The Supreme Court released three opinions this morning:
(1) Hana Financial v. Hana Bank: In an opinion by Justice Sotomayor, the Court held unanimously that the question whether two trademarks may be tacked for purposes of determining priority is a question for the jury. The judgment of the Ninth Circuit was affirmed. Per Justice Sotomayor:
"Rights in a trademark are determined by the date of the mark’s first use in commerce. The party who first uses a mark in commerce is said to have priority over other users. Recognizing that trademark users ought to be permitted to make certain modifications to their marks over time without losing priority, lower courts have provided that, in limited circumstances, a party may clothe a new mark with the priority position of an older mark. This doctrine is called “tacking,” and lower courts have found tacking to be available when the original and revised marks are “legal equivalents” in that they create the same, continuing commercial impression. The question presented here is whether a judge or a jury should determine whether tacking is available in a given case. Because the tacking inquiry operates from the perspective of an ordinary purchaser or consumer, we hold that a jury should make this determination."
(2) Gelboim v. Bank of America: In an opinion by Justice Ginsburg, the Court held unanimously that a lower court order dismissing petitioners' case in its entirety removed petitioners from the consolidated multidistrict litigation proceeding, thereby triggering their right to appeal under §1291. The judgment of the Second Circuit was reversed and the case remanded. Per Justice Ginsburg:
"An unsuccessful litigant in a federal district court may take an appeal, as a matter of right, from a “final decisio[n] of the district cour[t].” 28 U. S. C. §1291. The question here presented: Is the right to appeal secured by §1291 affected when a case is consolidated for pretrial proceedings in multidistrict litigation (or MDL) authorized by 28 U. S. C. §1407?....The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, acting on its own motion, dismissed the appeal filed by [petitioners] for want of appellate jurisdiction. We reverse the Second Circuit’s judgment and hold that the petitioners' complaint retained its independent status for purposes of appellate jurisdiction under §1291. Petitioners’ right to appeal ripened when the District Court dismissed their case, not upon eventual completion of multidistrict proceedings in all of the consolidated cases."
(3) Dep't of Homeland Security v. MacLean: In an opinion by Chief Justice Roberts, the Court held by a vote of 7-2 that federal air marshal MacLean's disclosure was not "specifically prohibited by law." The judgment of the Federal Circuit was affirmed. Per the Chief Justice:
"Federal law generally provides whistleblower protections to an employee who discloses information revealing “any violation of any law, rule, or regulation,” or “a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.” 5 U. S. C. §2302(b)(8)(A). An exception exists, however, for disclosures that are “specifically prohibited by law.” Ibid. Here, a federal air marshal publicly disclosed that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had decided to cut costs by removing air marshals from certain long-distance flights. The question presented is whether that disclosure was “specifically prohibited by law.”" According to the majority, the disclosure was prohibited neither by TSA regulations on sensitive security information (because they did not count as "law" for purposes of the statute in question), nor by the statutory provision that empowers the TSA to prescribe regulations on information disclosure. Concerns regarding public endangerment as a result of whistleblower disclosures, while legitimate, must be addressed by Congress or the President, not the Court.
Justice Sotomayor dissented, joined by Justice Kennedy.