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No Patent, No Federal Jurisdiction

By Judith L. Toffenetti, Ph.D.

Addressing whether federal courts have jurisdiction over patent disputes prior to issuance of a disputed patent, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed a lower court’s order remanding the case to state court, finding that the federal courts have no authority to adjudicate inventorship with respect to pending patents.  CamSoft Data Services, Inc. v. Southern Electronics Supply, Inc., Case No. 12-31013 (5th Cir., June 19, 2014) (Benavides, J.).

CamSoft sued Southern Electronics Supply and Active Solutions in state court, asserting that it had invented and developed a disputed wireless surveillance system. CamSoft alleged that the system was the subject of a pending patent application and sought ownership of the surveillance system and any related intellectual property.  The case was removed to district court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1338(a), a move opposed by CamSoft.  The federal district court found that the allegation of inventorship invoked patent law, giving rise to federal jurisdiction.

The district court presided over the case for three years and resolved various dispositive issues and dismissed others.  The district court then requested and reviewed the parties’ briefings on the remaining claims.  The court found that the patent issue had been abandoned and sua sponte declined to exercise supplem...

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