Justia Intellectual Property Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
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This case involves a dispute between Gibson, Inc., a Delaware corporation, and Armadillo Distribution Enterprises, Inc., a Florida corporation, along with Concordia Investment Partners, L.L.C. Gibson, a well-known guitar manufacturer, brought trademark-infringement and counterfeiting claims against Armadillo and Concordia, alleging that they infringed on Gibson's trademarked guitar body shapes, headstock shape, and word marks. After a ten-day trial, the jury found in favor of Gibson on several counts of infringement and counterfeiting but also found that the doctrine of laches applied to limit Gibson’s recovery of damages.The district court had excluded decades of third-party-use evidence that Armadillo and Concordia submitted in support of their genericness defense and counterclaim. Armadillo and Concordia appealed this exclusion order, arguing that the evidence was relevant to their defense that Gibson's trademarks were generic and thus not entitled to protection.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's decision. The appellate court held that the district court abused its discretion by excluding all pre-1992 third-party-use evidence without examining its possible relevance. The court noted that third-party-use evidence is often relevant to show the genericness of a mark, and a mark that is generic is not entitled to trademark protection. The court concluded that the district court's error affected Armadillo’s substantial rights to put on its primary defense to the infringement and counterfeiting claims against it. Therefore, the court remanded the case for a new trial. View "Gibson, Inc. v. Armadillo Distribution Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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Ascension Data & Analytics, Rocktop Partners, and Rocktop Holdings II (collectively, "Ascension") entered into a contract with Pairprep, Inc. for data extraction services. The contract was terminated due to an alleged data breach and Pairprep's failure to extract reliable data. Ascension then contracted with another vendor, Altada Technologies Solutions, but that contract was also terminated early due to Altada's financial crisis. Ascension initiated arbitration proceedings against Pairprep to recover remediation costs incurred as a result of the data breach. Pairprep counterclaimed, alleging breach of contract and violation of the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act. The arbitration panel rejected Ascension's defenses and granted Pairprep a monetary award.Ascension filed an application in the Northern District of Texas to vacate the arbitration award, arguing that Pairprep's counterclaims were barred by res judicata due to a previous dismissal of identical claims against Altada. Pairprep filed an application to confirm the arbitral award in a Texas state court, which was granted. The district court dismissed Ascension's application for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and denied its motion for preliminary injunctive relief.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court applied the Supreme Court's decision in Badgerow v. Walters, which held that a district court must have an independent jurisdictional basis to consider applications to confirm, modify, or vacate arbitral awards under the Federal Arbitration Act. The court found that Ascension had not established an independent basis for subject matter jurisdiction, as the parties were not diverse and Ascension did not identify any federal law entitling it to relief. Therefore, the court concluded that the dispute over the enforceability of the arbitral award must be litigated in state court. View "Ascension Data v. Pairprep" on Justia Law

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The case involves a trademark dispute between two appliance companies, Appliance Liquidation Outlet, L.L.C. (ALO) and Axis Supply Corporation (Axis). ALO had been operating under its name for over two decades when Axis opened a store in 2021, using a large banner with the words “Appliance Liquidation.” ALO claimed that this led to confusion among customers who believed ALO operated both stores. When Axis refused to change its name, ALO sued for trademark infringement.The district court found that ALO had valid trademarks in the words “Appliance Liquidation Outlet” and “Appliance Liquidation,” and that Axis’s banner infringed those marks. The court ruled in favor of ALO, prohibiting Axis from using ALO’s marks or causing confusion with ALO’s brand, and awarded ALO attorney’s fees.Axis appealed, arguing that the marks were not valid, its banner did not infringe those marks, and the district court erred in awarding ALO attorney’s fees. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit agreed in part, finding that the district court erred in ruling that “Appliance Liquidation” is a valid trademark, but did not err in finding that “Appliance Liquidation Outlet” is a valid mark that Axis’s banner infringed. The court reversed the judgment as to the “Appliance Liquidation” mark, affirmed as to the “Appliance Liquidation Outlet” mark, and vacated the fee award. View "Appliance v. Axis Supply" on Justia Law

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This case arises from a trademark infringement dispute under the Lanham Act between Rolex Watch USA, Incorporated (Rolex) and Beckertime, L.L.C.; Matthew Becker (Beckertime). Rolex is a luxury watch seller with legally protectable interest in numerous trademarks. Beckertime sells primarily decades-old preowned watches containing Rolex branded parts, including watches identified as “Genuine Rolex,” but contain both Rolex and non-Rolex parts. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed in part, modified in part, and remanded in part the decision of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.The district court found that Beckertime infringed Rolex’s trademark but refused to disgorge Beckertime of its profits, applying the laches defense. Rolex appealed, seeking a modification to the injunction, treble profits, and attorneys’ fees, while Beckertime sought the application of an alternative test to determine infringement.The Appellate Court upheld the district court's ruling that Beckertime infringed Rolex’s trademark, finding no clear error in the determination. The court affirmed the district court's decision to apply the laches defense, preventing the disgorgement of Beckertime's profits. The court found that Rolex had failed to offer a valid justification for its delay in filing suit and that Beckertime was prejudiced by this delay.Regarding remedies, the Appellate Court found that Rolex was not entitled to treble profits or attorneys’ fees. The court pointed out that Rolex had not moved for attorneys’ fees within the required time period under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(2), thereby waiving its right to such fees. Furthermore, the district court found no evidence of deliberate counterfeiting by Beckertime to warrant the imposition of treble profits.The court also addressed the scope of the injunction issued by the district court. It modified the injunction to prohibit the sale of Rolex watches with non-genuine bezels, but upheld the exclusion of all non-genuine dials from the injunction. The court also agreed with Rolex that the typographical errors in one section of the injunction rendered it vague and unqualified, and remanded the case to the district court for clarification. View "Rolex Watch v. Beckertime" on Justia Law

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Seven years ago, A.D. was hired to create a PVT (“pressure volume temperature”) simulation software program. Sah was hired by A.D. to develop a PVT software program in exchange for a stake in one of A.D.’s companies, IPSS. Eight months later, a product called InPVT hit the market. Plaintiff Calsep started looking into InPVT. In Calsep’s assessment, A.D. didn’t have the technical skills or resources to develop a PVT product. Calsep filed another motion to compel, alleging that A.D. still hadn’t adequately disclosed his source code control system. Although A.D. had “produced [a] purported source code system” in April and July, Calsep claimed that these productions were “undoubtedly incomplete” and “had been manipulated.” Believing the deletions to be intentional, Calsep filed a motion for sanctions. Afterward, A.D. filed a motion for reconsideration based on newly discovered forensic images that “vindicated” him. The magistrate judge recommended denying the motion, and the district court agreed, denying the motion for reconsideration of the sanctions order. A.D. appealed.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision on A.D.'s motion for reconsideration. The court explained that A.D. cannot offer any reason—other than mere forgetfulness—why he couldn’t acquire the images sooner. Further, A.D. hasn’t shown that he acted with diligence during the case to locate these images. Moreover, the court explained that although A.D. argues that the images change the game, Calsep’s expert insists that too much data is still missing from the source code control system, rendering a proper review impossible. The court noted that there was no reason to question the district court’s judgment crediting Calsep’s expert testimony. View "Calsep v. Dabral" on Justia Law

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Proof Research, Inc. and Carbon Six Barrels, LLC both manufacture carbon-fiber gun barrels. Proof entered the market first and obtained a trademark for the unique appearance of its barrels. When Proof found out that Carbon Six intended to begin manufacturing and selling similar-looking carbon-fiber gun barrels of its own, Proof responded with litigation. However, Proof did not file suit against Carbon Six but rather against McGowen Precision Barrels, LLC, Carbon Six’s sister company. McGowen then initiated separate proceedings to have Proof’s trademark canceled. McGowen was ultimately successful, and Proof’s trademark for its carbon-fiber gun barrels was canceled in 2021. On February 9, 2022, Carbon Six filed this lawsuit against Proof for defamation and violation of the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act stemming from Proof’s efforts to register, renew, enforce, and defend its previously valid trademark. However, Carbon Six brought its claims after the one-year prescriptive period imposed by Louisiana law had run. On Proof’s motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), Carbon Six failed to convince the district court that any of its claims were timely. The district court also held that Carbon Six’s LUTPA claim was legally deficient.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court held that all actions Carbon Six alleged Proof took were discrete rather than ongoing, and each began and ended more than a year before this lawsuit was filed. Carbon Six’s LUTPA claim is therefore prescribed. The court explained even if Carbon Six could do so, Proof’s attempt to enforce a later-invalidated trademark does not violate LUTPA. View "Carbon Six Barrels v. Proof Research" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Rex Real Estate I, L.P. sued Defendant Rex Real Estate Exchange for trademark infringement. The district court granted Defendant’s motion for judgment as a matter of law after Plaintiff rested its case. Plaintiff appealed the judgment against its federal infringement claims under the Lanham Act.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. The court held that a reasonable jury could not find in favor of Plaintiff’s Section 32(1) claim, but it could find in favor of Plaintiff’s Section 43(a) claim. The court explained that while there was strong evidence that the marks are perceived by the public as primarily a personal name, the record does not compel that conclusion. Thus, the district court erred by deciding as a matter of law that Plaintiff’s marks are not inherently distinctive.     Moreover, the court explained that Plaintiff also asserts that the numerous calls it received from confused consumers who heard Defendant’s advertisements show that the marks have strong standing in the marketplace because it could mean that the callers assumed that Plaintiff was the sole source of the advertising. This is a plausible inference for a jury to make. The court held that taken together and in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, a reasonable jury could find that this factor weighs in favor of Plaintiff. View "Rex Real Est I v. Rex Real Est" on Justia Law

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Whirlpool filed a complaint against Shenzhen Sanlida Electrical Technology Co., Ltd. and Shenzhen Avoga Technology Co., Ltd. (collectively, “Shenzhen”) asserting federal and state law claims for trademark and trade dress infringement along with a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the sale of the allegedly infringing mixers. The district court granted the injunction. In addition to its appeal, Shenzhen sought an emergency stay pending appeal. After granting an initial administrative stay, the Fifth Circuit denied that motion. Then, after the Federal Circuit heard the merits of the case, it affirmed the district court.The Fifth Circuit found the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the harms weighed in favor of Whirlpool. View "Whirlpool v. Shenzhen Sanlida" on Justia Law

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CEATS, Inc. is a non-practicing intellectual property company that owns patents for technologies used in online ticketing. TicketNetwork, Inc. and Ticket Software LLC (together “Ticket”) maintain an online marketplace for tickets to live events. More than a decade ago, CEATS filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Ticket and other providers (the “2010 Lawsuit”). CEATS and Ticket settled that suit. The settlement agreement gave Ticket a license to use CEATS’s patents in exchange for a lump-sum payment from Ticket and for ongoing royalty payments from Ticket and its affiliates (the “License Agreement”). CEATS continued its litigation against the remaining non-settling defendants, but the jury in that case found that CEATS’s patents were invalid. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed that part of the Sanctions Order that imposes joint and several monetary liability against CEATS. The court vacated those parts of the Sanctions Order that impose joint and several monetary liability against the Individuals, that impose the Licensing Bar, and that deny CEATS’s tolling request. The court vacated the Calculation Order and remanded for further proceedings. The court explained that here CEATS told the district court that a discovery violation “must be committed willfully or in bad faith for the court to award the severest remedies available under Rule 37(b).” CEATS also argued that it did not violate the Protective Order willfully or in bad faith because the “communications . . . were clearly inadvertent.” That argument was enough to put the district court on notice that CEATS opposed any definition of “bad faith” that includes inadvertent conduct. View "CEATS v. TicketNetwork" on Justia Law

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Varco, L.P. (“Varco”), an oil and gas drilling company, purchased the assets of another drilling company, including U.S. Patent No. 5,474,142 (the “’142 Patent”). Varco’s parent company, Varco International, Inc., and a competitor, National Oilwell, Inc., completed a merger to form National Oilwell Varco, Inc. It was understood that Varco, as Varco International, Inc.’s operating company, would transfer its assets to the newly formed entity’s operating company: Plaintiff-Appellee/Cross-Appellant National Oilwell Varco, L.P. (“NOV”).  NOV filed an action in district court alleging that Defendant-Appellant/CrossAppellee Auto-Dril, Inc. (“Auto-Dril”) infringed the ’142 Patent (the “Underlying Action”). Auto-Dril and NOV entered into a confidential settlement agreement that was intended to end their litigation over the ’142 Patent (the “Settlement Agreement”). The parties appealed various holdings that both preceded and followed a trial regarding their 2011 Settlement Agreement.   The Fifth Circuit held that it lacks jurisdiction over Auto-Dril’s counterclaim for being fraudulently induced into entering the Settlement Agreement. The court reversed the ruling granting summary judgment for NOV on Auto-Dril’s claim for breach of the Settlement Agreement. The court reversed the dismissal of NOV’s claim for breach of the Settlement Agreement and remanded NOV’s JMOL motion for reconsideration. The court explained that here, NOV’s conduct did not rise to the level of a fraud on the court. Specifically, there is no clear and convincing evidence that NOV was cognizant that it did not own the ’142 Patent while it was litigating the Underlying Action. View "National Oilwell Varco v. Auto-Dril" on Justia Law