Justia Intellectual Property Opinion Summaries

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The case revolves around a dispute between Ulrich Speck and Bruno Scheller (collectively, “Speck”) and Brian L. Bates, Anthony O. Ragheb, Joseph M. Stewart IV, William J. Bourdeau, Brian D. Choules, James D. Purdy, and Neal E. Fearnot (collectively, “Bates”) over the priority of a patent related to a drug-coated balloon catheter. The Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) Patent Trial and Appeals Board (“Board”) had previously awarded priority to Bates. Speck had argued that the claims of Bates' patent application were time-barred under 35 U.S.C. § 135(b)(1) and invalid for lack of written description. The Board denied these motions.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reviewed the case and concluded that the Board erred in finding that Bates' patent application was not time-barred under 35 U.S.C. § 135(b)(1). The court applied a two-way test to determine if pre-critical date claims and post-critical date claims were materially different. The court found that the post-critical date claims were materially different from the pre-critical date claims, making the patent application time-barred. The court reversed the Board's decision, vacated its order canceling the claims of Speck's patent and entering judgment on priority against Speck, and remanded for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. View "SPECK v. BATES " on Justia Law

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The case involves the Luca McDermott Catena Gift Trust (Appellant) and two related family trusts, all of which are minority owners of California-based Paul Hobbs Winery, L.P. (Hobbs Winery). The trusts collectively own 21.6% of the partnership. Hobbs Winery owns the registered trademark PAUL HOBBS for wines. The Appellant and the two related family trusts filed a consolidated petition to cancel the registered marks ALVAREDOS-HOBBS and HILLICK AND HOBBS, owned by Fructuoso-Hobbs SL and Hillick & Hobbs Estate, LLC (Appellees), respectively. The petition alleged that the use of these marks by the Appellees was likely to cause confusion in the marketplace with Hobbs Winery's use of PAUL HOBBS for the same goods.The Appellees moved to dismiss the petition, arguing that the family trusts were not entitled by statute to cancel the challenged marks because they were not the owners of the allegedly infringed PAUL HOBBS mark. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (the Board) granted the motions to dismiss, concluding that the family trusts lacked a statutory entitlement to bring the cancellation action. The Board also concluded that the family trusts had failed to adequately plead likelihood of confusion and fraud.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the Board's decision. The court found that the Appellant lacked entitlement to a statutory cause of action under 15 U.S.C. § 1064. The court held that the Appellant's alleged injury, the diminishment in value of its ownership interest in Hobbs Winery due to Appellees' use of their marks, was merely derivative of any injury suffered by Hobbs Winery itself and was too remote to provide the Appellant with a cause of action under § 1064. View "LUCA MCDERMOTT CATENA GIFT TRUST v. FRUCTUOSO-HOBBS SL " on Justia Law

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Between November 2019 and August 2020, Core Optical Technologies, LLC filed complaints against three groups of defendants led by Nokia Corp., ADVA Optical Networking SE, and Cisco Systems, Inc. Core Optical alleged that these companies infringed on U.S. Patent No. 6,782,211, which was assigned to Core Optical by the inventor, Dr. Mark Core, in 2011. The defendants argued that the patent was actually owned by Dr. Core's former employer, TRW Inc., due to an employment-associated agreement signed by Dr. Core in 1990.The district court in the Central District of California agreed with the defendants, ruling that the 1990 agreement between Dr. Core and TRW automatically assigned the patent rights to TRW. The court found that the patent did not fall under an exception in the agreement for inventions developed entirely on the employee's own time, as Dr. Core had developed the patent while participating in a fellowship program funded by TRW.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit vacated the district court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. The appellate court found that the phrase "developed entirely on my own time" in the 1990 agreement was ambiguous and did not clearly indicate whether Dr. Core's time spent on his PhD research, which led to the invention, was considered his own time or partly TRW's time. The court concluded that further inquiry into the facts was needed to resolve this ambiguity. View "CORE OPTICAL TECHNOLOGIES, LLC v. NOKIA CORPORATION " on Justia Law

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Dexon Computer, Inc., a reseller of computer networking products, was sued by Cisco Systems, Inc. and Cisco Technologies, Inc. for federal trademark infringement and counterfeiting. The complaint alleged trademark infringements between 2006 and 2010, and thirty-five acts of infringement between 2015 and 2020. Dexon sought defense from Travelers Property Casualty Company of America under a liability policy it had purchased from Travelers. Travelers denied coverage and a duty to defend, arguing that all the alleged acts of trademark infringement were "related acts" under the policy and thus were deemed to have been committed before the policy's retroactive date.The District Court of Minnesota denied Travelers' motion to dismiss Dexon's claims for a declaratory judgment that Travelers has a duty to defend and indemnify. The court held that the documents submitted by the parties concerning the coverage dispute were not "matters outside the pleadings" and could be considered in ruling on the motion to dismiss. The court concluded that it could not hold, as a matter of law, that every act of trademark infringement alleged in the Cisco complaint was necessarily related to an act of trademark infringement that occurred prior to the retroactive date.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court held that the district court correctly determined that Travelers had a duty to defend Dexon in the entire Cisco Action. The court noted that this did not resolve whether Travelers has a duty to indemnify, and if so, the extent of that duty, which would depend on the ultimate resolution of the Cisco Action. View "Dexon Computer, Inc. v. Travelers Prop. Cas. Co. Am." on Justia Law

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The case involves Dragon Intellectual Property, LLC (Dragon), DISH Network L.L.C. (DISH), and Sirius XM Radio Inc. (SXM). Dragon sued DISH, SXM, and eight other defendants in 2013, alleging infringement of claims of U.S. Patent No. 5,930,444. DISH and SXM responded by sending letters to Dragon’s counsel, arguing that their products were not covered by the patent and that a reasonable pre-suit investigation would have shown this. Despite this, Dragon continued to pursue its infringement claims. In 2014, DISH filed a petition seeking inter partes review (IPR) of the patent, which was granted and joined by SXM. The district court stayed proceedings for DISH and SXM pending the Board's review.After the consolidated claim construction hearing, Dragon’s counsel withdrew. Based on the claim construction order, Dragon, DISH, SXM, and the other eight defendants stipulated to noninfringement as to the accused products, and the district court entered judgment of noninfringement in favor of all defendants. The Board later issued a final written decision holding all asserted claims unpatentable. In 2016, DISH and SXM moved for attorneys’ fees under 35 U.S.C. § 285 and 28 U.S.C. § 1927.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court's decision that the case was exceptional and granted-in-part Appellants’ motion for attorneys’ fees under § 285 to the extent Appellants sought fees from Dragon for time spent litigating. However, the court denied-in-part the motion to the extent Appellants sought attorneys’ fees incurred solely during the IPR proceedings and recovery from Dragon’s former counsel, holding § 285 does not permit either form of recovery. The court also held that liability for attorneys’ fees awarded under § 285 does not extend to counsel. View "DRAGON INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LLC v. DISH NETWORK L.L.C. " on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute between Jacam Chemical Company 2013, LLC (Jacam) and its competitor GeoChemicals, LLC, along with Arthur Shepard Jr., a former Jacam employee who later worked for GeoChemicals. Jacam sued both Shepard and GeoChemicals, alleging breach of contract, misappropriation of trade secrets, and tortious interference with contracts. Shepard and GeoChemicals countersued Jacam. The district court granted a declaratory judgment to Shepard, concluding that he owed no contractual obligations to Jacam, and dismissed the remaining claims of Jacam and GeoChemicals.The district court had previously reviewed the case and granted summary judgment to Shepard, holding that he had no enforceable agreements with Jacam. The court also dismissed all of Jacam’s and GeoChemicals’s other claims against each other. Both Jacam and GeoChemicals appealed aspects of the summary judgment order.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that neither the HCS Agreement nor the 2015 version of CES’s Conduct Code created an enforceable contract between Jacam and Shepard. The court also held that Jacam did not make reasonable efforts to keep its pricing information secret, which means the pricing information documents were not trade secrets which Shepard could misappropriate. Finally, the court agreed with the district court that Jacam’s tortious-interference claim fails. The court also dismissed GeoChemicals’s cross-appeal, holding that Jacam did not commit an independently tortious act that interfered with GeoChemicals’s relationship with Continental. View "Jacam Chemical Co. 2013, LLC v. Shepard" on Justia Law

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The case involves Creative Games Studio LLC and Ricardo Bach Cater, who sued Daniel Alves for alleged breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, constructive fraud, and deceit. The plaintiffs, who are co-founders of Creative Games Studio, a company that develops board games for online sale, accused Alves of collaborating with a competitor and using the company's funds and intellectual property for the competitor's benefit. Alves, a Brazilian citizen, was also a co-founder of the company. The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in Montana, where the company is based.The District Court of the Thirteenth Judicial District, Yellowstone County, dismissed the case due to lack of personal jurisdiction over Alves. The court determined that exercising jurisdiction over Alves would not comply with constitutional requirements. Alves had moved to dismiss the complaint under M. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction or under the doctrine of forum non-conveniens.The Supreme Court of the State of Montana affirmed the lower court's decision. The court found that Alves did not consent to jurisdiction and that subjecting him to the jurisdiction of Montana courts would not comply with due process. The court noted that Alves' only connection to Montana was the fact that one of the plaintiffs resided there and established the company in the state. The court concluded that the plaintiffs failed to show that Alves either availed himself of the privileges of Montana law or that their claims arose out of Alves's actions in Montana. View "Creative Games v Alves" on Justia Law

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The case involves a patent infringement dispute between Copan Italia S.p.A. and Copan Diagnostics Inc. (collectively, “Copan”) and Puritan Medical Products Company LLC and its affiliated companies (collectively, “Puritan”). Copan, the holder of several patents on flocked swabs used for collecting biological specimens, filed a patent infringement complaint against Puritan in the District of Maine. Puritan, in response, filed a partial motion to dismiss, claiming immunity under the Pandemic Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (“PREP Act”) for a portion of its accused product.The District Court for the District of Maine denied Puritan's motion to dismiss. The court found that Puritan had not shown, as a factual matter, that its flocked swabs were “covered countermeasures” under the PREP Act. The court also granted Puritan’s motion to amend its answer, allowing it to assert PREP Act immunity as a defense, subject to further argument.Puritan appealed the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. However, the appellate court found that it lacked jurisdiction to review the case. The court reasoned that the district court's denial of Puritan's motion to dismiss did not conclusively determine any issue, which is a requirement for the application of the collateral order doctrine. The court suggested that the district court may wish to structure the litigation in a manner that could allow it to make a conclusive determination on Puritan’s PREP Act immunity defense before the case proceeds any further. The appeal was dismissed due to lack of jurisdiction. View "COPAN ITALIA SPA v. PURITAN MEDICAL PRODUCTS COMPANY LLC " on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute between Sherman Nealy and Warner Chappell Music, Inc. Nealy, who co-founded Music Specialist, Inc. in 1983, alleged that he held the copyrights to the company's songs and that Warner Chappell's licensing activities infringed his rights. The infringing activity, according to Nealy, dated back to 2008, ten years before he brought suit. Nealy sought damages and profits for the alleged misconduct, as authorized by the Copyright Act. To proceed with his claims, Nealy had to show they were timely under the Copyright Act, which requires a plaintiff to file suit "within three years after the claim accrued." Nealy argued that all his claims were timely under the discovery rule because he did not learn of Warner Chappell’s infringing conduct until 2016, less than three years before he sued.In the District Court, Warner Chappell accepted that the discovery rule governed the timeliness of Nealy’s claims. However, it argued that even if Nealy could sue under that rule for infringements going back ten years, he could recover damages or profits for only those occurring in the last three. The District Court agreed, and Nealy appealed. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the decision, rejecting the notion of a three-year damages bar on a timely claim.The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the Eleventh Circuit's decision. The Court held that the Copyright Act entitles a copyright owner to obtain monetary relief for any timely infringement claim, no matter when the infringement occurred. The Act’s statute of limitations establishes a three-year period for filing suit, which begins to run when a claim accrues. That provision establishes no separate three-year limit on recovering damages. If any time limit on damages exists, it must come from the Act’s remedial sections. But those provisions merely state that an infringer is liable either for statutory damages or for the owner’s actual damages and the infringer’s profits. There is no time limit on monetary recovery. So a copyright owner possessing a timely claim is entitled to damages for infringement, no matter when the infringement occurred. View "Warner Chappell Music, Inc. v. Nealy" on Justia Law

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In 2020, Zircon Corp. filed a complaint with the United States International Trade Commission alleging that Stanley Black & Decker, Inc. and Black & Decker (U.S.), Inc. violated section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 by importing and selling electronic stud finders that infringed on Zircon's patents. The Commission instituted an investigation based on Zircon's complaint. A Commission Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found no violation of section 337. On review, the Commission affirmed the ALJ's finding of no violation.The Commission's decision was based on two independent reasons. First, it affirmed the ALJ's determination that Zircon had not satisfied the economic prong of the domestic industry requirement. Zircon had argued that it met this requirement based on its investment in plant and equipment, its employment of labor and capital, and its investment in the exploitation of the asserted patents. However, the Commission found that Zircon had not provided an adequate basis to evaluate the investments and the significance of those investments with respect to each asserted patent.Second, the Commission found each of the claims of the patents that were before the Commission were either invalid or not infringed. The Commission found that all the asserted claims of one patent would have been obvious in view of four prior art references; that several claims of two other patents were invalid as anticipated by or obvious in light of Zircon’s original stud finder; and that several of the claims of these two patents were not infringed.Zircon appealed the Commission's decision, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the Commission's decision. The court agreed with the Commission's interpretation of section 337 and found that substantial evidence supported the Commission's finding that Zircon failed to meet its burden to prove the existence of a domestic industry relating to articles protected by each of its patents. View "ZIRCON CORP. v. ITC " on Justia Law