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Case of the Mondays: Supreme Court Grants, Denials, and 3 Opinions

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on
Mondays aren't all bad. Sure, they mean traffic, a return to work, and a desperate need to run to Chotchkie's, but for Supreme Court junkies, at least while the Court is in session, Mondays can bring an orders list full of certiorari grants and denials, plus merits opinions. We've got all of the above today, and better yet: it's mostly interesting. The Court has declined to address the reporter's shield or privilege in an appeal from a New York Times reporter and author, but will address the touchy matter of gerrymandering congressional districts. The Court also double-reversed the Federal Circuit again, and handed down an opinion in the housewife's revenge via chemical weapons case.

Risen Rejected

We've covered James Risen's appeal from the Fourth Circuit since its early days, but the reporter's privilege case is finally over. Risen, a New York Times reporter, received leaked confidential information, put it in a book, and was subsequently subpoenaed to testify as to his source, which everyone is pretty sure was former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling. The Fourth Circuit, which declined to extend its own reporter's privilege from civil cases to criminal matters, likely made the right call (precedent-wise) in denying to recognize a privilege that the Supreme Court itself rejected in Branzberg and Congress has ignored since. The case did spark multiple dissents from Judge Gregory, a lot of amicus discussion, and attempts at legislation, however, which provides hope for increased press freedoms in the future.

Gerrymandering Accepted

The Court granted cert in Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama and Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama, two cases that challenge the practice of segregating minority voters into their own districts where they have a supermajority -- guaranteeing their political strength in those districts, but eliminating minority voices from other districts, reports SCOTUSblog.

Nautilus v. Biosig Instruments: Patent Definiteness

Hope you had your coffee for this one. Biosig patented a heart monitor, Nautilus released their own, and patent litigation ensued.

The Federal Circuit evaluated whether Biosig's patent met the statute's definiteness requirement ("claims particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming the subject matter which the applicant regards as [the] invention,") by using it's own weak test, which asks whether the claim is "amenable to construction," and, as construed, is not "insolubly ambiguous."

Statute requires definiteness. Federal Circuit says "not 'insolubly ambiguous." The Supreme Court wants more detail:
In place of the "insolubly ambiguous" standard, we hold that a patent is invalid for indefiniteness if its claims, read in light of the specification delineating the patent, and the prosecu­tion history, fail to inform, with reasonable certainty, those skilled in the art about the scope of the invention.
In short: a higher standard that requires enough detail to make industry insiders sure about what a claim is addressing.

Limelight Networks v. Akamai Technologies: Whose Infringement Is It Anyway?

More coffee, more patents. Akamai patented a Content Delivery Network (CDN) where, instead of getting web content from a single server, traffic is redirected through multiple points in a network. Limelight's idea was similar, but unlike Akamai, they didn't perform all of the redirecting steps themselves -- various third parties completed steps in the process -- infringement via teamwork, in a way. Akamai sued for patent infringement, and the Federal Circuit agreed under an induced infringement theory. The Supreme Court reversed, however, holding that a defendant cannot be held liable for induced infringement when no one company has directly infringed by completing all of the steps of a method patent alone.

Bond v. United States: Their Chemical Romance

Bond. Carol Bond. A microbiologist and a scorned spouse bent on revenge against her husband's lover -- her former best friend. When she discovered the affair, she smeared chemicals on doorknobs and added powder to her rival's mailbox. Her hope was to reward her friend's rash conduct with, well, a chemical rash, and indeed, on one occasion, her husband's now pregnant paramour did suffer a chemical burn on her thumb. To many, including the majority of the Court, this should have been a "simple assault," a matter for local authorities. To the federal government, this was a federal case, a violation of a chemical weapons treaty. All nine agreed that Bond shouldn't have faced federal charges. Five justices, led by Chief Justice Roberts, held that
In sum, the global need to prevent chemical warfare does not require the Federal Government to reach into the kitchen cupboard, or to treat a local assault with a chemical irritant as the deployment of a chemical weapon. There is no reason to suppose that Congress -- in implementing the Convention on Chemical Weapons -- thought otherwise.
The remaining justices, in a series of separate and partially joining concurrences, would've gone further, in some cases as far as holding that Congress exceeded its authority in adopting the chemical weapons treaty. Related Resources:
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