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Archived updates for Friday, January 26, 2007

Federal Circuit Threatens Sanctions for Appeals from Non-Final Judgments

In International Electronic Technology Corp. v.Hughes Aircraft Co.,Inc. (January 26, 2007) the Federal Circuit threatened to sanction any member of the bar that that appeals, or replies to an appeal, from a non-final judgment:

The court takes umbrage at parties who have not carefully screened their
cases to ascertain whether or not a judgment is final. It is incumbent on all
parties to do so. The court should not be required or obligated to scrub every
case to determine finality. At this time, the court shall not issue an order to
show cause as to whether both parties should be cited or sanctioned for failing
to determine finality before filing; however, the parties and other members of
the bar are hereby placed on notice that the court shall in the future begin to
cite counsel for failure to determine whether or not the appealed judgment is

In this case the defendants-appellees, Hughes Aircraft Company, DIRECTV, Inc., and Thompson Consumer Electronics, Inc., filed with their answer to the complaint declaratory judgment counterclaims of invalidity and non-infringement. The district court granted a summary judgment of non-infringement in favor of the defendant. In the euphoria of victory, the defendants did not dismiss the outstanding counterclaims, and those counterclaims remain extant. A notice of appeal was subsequently filed by the plaintiff, International Electronic Technology Corporation. According to the court:

This court, upon reviewing the briefs and the appendices, found neither
dismissal of the counterclaims nor a Rule 54(b) determination by the district
court. Rule 54(b) provides that a district court may "direct entry of final
judgment as to one or more but fewer than all the claims or parties only upon an
express determination that there is no just reason for delay and upon an express
direction for the entry of judgment." Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b). The parties have
failed to obtain such a partial judgment and the other possible avenues of
finality have not been followed. See Nystrom, 339 F.3d at 1347.
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