BLG prevails in Eighth Circuit appeal; contract ruled to require arbitration of patent claims

August 27, 2009 | Intellectual Property News

BLG attorneys achieved an order requiring a plaintiff in a patent infringement action to assert its claims in arbitration against BLG client Costco. In this action, filed in federal court in St. Louis, the plaintiff asserted claims for design patent infringement and trade dress infringement. We argued that because the plaintiff was a former vendor and had signed a vendor agreement requiring arbitration of all disputes, this particular dispute related to the sale of an item previously purchased from the vendor was one that must be resolved in arbitration. Though the district court disagreed, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision and ordered arbitration.

In an unusual twist, the district court initially sent the appeal to the Federal Circuit rather than the Eighth Circuit, even though the notice of appeal specified the Eighth Circuit. That mishap resulted in an evaluation by both Circuits regarding which was the proper forum to resolve arbitration issues relating to patent infringement causes of action. Currently, there is a split of authority regarding whether the Federal Circuit or the Regional Circuits have jurisdiction in such cases. The Federal Circuit ultimately decided that it lacked authority to decide the question in the first place because the notice of appeal directed the matter to the Eighth Circuit, which therefore had jurisdiction to address the issue in the first instance. The Eighth Circuit concluded that it had jurisdiction over appeals related to orders compelling arbitration, even in patent cases.