Justia Government Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
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In 2010, the Army granted Authentic a nonexclusive license to manufacture and sell clothing bearing the Army’s trademarks. The agreement required the Army’s advance written approval of any products and marketing materials bearing the Army’s trademarks and included exculpatory clauses that exempted the Army from liability for exercising its discretion to deny approval. In 2011-2014, Authentic submitted nearly 500 requests for approval; the Army disapproved 41 submissions. During that time, Authentic received several formal notices of material breach for claimed failures to timely submit royalty reports and pay royalties. Authentic eventually paid its royalties through 2013. Authentic’s counsel indicated that Authentic would not pay outstanding royalties for 2014.Authentic's ensuing breach of contract suit cited the Army’s denial of the right to exploit the goodwill associated with the Army’s trademarks, refusal to permit Authentic to advertise its contribution to Army recreation programs, delay of approval for a financing agreement, denial of approval for advertising, and breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing by not approving the sale of certain garments. The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the government. The license agreement stated in no uncertain terms that the Army had “sole and absolute discretion” regarding approval of Authentic’s proposed products and marketing materials; the exercise of that broad approval discretion is not inconsistent with principles of trademark law. View "Authentic Apparel Geoup, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2017, the Department of Homeland Security issued the Solicitation as a Request for Proposal for a potentially multi-year contract for dorm management services at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia. During the evaluation process, the government eliminated Safeguard’s proposal from consideration because Safeguard omitted pricing information for 16 contract line item numbers totaling $6,121,228.The Claims Court and Federal Circuit upheld the award to another bidder. The Solicitation required offerors to submit the pricing information and provided notice that elimination was possible if that pricing information was omitted. Safeguard’s omissions were material and not subject to waiver or clarification. The court upheld the denial of Safeguard’s email request to supplement the administrative record through discovery and the denial of its motion to supplement the administrative record with affidavits. The Claims Court had jurisdiction over a claim that the government breached an implied-in-fact contract to fairly and honestly consider an offeror’s proposal in the procurement context under 28 U.S.C. 1491(b)(1). View "Safeguard Base Operations, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2009, MC-2 was awarded Government Services Administration (GSA) task order to provide services for the annual GovEnergy Conference. MC-2 performed the Task Order in 2009, 2010, and 2011. GSA canceled the 2012 Conference before it began and requested that MC-2 return the entire Reserve Fund and an accounting for the Reserve Fund over the contract's life. MC-2 purportedly responded days later, arguing that GSA never before claimed that it was entitled to the difference between the Conference revenue and expenses, that MC-2 was entitled to any excess revenue, and that MC-2 had submitted a final accounting at the end of each contracting year. In 2012, MC-2 submitted a termination-for-convenience proposal.In November 2015, GSA sent MC-2 a letter providing the Contracting Officer’s final decision on MC-2’s proposal, which had sought $717,680.10, stating that the Government believed that MC-2 owed the government money. The decision stated that “GSA considers the Reserve Fund balance a contract debt. In January 2018, GSA sent a follow-up letter, demanding payment of $660,013.68. Because MC-2 had not appealed the November 2015 Final Decision, GSA deemed MC-2’s debt “final and conclusive,” 41 U.S.C. 7103(g)).In December 2018, MC-2 filed suit, arguing that the 2015 GSA letter was not a final decision because it failed to state a sum certain. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit as untimely because it was not brought within 12 months of the 2015 decision, as required by 41 U.S.C. 7104(b)(3). GSA issued a valid claim under the Contract Disputes Act for the return of the Reserve Funds; GSA’s claim was the subject of a written decision by the GSA contracting officer; and MC-2 failed to file suit within 12 months of receiving the contracting officer’s final decision View "Creative Management Services, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2013, the Naval Facilities Engineering Command installed copyrighted graphics-rendering software created by German company Bitmanagement onto all computers in the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet. No express contract or license agreement authorized the Navy’s actions. In 2016, Bitmanagement filed suit, alleging copyright infringement, 28 U.S.C. 1498(b). The Claims Court found that, while Bitmanagement had established a prima facie case of copyright infringement, the Navy was not liable because it was authorized to make copies by an implied license, arising from the Navy’s purchase of individual licenses to test the software and various agreements between the Navy and the vendor.The Federal Circuit vacated and remanded for the calculation of damages. The Claims Court ended its analysis prematurely by failing to consider whether the Navy complied with the terms of the implied license, which can readily be understood from the parties’ entire course of dealings. The implied license was conditioned on the Navy using a license-tracking software, Flexera, to “FlexWrap” the program and monitor the number of simultaneous users. The Navy failed to effectively FlexWrap the copies it made; Flexera tracking did not occur as contemplated by the implied license. That failure to comply creates liability for infringement. View "Bitmanagement Software GMBH v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Federal Circuit affirmed the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals' decision denying P.K. Management's claim that it should receive individual payments for inspections of Custodial properties under a contract with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The court agreed with the Board's determination that the contract terms unambiguously cover routine inspections through a monthly fee rather than individual payments.In this case, the court read the Contract as whole and held that the plain meaning places compensation for routine inspections of Custodial properties under Contract Line Item Numbers (CLIN) 0006 rather than CLIN 0005AA. The court explained that, because the Contract is unambiguous, it follows the plain meaning without considering extrinsic evidence or related arguments. The court considered P.K. Management's remaining arguments and found them unpersuasive. View "P.K. Management Group, Inc. v. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development" on Justia Law

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The Army Corps of Engineers issued a request for proposals. NIKA bid but was not awarded a contract. NIKA made a timely request for debriefing. The Corps sent NIKA a written debriefing and alerted NIKA of the right to submit additional questions. NIKA did not submit additional questions. NIKA filed a protest at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) six days after the written debriefing. Under 31 U.S.C. 3553(d), bid protests filed at the GAO invoke an automatic stay of procurement during the pendency of the protest if the federal agency awarding the contract receives notice within five days of debriefing. GAO denied the stay as untimely.NIKA filed suit, citing 10 U.S.C. 2305(b)(5)(B)(vii), which states that “[t]he debriefing shall include . . . an opportunity for a disappointed offeror to submit, within two business days after receiving a post-award debriefing, additional questions related to the debriefing.” The Claims Court instituted the stay. The bid protest concluded and the stay has ended.The Federal Circuit reversed, first holding that the issue was not moot, being capable of repetition but evading review. The text of 31 U.S.C. 3553(d) indicates that when no additional questions are submitted, the “debriefing date” is the date upon which the party receives its debriefing. The five-day period begins on the debriefing date, rather than two days later. Because NIKA did not file at the GAO within the five-day period, it did not timely invoke the stay. View "NIKA Technologies, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The VA sought to procure cable gun locks with information about its suicide prevention line imprinted on the lock body, on a label attached to the cable, and an accompanying wallet card. VA submitted a requisition form to the Government Publishing Office (GPO), which issued an invitation for bids, with unrestricted competition. In a bid protest, the Government Accountability Office found that the Veterans Benefits Act (VBA), 38 U.S.C. 8127(i), applied. VA submitted a revised requisition. VA maintains a database of all verified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs). The GPO’s contracting officer concluded that the GPO was obligated to employ unrestricted competitive bidding without a Rule of Two analysis. The Rule of Two requires that when two or more verified and capable SDVOSBs are identified, the acquisition must be set-aside for SDVOSBs, provided the contracting officer has a reasonable expectation that two or more verified SDVSOBs will submit offers and that the award can be made at a reasonable price. The contracting officer stated that the GPO would “leverage the VA database" to ensure that verified firms received an opportunity to bid.The Claims Court dismissed a pre-award bid protest, reasoning that the solicitation fell within the printing mandate, 44 U.S.C. 501, which requires that governmental "printing, binding, and blank-book work” be done at the GPO; that the VA adequately explained its decision to employ the GPO; and that the VA had met its obligation to secure GPO compliance “to the maximum extent feasible” with the Rule of Two. The Federal Circuit reversed. The printing mandate applies only to the production of written or graphic published materials; the solicitation at issue does not involve “printing.” View "Veterans4You, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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BGT contracted with the Navy to construct and deliver a generator. The Navy agreed to supply but failed to deliver an exhaust collector and engine mounts (government-furnished equipment "GFE"). Consistent with Federal Acquisitions Regulations (FAR), the contract provides that the Navy “shall consider” an equitable adjustment if it does not deliver the GFE; gives the Navy the right to modify its GFE commitments; and provides that the Navy “shall consider” an equitable adjustment if it modifies those GFE commitments. It requires that equitable adjustments be made according to 48 C.F.R. 52.243-1. The contract also incorporates a clause from outside FAR, providing that no statement or conduct of government personnel shall constitute a change and that the contractor shall not comply with any order, direction, or request of government personnel unless it is issued in writing and signed by the Contracting Officer. The Navy accepted the completed generator but rejected BGT’s request for an equitable adjustment.The Claims Court dismissed BGT’s subsequent lawsuit, finding that BGT had contractually waived its claims of constructive change through ratification, official change by waiver, and breach for failure to award an equitable adjustment and insufficiently alleged a breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the good faith and fair dealing claim but vacated the dismissal of the remaining claims. Even assuming that the contracting officer is not chargeable with having ordered the withdrawal of the GFE, there is an alternate pathway to relief. If relief under the standard FAR provisions were not available, the government could avoid liability for reneging on its GFE commitments in any case simply by withdrawing GFE without written notice from the contracting officer. View "BGT Holdings LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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Boeing entered into contracts with the Air Force that require Boeing to deliver technical data with “unlimited rights,” meaning that the government has the right to “use, modify, reproduce, perform, display, release, or disclose [the] technical data in whole or in part, in any manner, and for any purpose whatsoever, and to have or authorize others to do so.” Notwithstanding the government’s unlimited rights, Boeing retains ownership of any technical data it delivers under the contracts.Boeing marked each submission to the Air Force with a legend that purports to describe Boeing’s rights in the data with respect to third parties. The government rejected Boeing’s technical data, finding that Boeing’s legend is a nonconforming marking because it is not in the format authorized by the contracts under the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement, Subsection 7013(f). Boeing argued that Subsection 7013(f) is inapplicable to legends that only restrict the rights of third parties. The Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals agreed with the government.The Federal Circuit vacated. Subsection 7013(f) applies only in situations when a contractor seeks to assert restrictions on the government’s rights. The court remanded for resolution of an unresolved factual dispute remains between the parties regarding whether Boeing’s proprietary legend, in fact, restricts the government’s rights. View "Boeing Co. v. Secretary of the Air Force" on Justia Law

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Dr. Braun worked at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for almost 32 years as a research doctor with a specialty in neurological disorders. He obtained tenured status in 2003. In 2016, the NIH, which is located within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, removed Dr. Braun from his position after an audit revealed that his records were incomplete for all but 9% of the human subjects who had participated in his research over the course of six years.The Merit Systems Protection Board rejected Braun’s argument that an NIH policy required de-tenuring of tenured scientists (which NIH had not done in his case) before they could be removed for performance-related reasons and that the NIH committed certain other errors. The Board reasoned that the cited NIH policy allows removal “for cause” without de-tenuring. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The “for cause” provision was properly applied to this case. The evidence permitted the conclusions that Dr. Braun, “over a long period of time,” failed to a “dramatic and disturbing” degree, to comply with protocol requirements that exist “for the safety of the patients and the credibility of the research.” There was no denial of due process. View "Braun v. Department of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law