Justia Intellectual Property Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
Mattson Technology, Inc. v. Applied Materials, Inc.
Lai, an engineer, had access to Applied’s trade secrets and participated in highly confidential meetings. Mattson, Applied's direct competitor, recruited 17 Applied employees. Lai accepted a job with Mattson. Before his last day at Applied, Lai accessed proprietary information from Applied’s cloud-based storage system and sent e-mails attaching highly confidential Applied documents—many clearly marked as such—to his personal email accounts. He signed a separation certificate stating he had not retained any Applied information and confirmed this in two exit interviews. After starting his new job, Lai logged into his personal email accounts on his Mattson computer. Lai claims never disclosed any Applied information to Mattson. Mattson denies any knowledge of Lai’s actions.Applied sued Mattson and Lai, citing the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (Civ. Code 3426) and breach of Lai’s employment agreement. Lai then deleted the emails he had sent to one account, and, after communicating with Mattson’s lawyers, downloaded a confidential Applied document to his Mattson laptop, deleting it a moment later. Mattson put Lai on leave. cut off his access to his personal email accounts. and sequestered his iPhone and computers. The defendants moved to compel arbitration based on a provision in the Applied-Lai employment contract. The court of appeal affirmed a preliminary injunction prohibiting the defendants from accessing or using Applied’s confidential information and an order compelling arbitration as to Lai. Mattson, a non-party, is not entitled to arbitration. The litigation should be stayed pending arbitration. View "Mattson Technology, Inc. v. Applied Materials, Inc." on Justia Law
Metabyte v. Technicolor S.A.
This action represents Metabyte’s fourth attempt to hold Technicolor liable for Technicolor’s allegedly improper auction of a patent portfolio in 2009. After the French courts ruled they lacked jurisdiction in the criminal action, Metabyte brought an action in district court alleging a federal RICO claim and several state law causes of action. After the district court ruled that equitable tolling did not apply to its RICO claim as a matter of federal law, Metabyte dismissed the federal action and brought its state law claims in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The trial court granted Technicolor’s demurrer without leave to amend. Metabyte contends the trial court erred in finding equitable estoppel applies only where a plaintiff invokes remedies designed to lessen the extent of a plaintiff’s injuries or damages, with the result that Article 145 proceeding in France could not support equitable tolling because it did not provide such a remedy. Technicolor defends the trial court’s ruling but devotes more of its energies to its contentions that even if equitable tolling did apply, the order should be affirmed by applying the doctrines of issue preclusion and judicial estoppel. The Second Appellate District affirmed the trial court’s ruling sustaining the demurrer on the alternate ground that Metabyte failed to adequately plead facts showing that its decision to proceed in France was objectively reasonable and subjectively in good faith. However, the court granted Metabyte leave to amend. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Metabyte v. Technicolor S.A." on Justia Law
Gilkyson v. Disney Enterprises, Inc.
A jury awarded plaintiffs, the adult children and heirs of songwriter Terry Gilkyson, $350,000 based on its finding that Disney, and its music publishing subsidiary Wonderland, had failed to pay contractually required royalties in connection with certain limited uses of "The Bare Necessities" and several other Gilkyson-composed songs in home entertainment releases of Walt Disney Productions's 1967 animated film The Jungle Book. The trial court then awarded an additional $699,316.40 as damages for the period subsequent to the jury's verdict through the duration of the songs’ copyrights. Both parties appealed.The Court of Appeal agreed with Disney that interpretation of its agreements with Gilkyson is subject to de novo review; Gilkyson's right to receive royalties from exploitation of the mechanical reproduction rights in "The Bare Necessities" and other songs he wrote for The Jungle Book was dependent on Wonderland receiving payment for such exploitation; and the express language of the contracts granted Disney sole discretion to decide how to exploit the material, including whether a fee should be charged for Disney's own use of the material in home entertainment releases. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with instructions to enter a judgment in favor of Disney. View "Gilkyson v. Disney Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law
Ajaxo, Inc. v. E*Trade Financial Corp.
In 2003, jury found E*Trade liable for trade secret misappropriation and for breach of a mutual nondisclosure agreement with Ajaxo. The jury awarded damages only for the breach of contract after the court granted a nonsuit on the issue of damages for trade secret misappropriation. On remand, in 2008, a jury found no net damages for unjust enrichment and awarded nothing. The court denied Ajaxo’s request to seek a reasonable royalty under the California Uniform Trade Secret Act (Civ. Code 3426-3426.11). On second remand, the court held a bench trial, declined to award any royalty, and awarded E*Trade its costs as the prevailing party.The court of appeal affirmed. The trial court did not abuse its discretion by declining to award any reasonable royalty despite the available evidence from which a reasonable royalty theoretically might have been derived, considering its findings on the evidence, application of apportionment principles from patent law, exclusion of expert testimony and analysis of Ajaxo’s royalty model, and treatment of the “Georgia-Pacific factors” for determining a royalty rate in intellectual property disputes. The trial court did not err in its prevailing party determination and costs award despite the practical effect of Ajaxo having already obtained full satisfaction of what became a separate, final judgment in its favor following the 2006 remittitur from the first appeal, including costs. View "Ajaxo, Inc. v. E*Trade Financial Corp." on Justia Law
Amgen Inc. v. Health Care Services
This case arose when Amgen submitted a price increase notice to CCHCS and other registered purchasers. Reuters News made a request under the California Public Records Act, seeking the price increase notices. Amgen then filed a petition for writ of mandamus blocking disclosure. Amgen also moved for a preliminary injunction, which the trial court granted. While this appeal was pending, the trial court sustained CCHCS's demurrer to the mandamus cause of action with leave to amend, and then Amgen chose to dismiss the action instead.The Court of Appeal held that the appeal was not barred by the mootness doctrine where the issues raised are capable of repetition because there will be future price increase notices. Furthermore, the issues are likely to evade review because a pharmaceutical manufacturer has little reason to continue to prosecute a mandamus action after obtaining a preliminary injunction for the 60-day period before a price increase becomes public.On the merits, the court held that the trial court abused its discretion by concluding that Amgen had sufficiently shown that its price increase notice pursuant to Senate Bill No. 17 was a trade secret despite its disclosure to the registered purchasers. In this case, Amgen failed to explain how its purported trade secret maintained its confidentiality and concomitant value to Amgen when it was disclosed to over 170 purchasers who had the incentive to use the information to their benefit and Amgen's detriment, and were not subject to any restrictions on using or further disseminating the information. Likewise, the court held that the trial court abused its discretion in finding that the balance of harms favored Amgen. Therefore, the court reversed the trial court's order granting a preliminary injunction in favor of Amgen. View "Amgen Inc. v. Health Care Services" on Justia Law
Pott v. Lazarin
Audrie, the Potts’ daughter, was sexually assaulted while unconscious from intoxication. Her assailants distributed intimate photographs of her. Audrie committed suicide. The Potts, as the registered successors-in-interest to “deceased personality” rights for Audrie under Civil Code 3344.1, authorized the use of Audrie’s name and likeness in a documentary. The Potts sued Lazarin under section 3344.1, claiming that Lazarin (who claims to be Audrie’s biological father) had used Audrie’s name and likeness "for the purpose of advertising services” without their consent. Lazarin admitted that he had displayed Audrie’s photograph “to change the law regarding parental rights” but argued that he had not acted to promote “goods or services.” The Potts submitted evidence that Lazarin solicited donations for a suicide prevention group, using Audrie’s name and photograph. Lazarin brought an unsuccessful special motion to strike the complaint under Code of Civil Procedure 425.16.The court of appeal reversed. Lazarin made a prima facie showing that the Potts’ suit was based on his “written or oral statement or writing made in a place open to the public or a public forum in connection with an issue of public interest.” The Potts failed to establish that there was a “probability” that they would “prevail” on their Civil Code section 3344.1 suit; they did not show that Lazarin “misappropriate[ed] the economic value generated by [Audrie’s] fame through the merchandising” of her name or likeness. View "Pott v. Lazarin" on Justia Law
Global Protein Products, Inc. v. Le
GPP employed Le, a scientist, and disclosed to Le the proprietary formula for its trade secret product (a film that preserves lettuce) and the identity of an organic acid used in the product. Le signed a confidentiality agreement. After leaving GPP, Le formed a company and competed with GPP. In 2006, GPP and Le agreed to a stipulated permanent injunction to “fully and finally resolve all existing and potential differences” arising from Le’s use of GPP’s trade secret. In 2016, Le moved to modify or dissolve the stipulated permanent injunction, arguing that newly discovered facts—that citric acid was the previously undisclosed organic acid—demonstrated that GPP’s trade secret did not possess a commercial advantage; that GPP’s trade secret was previously publicly disclosed in a patent; and that the injunction’s language was overly broad and failed to provide adequate notice of the specific actions that were enjoined. The court of appeal affirmed a denial of relief. Le did not meet the requirements of Code of Civil Procedure section 533. There is sufficient evidence to support an implied determination that GPP has a valid trade secret. The injunction did not identify the precise formula or ingredients used in GPP’s trade secret, but its failure to do so did not mean that GPP’s description of its trade secret was not sufficiently clear. View "Global Protein Products, Inc. v. Le" on Justia Law
MGA Entertainment, Inc. v. Mattel, Inc.
This lawsuit stemmed from MGA and Mattel's dispute over ownership of the Bratz line of dolls and claims of copyright infringement. The Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court that, under California law, the same suspicions that allowed MGA to request discovery and plead the unclean hands defense in the federal court in 2007 were sufficient to trigger the statute of limitation on its misappropriation of trade secrets claim which was filed in federal court in 2010. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment on the complaint because it was barred by the statute of limitations. View "MGA Entertainment, Inc. v. Mattel, Inc." on Justia Law
Eleanor Licensing LLC v. Classic Recreations LLC
This case arose from a dispute between the parties over licensing agreements involving the motion picture Gone in 60 Seconds. The trial court entered judgment for Classic and ordered that Eleanor Licensing retain possession of a vehicle identified as "Eleanor No. 1," which had been manufactured by Classic pursuant to a licensing agreement between the parties; quieting title to the vehicle in Eleanor Licensing; directing Classic to perform according to the terms of the licensing agreement and transfered legal title to Eleanor No. 1 to Eleanor Licensing; and awarding damages and attorney fees. The court held that the November 1, 2007 License Agreement was supported by adequate consideration; the contract-based claims, to the extent otherwise valid, were barred by the statute of limitations; the causes of action for return of personal property and quiet title were timely filed; the alter ego finding was not supported by substantial evidence; Jason Engel was properly named as a defendant in the causes of action to quiet title and for return of personal property; Tony Engel was a proper defendant in the quiet title cause of action; and the Engels were not liable for attorney fees. The court reversed in part and affirmed in part the judgment and postjudgment order. View "Eleanor Licensing LLC v. Classic Recreations LLC" on Justia Law