New Cases and Developments

NACUA's Legal Resources staff summarizes current higher education cases and developments and provides the full text of selected cases to members. New cases and developments are archived here for up to 12 months.  Cases provided by Fastcase, Inc.

Selected Topics: Intellectual Property
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Contract Administration; Practice of Higher Education Law; Intellectual Property

American Center for Excellence in Surgical Assisting Inc. v. College of DuPage, et al. (N.D. Ill. May 29, 2018)

Memorandum Opinion and Order granting Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment. The American Center for Excellence in Surgical Assisting (ACESA), a provider of surgical assistant training programs, alleged under state law that Defendants breached their contract to administer ACESA’s training programs; fraudulently induced ACESA to turn over proprietary information; and misappropriated trade secrets from ACESA’s “Self Study” program, curricular materials, budget information, and “Surgical SkillLab” program. Because Illinois Law requires educational services contracts executed between vendors and public universities to be approved by the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) and Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), and because neither ICCB nor IBHE approved the parties’ draft consortium agreement or revised consortium agreement, the court concluded that there was no valid and enforceable contract.   Moreover, ACESA had the responsibility of knowing that state law explicitly required ICCB and IBHE’s approval in the creation of their agreement, regardless of Defendants’ representations. As a result, ACESA could not show justifiable reliance on Defendants’ representations to proceed on their fraud claim. In considering whether ACESA’s materials constituted trade secrets for their trade secret misappropriate claim, the court found that ACESA failed to show that they took reasonable measures to maintain the confidentiality of their materials, nor did they show that their educational materials were sufficiently secret or derived economic value from their secrecy.

Patents; Intellectual Property

University of South Florida Board of Trustees v. United States (C.C. April 27, 2018)

Order setting forth a construction of disputed claims in a patent lawsuit.  This lawsuit concerns two claim construction disputes regarding a University of South Florida (USF) patent on transgenic mice used in research for Alzheimer's Disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.  The first dispute concerned the definitions of “accelerated” and “enhanced” in the patent. Although words in a patent are normally given their ordinary and customary meanings,  “a patentee may choose to be his own lexicographer,” as long as the terms are clearly defined in the patent.  Based on this principle of patent law, the Court construed the words “accelerated” and “enhanced” in accordance with the clear definition set forth in USF’s patent.  Even if the terms were deemed ambiguous, the court would have nonetheless construed the terms consistent with USF’s definition “to preserve the claims’ validity.” The second dispute related to the definition of “Alzheimer’s Disease related pathology.”  Relying on the same principle of patent law, the court rejected USF’s proposed definition of “Alzheimer’s Disease related pathology”  as “necessarily [referring] to a constellation of three markers of AD pathology” (versus Defendant’s proposal of “having the characteristics of Alzheimer’s Disease . . . ”) because USF did not clearly set forth this special definition in the patent, as would be required to displace the ordinary and customary meaning of the term. 

Practice of Higher Education Law; Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration; Patents; Intellectual Property

Regents of the University of Minnesota v. Gilead Sciences, Inc. (D. Minn. October 20, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion and Order granting Defendant’s Motion to Transfer Venue. Plaintiff, Regents of the University of Minnesota (UM), alleged that Defendant, a Delaware corporation, infringed its patent rights by selling over 1 billion dollars of medicine containing the drug sofosbuvir without obtaining a license from UM.  Applying the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in TC Heartland, which impacted venue in patent cases, and the subsequent Federal Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Cray, both of which were issued after UM filed the initial action, the court granted Defendant’s Motion to Transfer Venue, because the Defendant did not reside or have a regular and established physical place of business in the district, as required under TC Heartland and Cray

Trademark & Licensing; Intellectual Property; Due Process; Constitutional Issues

Robbie Wolff v. Excelsior College (D. Nev. August 28, 2017)

Order granting Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction. Plaintiff, a test-prep business in Nevada that prepares materials for the Clinical Performance in Nursing Examination (CPNE®) administered by Defendant, Excelsior College, sought a declaration that he had not infringed on Defendant’s trademark rights when using the term “CPNE” in his test-prep materials. The court found that the case did not arise out of Defendant’s forum-related activities – two cease-and-desist letters to Plaintiff, as well as solicitation and acceptance of Nevada residents for its remote learning programs – and thereby failed to establish the requisite elements for specific-jurisdiction. As a result, the court granted Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss without leave to amend and denied as moot and without prejudice all other pending motions. 

Trademark & Licensing; Intellectual Property

American InterContinental University, Inc. v. American University (N.D. Ill. Aug. 14, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion and Order granting Plaintiffs leave to propose an appropriate jurisdiction for transfer. Career Education Corporation (CEC), the parent corporation of American InterContinental University, Inc. (AICU), filed a trademark application for the mark “American InterContinental University” and a logo. American University (AU) filed an opposition to the application, claiming a likelihood of confusion with AU's registered marks. CED and AICU then filed suit requesting a declaratory judgment that their trademark does not infringe on AU's trademarks, that their continued use of their marks does not violate state law, that any claims of infringement brought by AU are limited by the defenses of laches and acquiescence, and that AU's registered trademark is invalid due to abandonment and lack of ownership. AU has moved to dismiss the suit for lack of personal jurisdiction. The court found that it lacked personal jurisdiction over AU because the University is not based in Illinois and the suit did not arise out of AU’s contacts with Illinois. However, the court reserved its dismissal of the case until it has had the opportunity to consider the possibility of transfer.

Patents; Intellectual Property

Regents of the University of California v. Chen (N.D. Cal. July 26, 2017)

Order denying Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. A former research employee at the University of California allegedly developed several inventions while working at the University. As a condition of his employment, the researcher signed an acknowledgement providing that he had an “obligation to assign [to the University] inventions and patents” developed during his employment. After leaving the University, the researcher started a company called Genia Technologies, Inc., which sought to commercialize the technology the University claims the researcher invented during his prior employment. The researcher then secured patents based on the disputed technology and assigned those patents to Genia. The Regents of the University of California filed suit alleging the researcher violated his agreement by failing to assign his inventions to the University. The researcher and Genia moved to dismiss, and the court denied their Motion, finding that the University’s claims were plausible, not time-barred, and not preempted by federal law. Additionally, the court rejected the researcher’s argument that his duties to assign inventions and patents to the University ended at the conclusion of his employment, finding that this interpretation of the agreement would lead to “absurd result[s]”.