Justia Intellectual Property Opinion Summaries

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The case involves Analog Technologies, Inc. ("ATI") and its CEO Dr. Gang Liu, who accused Analog Devices, Inc. ("ADI") of misappropriating trade secrets under federal and Massachusetts law. ATI claimed that they took reasonable measures to maintain the secrecy of development materials shared with ADI, and ADI violated its obligation to limit its use of those materials. The dispute originated from two agreements: a 2000 agreement, which included a confidentiality clause that expired five years after termination, and a 2015 agreement, which superseded the 2000 agreement and released ADI from any claims related to the 2000 agreement.The U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts granted ADI's motion to dismiss the claim, ruling that any restrictions on ADI's use of the materials had expired under the clear terms of the written agreement among the parties. The court also found that there were no trade secrets under the 2000 agreement still in existence to have been misappropriated in 2021.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision. The appellate court concluded that ADI did not misappropriate the development materials as the restrictions on ADI's use of these materials under the 2000 agreement had expired in 2011. Furthermore, the 2015 agreement released ADI from any remaining use restrictions. The court also rejected the argument that ADI had a duty to limit its use of the materials at the time of the alleged misappropriation, as such a duty did not exist under the 2015 agreement. View "Analog Technologies, Inc. v. Analog Devices, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute between the owners of El Gran Combo, one of the most popular Puerto Rican bands in history, and the band's former lead vocalist, Carlos Aponte-Cruz. The dispute centers on the interpretation of the Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act of 1995, which entitles the "recording artist or artists featured on [a] sound recording" to a 45% share of certain royalties that the recording generated. Aponte-Cruz argues that he is the "artist . . . featured" on certain El Gran Combo sound recordings for which he was the lead vocalist and is therefore entitled to his portion of the 45% share of the statutory royalties for those recordings. The owners of El Gran Combo, on the other hand, contend that the band as an independent entity distinct from any of its individual members is the "artist . . . featured" on those recordings.The United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico ruled in favor of the owners of El Gran Combo, finding that the band, as a distinct legal entity, was the group most prominently featured on the sound recordings and thus entitled to collect the royalties as the featured artist. The court also ruled that Rafael Ithier, as the sole owner of El Gran Combo, was entitled to collect the featured artist royalties due to the corporation.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reversed the District Court's ruling. The appellate court concluded that even though the covers for the El Gran Combo albums that contain the disputed recordings refer only to the band itself and not to any of its individual members, Aponte-Cruz, as a "recording artist . . . featured" on the recordings in dispute, is entitled to his portion of the 45% share of the statutory royalties for those recordings. The court found that neither EGC Corp. nor Ithier is entitled to the 45% royalty share in the recordings at issue. View "Ithier v. Aponte Cruz" on Justia Law

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Insulet Corp. and EOFlow are medical device manufacturers that produce insulin pump patches. Insulet began developing its OmniPod product in the early 2000s, and EOFlow started developing its EOPatch product after its founding in 2011. Around the same time, four former Insulet employees joined EOFlow. In 2023, reports surfaced that Medtronic had started a process to acquire EOFlow. Soon after, Insulet sued EOFlow for violations of the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to enjoin all technical communications between EOFlow and Medtronic in view of its trade secrets claims.The U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts temporarily restrained EOFlow from disclosing products or manufacturing technical information related to the EOPatch or OmniPod products. The court then granted Insulet’s request for a preliminary injunction, finding strong evidence that Insulet is likely to succeed on the merits of its trade secrets claim, strong evidence of misappropriation, and that irreparable harm to Insulet crystallized when EOFlow announced an intended acquisition by Medtronic. The injunction enjoined EOFlow from manufacturing, marketing, or selling any product that was designed, developed, or manufactured, in whole or in part, using or relying on alleged trade secrets of Insulet.The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed the district court’s order. The court found that the district court had failed to address the statute of limitations, lacked a tailored analysis as to what specific information actually constituted a trade secret, and found it hard to tell what subset of that information was likely to have been misappropriated by EOFlow. The court also found that the district court had failed to meaningfully engage with the public interest prong. The court concluded that Insulet had not shown a likelihood of success on the merits and other factors for a preliminary injunction. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the opinion. View "INSULET CORP. v. EOFLOW, CO. LTD. " on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute between the Board of Regents of the University of Texas System and IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. over the interpretation of a patent licensing agreement. The agreement, signed in 2000, pertained to a peptide used to test for Lyme disease in dogs. The agreement stipulated different royalty rates for different types of products, depending on what tests were included. The dispute arose over the interpretation of two royalty provisions, one for 1% and the other for 2.5%, which could both be read to apply to the same sales of goods. IDEXX Laboratories had been paying the lower royalty rate, but the University argued that the higher rate should have been applied.The trial court ruled in favor of the University, concluding that the licensing agreement was clear and unambiguous and that the University was entitled to recover the unpaid royalties claimed plus accrued interest. On appeal, IDEXX Laboratories argued for the first time that the licensing agreement was ambiguous. The court of appeals agreed, concluding that both interpretations of the royalty provisions were reasonable and conflicting, and therefore the agreement was ambiguous. It reversed the trial court's decision and remanded the case.The Supreme Court of Texas disagreed with the court of appeals. It found that the royalty provisions were not ambiguous when read in the context of the licensing agreement itself and the objective circumstances in which the agreement was produced. The court concluded that the provisions were most reasonably interpreted to require royalties on IDEXX Laboratories' products at the higher rate stipulated in the agreement. The court reversed the court of appeals' judgment and remanded the case to that court for further proceedings. View "Board of Regents of the University of Texas System v. IDEXX Laboratories, Inc." on Justia Law

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The case involves Bacardi & Company Limited and Bacardi USA, Inc. (collectively, Bacardi) and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). Bacardi claimed that the PTO violated Section 9 of the Lanham Act and its own regulations by renewing a trademark registration ten years after it expired. The trademark in question is the "HAVANA CLUB," originally registered by a Cuban corporation, José Arechabala, S.A. In 1960, the Cuban government seized the corporation's assets, and by 1974, the U.S. trademark registrations for HAVANA CLUB rum had expired. Later, a company owned by the Cuban government registered the HAVANA CLUB trademark in the U.S. for itself. Bacardi, which had bought the interest in the mark from Arechabala, filed its own application to register the HAVANA CLUB mark and petitioned the PTO to cancel the Cuban government-owned company's registration.The PTO denied Bacardi's application due to the Cuban government-owned company's preexisting registration, and the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) denied Bacardi's cancellation petition. Bacardi then filed a civil action challenging the TTAB's denial of cancellation. Meanwhile, the Cuban government-owned company's registration was set to expire in 2006, unless it renewed its trademark. However, due to a trade embargo, the company was not permitted to pay the required renewal fee without first obtaining an exception from the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). OFAC denied the company's request for an exception, and the PTO notified the company that its registration would expire due to the failure to submit the renewal fee on time.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment that dismissed Bacardi's lawsuit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court concluded that the Lanham Act does not foreclose an Administrative Procedure Act (APA) action for judicial review of the PTO’s compliance with statutes and regulations governing trademark registration renewal. The court found that the Lanham Act does not expressly preclude judicial review of PTO registration renewal decisions or fairly implies congressional intent to do so. Therefore, the APA’s mechanism for judicial review remains available. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Bacardi and Company Limited v. United States Patent & Trademark Office" on Justia Law

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Steve Elster sought to register the trademark "Trump too small" for use on shirts and hats, drawing from a 2016 Presidential primary debate exchange. The Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) refused registration based on the "names clause" of the Lanham Act, which prohibits the registration of a mark that identifies a particular living individual without their written consent. Elster argued that this clause violated his First Amendment right to free speech. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board affirmed the PTO's decision, but the Federal Circuit reversed.The Supreme Court of the United States reversed the Federal Circuit's decision, holding that the Lanham Act's names clause does not violate the First Amendment. The Court found that while the names clause is content-based, it is not viewpoint-based, as it does not discriminate against any particular viewpoint. The Court also noted that the names clause is grounded in a historical tradition of restricting the trademarking of names, which has coexisted with the First Amendment. The Court concluded that this history and tradition are sufficient to demonstrate that the names clause does not violate the First Amendment. The Court emphasized that its decision is narrow and does not set forth a comprehensive framework for judging whether all content-based but viewpoint-neutral trademark restrictions are constitutional. View "Vidal v. Elster" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute over the estate of Dr. Lester Frank Sumrall, who founded a church that grew into a global evangelical empire, LeSEA, Inc. After his death, his son and grandson, Lester Sumrall, claimed they should have inherited part of his estate, including copyrights to his works and his right of publicity. They alleged that LeSEA, now controlled by other family members, had wrongfully taken ownership of these assets.The case was initially heard in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana. The district court dismissed the claims brought by Lester Sumrall and the Lester Sumrall Family Trust against LeSEA and its affiliates, ruling in favor of LeSEA on all counts. The court found that the copyright claims were untimely and that LeSEA owned the copyright to a particular photograph, the "Traveler Photo," taken by Lester Sumrall. The court also dismissed various state law claims for damages under the doctrine of laches, citing inexcusable delay in asserting rights and prejudice to the adverse party.Upon appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The appellate court agreed that the copyright claims were untimely and that LeSEA owned the copyright to the Traveler Photo. The court also upheld the application of laches to the state law claims, noting that laches is equally applicable in suits at law in Indiana. Finally, the court dismissed the claim for LeSEA's alleged use of Dr. Sumrall's right of publicity, as the Trust failed to plead the required half-ownership. View "Sumrall v. LeSEA, Inc." on Justia Law

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A graphic designer, Cynthia Foss, filed a lawsuit against Marvic, Inc., Brady-Built, Inc., and Charter Communications, alleging copyright infringement. Foss claimed that Marvic and Brady-Built used a marketing brochure she created without her permission. She also sought a declaratory judgment that Charter Communications was not eligible for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's safe-harbor defense.Previously, Foss had filed a similar lawsuit against Marvic alone, which was dismissed because she had not registered her copyright before filing the suit. This dismissal was affirmed by the First Circuit Court of Appeals. In the current case, the District Court dismissed Foss's copyright infringement claim against Marvic and Brady-Built on the grounds of claim preclusion, citing the dismissal of her earlier lawsuit. The court also dismissed her claim against Charter Communications for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a plausible claim.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit vacated the dismissal of the copyright infringement claim against Marvic and Brady-Built. The court found that the dismissal of Foss's earlier lawsuit was not a "final judgment on the merits" for claim preclusion purposes. However, the court affirmed the dismissal of Foss's claim against Charter Communications for lack of jurisdiction. The court also vacated the District Court's alternative merits-based dismissal of Foss's claim against Charter Communications. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Foss v. Marvic" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a copyright infringement claim brought by Laney Griner, the owner of the copyright to a popular internet meme template known as "Success Kid." The meme was used by the King for Congress Committee, a political campaign committee, to solicit donations. Griner sued the Congressman and the Committee for copyright infringement. The jury found the Committee, but not the Congressman, liable for copyright infringement and awarded Griner $750, the statutory minimum. Both parties moved for costs and attorney’s fees, which the district court partially granted and denied to both parties, but denied all attorney’s fees.The Committee appealed the decision, arguing that it had an implied license to use the meme and that its use constituted fair use. The Committee also contested the district court's evidentiary rulings and the jury's instruction regarding damages. The Defendants appealed the denial of attorney’s fees and some costs.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that the Committee had waived its implied license defense and that the jury correctly concluded that the Committee's use of the meme did not constitute fair use. The court also found no abuse of discretion in the district court's evidentiary rulings and held that the Committee's challenge to the jury instruction regarding damages was waived. The court affirmed the district court's decision not to award attorney’s fees and its denial of additional costs. View "Griner v. King for Congress" on Justia Law

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The case involves the Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance and the Advanced Medical Technology Association, two trade associations representing medical device manufacturers, who sued the Library of Congress and the Librarian of Congress. The dispute arose from an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that allowed some access to the software of advanced medical devices. The trade associations claimed that the exemption violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The district court dismissed the case, ruling that the APA claims were barred by sovereign immunity because the Library of Congress is part of “the Congress” and therefore not an “agency” within the meaning of the APA’s judicial review provision.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed the district court's decision. The court held that irrespective of whether the Library is an “agency,” Congress has specified that copyright regulations under Title 17 of the U.S. Code are subject to the APA. The court concluded that DMCA rules are subject to the APA just like other copyright rules, and therefore, the APA provides the necessary waiver of sovereign immunity for this suit. The court remanded the case back to the district court to assess the APA claims. View "Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance v. Library of Congress" on Justia Law