Back in April, we reported on the Vermont Attorney General’s suit against non-practicing-entity MPHJ being remanded to state court. Dissatisfied with the district court’s decision, MPHJ appealed the remand and filed a petition for a writ of mandamus with the Federal Circuit, arguing that the decision was an abuse of the district court’s discretion. Today, the Federal Circuit issued an order dismissing MPHJ’s writ of mandamus and appeal, holding that it lacked appellate jurisdiction over the district court’s remand order. The order is particularly interesting in view of the ongoing debates over patent reform, providing one example of how problematic behaviors of certain non-practicing, non-innovating, patent monetization entities are being addressed via existing consumer protection laws that on their face are unrelated to patent-specific practices.
As discussed in our April 18, 2014 post, Vermont’s Attorney General previously challenged MPHJ’s practice of sending patent infringement demand letters to Vermont entities as constituting unfair and deceptive trade practices under the Vermont Consumer Protection Act. The AG filed the case in Vermont state court. MPHJ removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont in June 2013, asserting federal question and diversity jurisdiction. Vermont’s AG moved to remand back to state court for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, arguing that the complaint was directed to state-consumer-protection violations and not questions of federal patent law. The district court agreed and remanded the case to state court.
On appeal, the Federal Circuit noted that “in the district court’s view the complaint did not raise a claim or question of federal law to give rise to federal jurisdiction.” The Federal Circuit ruled that it lacked jurisdiction over MPHJ’s writ and appeal as “the District Court relied upon a ground that is colorably characterized as subject-matter jurisdiction” and “an order remanding a case to the State court from which it was removed is not reviewable on appeal.” For the time being, it appears that Vermont’s battle against MPHJ will be confined to state court.