues, we are statutorily prohibited from reviewing factual determinations and the application of law to facts. 38 U.S.C. § 7292(d)(2). Therefore, we lack jurisdiction over Mr. Payne’s challenges and dismiss this appeal.