Justia Intellectual Property Opinion Summaries

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment after a jury trial and award of attorneys' fees in favor of Unicolors in a copyright infringement action against H&M, where Unicolors alleged that a design it created in 2011 is remarkably similar to a design printed on garments that H&M began selling in 2015. The panel held that courts may not consider in the first instance whether the Register of Copyrights would have refused registration due to the inclusion of known inaccuracies in a registration application. In this case the district court erred by imposing an intent-to-defraud requirement for registration invalidation and erred in concluding that Unicolors’s application for copyright registration did not contain inaccuracies despite the inclusion of confined designs. The panel held that the plain meaning of "single unit" in 37 C.F.R. 202.3(b)(4)(i)(A) requires that the registrant first published the collection of works in a singular, bundled collection. The panel explained that it is an inaccuracy for a registrant like Unicolors to register a collection of works as a single-unit publication when the works were not initially published as a singular, bundled collection. Furthermore, the undisputed evidence adduced at trial further shows that H&M included the inaccurate information "with knowledge that it was inaccurate." Therefore, the panel remanded to the district court with instructions to submit an inquiry to the Register of Copyrights asking whether the known inaccuracies contained in the '400 Registration application, if known to the Register of Copyrights, would have caused it to refuse registration. View "Unicolors, Inc. v. H&M Hennes & Mauritz, LP" on Justia Law

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Odyssey filed the 678 patent application in 2004. After several procedural disputes and appeals, the Patent Board reversed an examiner’s rejections. The Technology Center Director issued an “examiner’s request for rehearing.” Odyssey did not address the merits, objecting to the procedural propriety of the request, and requesting reconsideration. Odyssey eventually made merits arguments, but without waiting for the Board’s decision, it sought judicial review. Odyssey filed its 603 application in 2006. After a final rejection of all claims, Odyssey appealed and filed a petition demanding that the examiner make certain evidence part of the written record and supplement his responses. The examiner further explained his decision. The Technology Center Director dismissed the petition as moot. Odyssey believed that the examiner’s answer to its appeal brief included new grounds for rejection. The Technology Center Director dismissed that assertion. Rather than filing a brief replying to the examiner’s answer, Odyssey sought judicial review. The PTO amended its rules of practice in ex parte appeals; final rules were published in November 2011, applicable to all ex parte appeals filed on or after January 23, 2012. Odyssey challenged the legality of these amendments. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of all three claims. In the first two counts, Odyssey was challenging actions not yet final before the Board; the Board could provide Odyssey with an adequate remedy, and if not, Odyssey had remedies under 35 U.S.C. 141 or 145. Count III was untimely under 28 U.S.C. 2401, the six-year statute of limitations for a facial APA challenge, which runs from the date the regulations were published. The complaint was filed in January 2018. View "Odyssey Logistics & Technology Corp. v. Iancu" on Justia Law

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McRO’s patent describes a method for automatically generating animations, with a three-dimensional appearance, depicting lip movements and facial expressions. The method uses two basic building blocks: “phonemes” and “morph targets.” A “phoneme,” the patent explains, is “the smallest unit of speech, and corresponds to a single sound.” A “morph target” is a model of a mouth position—one “reference model” displays a “neutral mouth position,” while other models display “other mouth positions, each corresponding to a different phoneme or set of phonemes.” McRO sued several video game developers alleging infringement of three method claims of the patent. The district court held the claims invalid for ineligibility under 35 U.S.C. 101, but the Federal Circuit reversed. On remand, the district court ultimately held that the developers were entitled to summary judgment of noninfringement because the accused products do not practice the claimed methods and to summary judgment of invalidity because the specification fails to enable the full scope of the claims. The Federal Circuit affirmed the judgment of noninfringement, agreeing with the developers that the claim term “morph weight set” requires three-dimensional vectors. The court vacated the judgment of invalidity and remanded for further proceedings in light of, among other things, the developers’ offer to withdraw their counterclaims without prejudice. View "McRO, Inc. v. Bandai Namco Games America, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's findings of fact and conclusions of law in this trademark infringement case over the word mark "Lawn Managers." In this case, the licensing agreement was the result of a divorce and provided that husband and wife would, in effect, operate parallel, almost identical companies using the same name and similar equipment and vehicles but in different zip codes. The court agreed with the district court that Progressive has not met its high burden of proving that Lawn Managers abandoned its mark through naked licensing. Therefore, the district court properly found that wife could reasonably rely on husband's own quality control efforts and thus met the duty of control as licensor. The court held that the terms of the licensing agreement, combined with the couple's successful operation of the Lawn Managers business for over 17 years and the lack of any evidence of quality deviations at Progressive, were sufficient to support the district court's finding of reasonable reliance. Furthermore, the court held that the district court was within its discretion to conclude that the Lawn Managers mailer did not support Progressive's unclean hands defense. Finally, the district court did not clearly err in its damages award. View "Lawn Managers, Inc. v. Progressive Lawn Managers, Inc." on Justia Law

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Compulife Software, which has developed and markets a computerized mechanism for calculating, organizing, and comparing life-insurance quotes, alleges that one of its competitors lied and hacked its way into Compulife's system and stole its proprietary data. At issue was whether defendants crossed any legal lines—and, in particular, whether they infringed Compulife's copyright or misappropriated its trade secrets, engaged in false advertising, or violated an anti-hacking statute. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the judgment as to copyright infringement and trade-secret misappropriation, remanding for new findings of fact and conclusions of law. The court held that the magistrate judge committed errors of law and made insufficient findings, which tainted his conclusion that Compulife's copyright was not infringed. The court also held that the magistrate judge erred in his analysis of trade-secret misappropriation, both by failing to consider the application of several species of misappropriation and by committing legal error. The court found no reversible error in the magistrate judge's rejection of Compulife's other claims, affirming the remainder of the judgment. View "Compulife Software Inc. v. Newman" on Justia Law

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ESIP’s patent relates to “a novel system and method for combining germicidal protection and aromatic diffusion in enclosed habitable spaces.” ’ Products of this type are commonly known as “vaporizers” or “diffusers.” On inter partes review, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board found that certain claims of ESIP’s patent are invalid as obvious. The Federal Circuit affirmed, first rejecting ESIP’s claim that the Board should not have instituted inter partes review because appellee Puzhen failed to identify “all real parties in interest” as required by 35 U.S.C. 312. The Board’s decision to institute inter partes review is final and not appealable. The Board’s determination of obviousness in light of prior art was supported by substantial evidence. View "ESIP Series 2, LLC v. Puzhen Life USA, LLC" on Justia Law

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Cochlear’s patent describes a hearing aid with several parts. A vibration-producing component is implanted and mechanically anchored into a patient’s skull on the patient’s deaf side. An external component, which includes a microphone, picks up sound on the patient’s deaf side, processes the sound, and generates vibrations in the implanted part, which are transmitted through th skull to the patient’s non-deaf ear, which then perceives sound originating from the deaf-ear side. The Patent and Trademark Office instituted two inter partes reviews, 35 U.S.C. 311–319, and concluded that claims 4–6 and 11–12 had been proven unpatentable; claims 7–10 were not unpatentable. Cochlear disclaimed claims 1–3 and 13. The Federal Circuit affirmed except with respect to claim 10, as to which it vacated. The Board correctly held that the preamble phrase “for rehabilitation of unilateral hearing loss” is not a limitation on the scope of the apparatus claims. The court upheld obviousness determinations concerning claims 4-6 and found claims 11-12 anticipated by prior art. On remand with respect to claim 10, the Board should consider whether the directivity-dependent-microphone alternative is outside the scope of 35 U.S.C. 112, because it recites a structure (the directivity dependent microphone) that sufficiently corresponds to the claimed directivity means. View "Cochlear Bone Anchored Solutions AB v. Oticon Medical AB" on Justia Law

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Enchant produces a holiday-themed light show, which it exhibits across the U.S. and Canada. “Enchant Christmas,” features large three-dimensional sculptures fitted with lights, including sculptures of polar bears, deer, and ice crystals. Enchant obtained copyright registrations for several sculptures. Wallain worked with Enchant and had access to design files used to construct Enchant’s light sculptures. Wallain and Glowco discussed producing an Enchant Christmas light show in Nashville. The parties could not strike an agreement. Wallain and Glowco decided to pursue a Nashville light show without Enchant, purchased some sculptures from Enchant, and solicited manufacturers in China to produce additional light sculptures. Wallain sent two-dimensional images of Enchant’s sculptures, obtained from Enchant’s files, to solicit bids. Enchant sued, alleging copyright infringement, misappropriation of trade secrets, and violation of the Tennessee Personal and Commercial Computer Act. The district court concluded, after comparing the designs of the disputed sculptures, that any copyright-protected interest in Enchant’s sculptures was “very thin” and that numerous differences between the sculptures would be clear to an ordinary observer. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Qualities of Enchant’s sculptures that are inherent in the chosen subject—animal sculpture—are not subject to copyright protection. To the extent that Enchant’s sculptures contained some original work warranting protection, Enchant had "thin copyright at best." Most of the similarities identified by Enchant are inherent to the subject matter, including animal features and naturally occurring poses. View "Enchant Christmas Light Maze & Market, Inc. v. Glowco LLC" on Justia Law

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Lanard owns Design Patent D167 and the 458 copyright for a work entitled “Pencil/Chalk Holder,” relating to a toy chalk holder designed to look like a pencil. Lanard sold the Chalk Pencil, marked to indicate Lanard’s copyright and patent protections, to national retailers. Ja-Ru designed a toy chalk holder, using the Chalk Pencil as a reference sample. Lanard’s retailers stopped ordering the Chalk Pencil and began ordering Ja-Ru’s product. Lanard sued, asserting copyright infringement, design patent infringement, trade dress infringement, and statutory and common law unfair competition. The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment that Ja-Ru’s product does not infringe the patent, that the copyright is invalid and alternatively not infringed, and that Ja-Ru’s product does not infringe Lanard’s trade dress. Lanard’s unfair competition claims failed because its other claims failed. The district court properly construed the claims commensurate with the statutory protection for an ornamental design. Lanard impermissibly seeks to exclude any chalk holder in the shape of a pencil and extend the scope of the patent beyond the “new, original and ornamental design,” 35 U.S.C. 171. Lanard’s copyright is for the chalk holder itself; Lanard’s arguments seek protection for the dimensions and shape of the useful article itself. Because the chalk holder itself is not copyright protectable, Lanard cannot demonstrate that it holds a valid copyright. Lanard cannot establish that the Chalk Pencil has acquired secondary meaning. View "Lanard Toys Ltd. v. Dolgencorp LLC" on Justia Law

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ECT sued ShoppersChoice for infringement of its 261 patent, titled “Secure Notification Messaging with User Option to Communicate with Delivery or Pickup Representative.” The Federal Circuit affirmed a judgment on the pleadings that claim 11 of the patent is invalid under 35 U.S.C. 101, as directed to the abstract idea of providing advance notification of the pickup or delivery of a mobile thing. Claims, like claim 11, that are directed to longstanding commercial practices do not pass step one of the two-part section 101 “Alice” test. The process of recording authentication information—such as the customer’s name, address, and telephone number—and including that information in subsequent communications with the customer is abstract not only because it is a longstanding commercial practice, but also because it amounts to nothing more than gathering, storing, and transmitting information, quite unlike the “improvement[s] in computer capabilities” that have been found eligible for patenting at step one. The claims do not include an inventive concept sufficient to transform the claimed abstract idea into a patent-eligible application. View "Electronic Communication Technologies, LLC v. ShoppersChoice.com, LLC" on Justia Law