Unitrac LLC v. U.S.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Patents, Infringement
  • Date Filed: 10-18-2013
  • Case #: 11-581C
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: United States Court of Federal Claims
  • LexisNexis Citation: 2013 U.S. Claims LEXIS 1578
  • Westlaw Citation: 2013 WL 5665233
  • Full Text Opinion

A cause of action for a patent taking arose when the allegedly infringing instrument was first available for use.

Opinion (Damich): On September 9, 2011 Unitrac sued the United States, alleging infringement of two patents related to a system for tracking objects of value. Northrop Grumman was later added as a third party defendant. Northrop and the United States moved to dismiss arguing that Unitrac's claim was time barred. Any claim for which the Court of Federal Claims has jurisdiction must be filed within six years after the claim first accrues. Because any claim filed after the six year window has expired is time barred, the statute of limitations is a jurisdictional issue. A cause of action for a patent taking arises when the allegedly infringing instrument is first available for use. Northrop provided the Government a substantially complete prototype of the accused system, for testing purposes, on August 22, 2003. Testing can constitute infringement, even where the prototype is not in its final form. Because the tested prototype was substantially complete, the Court found that Unitrac's cause of action accrued on August 22, 2003. For a claim arising from Government use of a patented invention, the statute of limitations is tolled from the date the Government receives a written claim for compensation to the date the Government mails a notice that the claim is denied. Although Unitrac had contacted the Government about its potential claim on June 5, 2007, it did not file a claim for compensation under the applicable regulation until March 30, 2009. The Court held that the proper date for beginning the tolling period was the date Unitrac filed a claim under the regulations. The Government denied Unitrac's claim on November 18, 2010. Adding the tolling period to the six year statute of limitations period, the Court concluded that Unitrac was required to file its complaint by April 12, 2011. Because it did not file until September 9, 2011, the Court held that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the case and GRANTED the motion to dismiss.

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