This morning, the Federal Circuit released a precedential opinion in a “rails-to-trials” takings case appealed from the Court of Federal Claims and a nonprecedential opinion in a trademark case appealed from the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. Late yesterday the Federal Circuit also dismissed an appeal. Here are the introductions to the opinions and a link to the dismissal.

Barlow v. United States (Precedential)

This appeal originates from a “rails-to-trails” conversion in the state of Illinois, where Appellants own property adjacent to the railroad line. Appellants sued the government in the United States Court of Federal Claims, seeking compensation for alleged takings arising from the operation of the National Trails System Act Amendments of 1983 (“Trails Act”), 16 U.S.C. § 1247(d). At the relevant time, the Court of Federal Claims concluded that Union Pacific Railroad Company (“Union Pacific”) held in fee simple the parcels of land with written instruments, and that Appellants failed to establish that they held in fee simple the non-instrument parcels. See Barlow v. United States, 123 Fed. Cl. 186, 198–200, 202 (2015) (“Decision I”); Barlow v. United States, 150 Fed. Cl. 771, 784–86 (2020) (“Decision II”). Accordingly, the Court of Federal Claims held that Appellants had no compensable property interests in the contested parcels and that no takings occurred. See Decision I at 189, 202; Decision II at 775, 786. Appellants now appeal from these decisions. For the following reasons, we reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Universal Life Church Monastery Storehouse v. American Marriage Ministries (Nonprecedential)

Universal Life Church Monastery Storehouse (ULC Monastery) filed a trademark application seeking registration of the standard character mark GET ORDAINED for two classes of services: (1) online retail store services; and (2) ecclesiastical services. American Marriage Ministries (AMM), in response, filed a notice of opposition to ULC Monastery’s application at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (Board), asserting that, among other things, the application should be denied because the mark is merely descriptive and fails to function as a mark as to both classes of services. The Board issued a final decision sustaining AMM’s opposition on both grounds as to both classes of services, even though AMM’s briefing focused solely on attacking the applied-for mark in connection with ecclesiastical services and did not present any argument with respect to online retail store services. The Board’s decision did not acknowledge or address ULC Monastery’s argument that AMM, by ignoring in its briefing its grounds for opposition as to ULC Monastery’s online retail store services, waived any challenge to these services. ULC Monastery then filed this appeal, contesting the Board’s decision only as to the online retail store services

After our court heard oral argument, ULC Monastery and AMM entered into a settlement agreement with respect to a collateral litigation. ECF No. 51, at 2. The parties then jointly moved for entry of an order (i) reversing and vacating the Board’s decision sustaining AMM’s opposition to registration for online retail store services, or, in the alternative, (ii) remanding to the Board for the purpose of considering a stipulated motion to amend the application to remove ecclesiastical services and to vacate the Board’s decision sustaining the opposition with respect to ULC Monastery’s online retail store services. Id. The parties, however, fail to establish any “equitable entitlement to the extraordinary remedy of vacatur.” U.S. Bancorp Mortg. Co. v. Bonner Mall P’ship, 513 U.S. 18, 26 (1994). Nor have the parties shown why the circumstances surrounding this appeal necessitate an automatic remand.

After considering the parties’ joint motion and ULC Monastery’s appeal, we conclude the proper course is to deny the parties’ joint motion and vacate the Board’s decision for reasons identified in ULC Monastery’s appeal: the Board’s failure to explain why AMM’s silence on online retail store services did not constitute waiver. Because the Board did not furnish a reasoned explanation for departing from its established practice of deeming unargued claims waived, we vacate the Board’s decision and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.