Publications & News

WilmerHale Secures String of Supreme Court and Federal Circuit Wins

June 25, 2014

Two US Supreme Court decisions handed down on June 12 mark the latest in a string of victories secured by WilmerHale's Appellate and Supreme Litigation Court Practice during the 2013-2014 term. Our lawyers presented oral argument in seven cases this term, a record for us and a huge number for any firm. Of these seven cases, we obtained victories in five-four of those with unanimous rulings-capping off a remarkable few months in which our litigators have also clinched a series of intellectual property litigation wins at the Federal Circuit.

Four of our partners shared the Supreme Court spotlight in the 2013 term. Partners Catherine Carroll, Mark Fleming and Danielle Spinelli each presented oral argument before the justices in one case, while Appellate and Supreme Court Litigation Practice Chair Seth Waxman argued in four.

Our first argument of the term came last October, when Carroll, in the first Supreme Court argument of her career, secured a victory for The Hartford in Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life & Accident Insurance, a case that challenged the contractual limitations period for an employee's denial-of-benefits suit under ERISA. Waxman led the group to its second victory in the first patent case of the term, Medtronic v. Mirowski Family Ventures, when the Court-deciding in favor of client Medtronic-reversed the Federal Circuit, restoring the burden of proof to the patent owner when a licensee sues a patent owner for a declaratory judgment of non-infringement.

The firm secured its next victory in Hall v. Florida, on behalf of pro bono client Freddie Lee Hall, an inmate on death row in Florida. This important decision prohibited Florida's use of a clinically arbitrary IQ test score cutoff to determine whether an individual has an intellectual disability and is thus ineligible for the death penalty.

Our latest wins followed in quick succession on June 12, in Clark v. Rameker—argued by Spinelli—and POM Wonderful v. Coca-Cola. Finding for client Rameker, the Court held in a unanimous opinion that Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) inherited by someone other than a spouse cannot be considered retirement funds-and therefore protected from creditors' claims-because an inherited IRA does not fall within the scope of an essential need in the way retirement security does.

In our last and most colorful Supreme Court victory for the term, the justices, in another unanimous decision, determined that client POM may move forward with a false advertising claim against Coca-Cola over a misleading product description. The product at issue was a Minute Maid juice blend being sold under the name "Pomegranate Blueberry" despite the fact that, quoting from Waxman's oral argument, "the total amount of blueberry and pomegranate juice in this blend can be dispensed with a single eyedropper." This victory, his second in two weeks, earned Waxman the title of Litigation Daily's "Litigator of the Week" on June 12.

These Supreme Court successes follow hot on the heels of a spate of IP litigation victories at the Federal Circuit. Between May and early June, our lawyers secured seven Federal Circuit wins-five of those within a single week. The winning streak began with a May 5 victory for Broadcom when the Federal Circuit denied Ericsson's petition for mandamus on an issue of first impression in a closely watched area of inter partes review practice. On May 8 came a victory for Hologic, when the Federal Circuit affirmed the decision of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board that appellant Jeffrey Schwindt was not entitled to be named as a co-inventor on Hologic's patent to a biopsy device.

May 8 brought a Federal Circuit affirmance favorably resolving—for client General Electric—the final piece of a long-running dispute between Mitsubishi and GE over the inventorship of a GE wind turbine patent. The following day, the Federal Circuit affirmed a judgment that client VGo Communications does not infringe three patents owned by competitor InTouch Technologies. Also on May 9, the firm earned a complete victory for Monsanto when the Federal Circuit affirmed a sanctions award of more than $1 billion against DuPont.

Two more victories followed on May 14 and June 9, the latter an important win for LogMeIn in its long-running patent litigation with Toronto-based 01 Communique Laboratory concerning remote access technology.

As with our recent Supreme Court successes, these results can be credited to a broad group of lawyers, ranging from experienced veterans to those working on their first appeal. In recent months, our roster of lawyers presenting Federal Circuit arguments has included Partners Bill Lee, Mark Fleming, Lauren Fletcher, David Marcus, Dom Massa, Lisa Pirozzolo, Jack Regan, Louis Tompros, Michael Twomey, Calvin Walden, Seth Waxman and Amy Wigmore, ably assisted by talented lawyers at all levels.