Zoltek Corp. v. United States, No. 09-5135 (Fed. Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
Zoltek’s patent, "Controlled Surface Electrical Resistance Carbon Fiber Sheet Product" concerns manufacturing carbon fiber sheets with controlled surface electrical resistivity. The filters were used in F-22 fighter jets, which Lockheed designed and built under government contract. Zoltek claimed infringement in a 1996 suit against the U.S. under 28 U.S.C. 1498(c). The Federal Circuit held that the statute did not waive sovereign immunity because the manufacturing process began in a foreign country and that Zoltek could not allege patent infringement as a taking under the Tucker Act. On remand, the court allowed Zoltek to add a claim against Lockheed under 35 U.S.C. 271(g) and transfer the case. The Federal Circuit court reconsidered its earlier decision and concluded that suit against the government is not barred and that 1498(c) does not apply to this case because the infringement was based on activities in the U.S. An independent cause of action is available under 28 U.S.C. 1498(a) for direct infringement by the government or its contractors that is not dependent on 35 U.S.C. 271(a). When the government is subject to suit under 1498(a) for alleged infringement by a contractor, the contractor is immune from individual liability.