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Opinion Recap: SCOTUS on Human Rights, Patent Law, and the Mets

By Robyn Hagan Cain on April 18, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Supreme Court has been busy again this week, with two notable cert orders on Monday, three cases in oral argument, and four new decisions.

Tuesday, we told you about the Court's opinion in Filarsky v. Delia. Here's what you need to know about the week's other opinions.

First up: Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority. In a case previously-linked with the now-delayed Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, the Court ruled that the Palestinian Authority and PLO can't be sued in U.S. courts under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA). Instead, the Supreme Court held that the TVPA only applies to individuals, not groups, Reuters reports. Justice Sotomayor wrote the opinion.

Next, we move to Kappos v. Hyatt. Justice Thomas, writing for the unanimous Court, said that there are no limitations -- beyond those already present in the federal evidence and civil procedure rules -- on a patent applicant's ability to introduce new evidence when challenging a Board of Patent Appeals decision in a district court. If new evidence is presented on a disputed question of fact, the district court must make de novo factual findings based on the new evidence and the administrative record before the Patent and Trademark Office.

Finally, we're backtracking to Tuesday's Caraco Pharmaceutical Laboratories, Ltd. v. Novo Nordisk A/S decision. The Nine reversed the Federal Circuit, finding that a generic drug manufacturer may employ the counterclaim provision of the Hatch-Waxman Act to force correction of a use code that inaccurately describes the brand's patent as covering a particular method of using a drug.

Federal law says that generic manufacturers may bring a counterclaim against the brand maker "on the ground that the patent does not claim ... an approved method of using the drug." Justice Kagan used a paragraph in the opinion to explain the meaning of "not an," and to demonstrate that humor and sports cynicism needn't be inapplicable in a Supreme Court ruling.

According to Kagan, "the meaning of the phrase turns on its context. 'Not an' sometimes means 'not any,' in the way Novo claims ... [if] a sports-fan friend bemoans that 'the New York Mets do not have a chance of winning the World Series,' you will gather that the team has no chance whatsoever (because they have no hitting)."

Justice Kagan and the unanimous Court, however, chose to adopt Caraco's interpretation, permitting a counterclaim whenever a patent does not claim the particular method that the new drug applicant seeks to market.

(Sidebar: A FindLaw tipster notes that Justice Kagan could have easily used the Chicago Cubs in her baseball example, but speculates that the Court has taken judicial notice of the fact that Cubbies fans have wallowed in misery for long enough and do not deserve the added suffering that comes with an eternal acknowledgment of futility in a Supreme Court opinion.)

Those are all of the opinions for this week, but we'll have a preview soon of next week's Arizona S.B. 1070 arguments.

Stay tuned, sports fans.

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