Sowinski v. California Air Resources Board, No. 19-1558 (Fed. Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
In 2015, Dr. Sowinski sued the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and others, alleging infringement of the 033 patent, violation of California elder abuse laws, and violation of California Business & Professions Code 17200. The patent, entitled “Pollution Credit Method Using Electronic Networks,” describes an electronic method and apparatus for validating and trading consumer pollution control tax credits. Sowinski stated that the patent is infringed by California’s Cap-and-Trade Program auctions. Sowinski did not file a response to motions to dismiss. After the period set in the local rules, the district court dismissed the complaint with prejudice. The Federal Circuit affirmed.
In 2018, Sowinski filed suit in the California Superior Court of Orange County, substantially identical to his prior complaint but seeking damages only for infringement after the dismissal. He voluntarily dismissed that action and filed the same complaint in the Northern District of California, stating the same three counts as the first suit. CARB was the only named defendant.
The district court dismissed the complaint on the ground of res judicata, observing that the dismissal of the same claims in the prior litigation against the same defendant “was an adjudication on the merits.” The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that res judicata did not apply because the present complaint seeks damages only for infringement that occurred after the conclusion of his prior suits and because the prior suit was resolved on procedural grounds, without reaching the merits of infringement.