Justia Intellectual Property Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
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PPG, a Pittsburgh company, developed a new kind of plastic for airplane windows, “Opticor™ A former PPG employee, Rukavina, agreed to share proprietary information concerning Opticor with TMG, a China-based manufacturer. TMG contacted the PPG subcontractor that made Opticor window molds, asking it to manufacture the same molds, attaching photographs and drawings from a proprietary report. The subcontractor alerted PPG, which notified the FBI, which executed warrants to search Rukavina’s email account and residence. Rukavina was charged with criminal theft of trade secrets.PPG filed a civil action against TMG, under RICO, 18 U.S.C. 1962(c)-(d) and Pennsylvania law. TMG did not respond to the complaint, nor did it answer requests for admissions. More than a year after TMG should have appeared the clerk entered a default. PPG asserted actual damages of $9,909,687.31. Four months later, TMG appeared and unsuccessfully moved to set aside the default. The court held that PPG had sufficiently established TMG’s liability and was entitled to treble damages, an injunction, and attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses. The court found that $8,805,929 of the claimed actual damages were supported by sufficient evidence and entered judgment for $26,417,787.The Third Circuit affirmed. TMG effectively conceded the complaint’s allegations. Under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, it can be appropriate to measure unjust enrichment from a misappropriated trade secret by looking at development costs that were avoided but would have been incurred if not for the misappropriation. The district court carefully analyzed such evidence; its methodology and conclusion are sound. View "PPG Industries Inc v. Jiangsu Tie Mao Glass Co Ltd" on Justia Law

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Since 2004, Nichino has offered a trademarked pesticide, “CENTAUR.” Valent trademarked a competing product, “SENSTAR,” in 2019, with a similar logo. Both pesticides are used by farmers in the same geographic areas against many of the same insects. SENSTAR is a liquid, a unique combination of two active chemicals. CENTAUR is manufactured as a solid, packed into bags and cases.Nichino sued for trademark infringement, seeking a preliminary injunction. The court applied the newly-effective Trademark Modernization Act of 2020 (TMA) Pub. Law 116-260, which establishes a rebuttable presumption of irreparable harm favoring a plaintiff who has shown a likelihood of success on the merits of an infringement claim. The district court found Nichino narrowly demonstrated its infringement claim would likely succeed, though “there is not an abundance of evidence of likelihood of confusion,” applied a 10-part, non-exhaustive analysis of likely confusion, then denied a preliminary injunction.The Third Circuit affirmed. The TMA’s rebuttable presumption requires courts considering a trademark injunction to assess the plaintiff’s evidence only as it relates to a likelihood of success on the merits. If that evidence does establish likely trademark infringement, the TMA is triggered, and the burden of production shifts to the defendant to introduce evidence sufficient for a reasonable factfinder to conclude that the consumer confusion is unlikely to cause irreparable harm. If a defendant successfully rebuts the TMA’s presumption by making this slight evidentiary showing, the presumption has no effect. View "Nichino America Inc v. Valent USA LLC" on Justia Law

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Pyrotechnics manufactures and sells hardware (a control panel and a field module) and software that control fireworks displays under the “FireOne” brand. Since around 1995, Pyrotechnics’s hardware has used a proprietary protocol. Pyrotechnics’s Romanian competitor, fireTEK, reverse-engineered Pyrotechnics’s hardware to learn its communication protocol. In 2018, fireTEK developed a router that could send analog signals to Pyrotechnics’s field module just like those sent by Pyrotechnics’s control panel.; fireTEK promoted its router as a replacement for Pyrotechnics’s control panel. Pyrotechnics filed a seven-page document describing its protocol (Deposit Copy) with the U.S. Copyright Office and received a Certificate of Registration, indicating the copyrighted work is “text.” Pyrotechnics asserts that it submitted the Deposit Copy as “identifying material” for its protocol under 37 C.F.R. 202.20(c)(2)(viii). Pyrotechnics claims the protocol was first published when it was embedded inside its hardware in 1995.Pyrotechnics sued fireTEK for copyright infringement, tortious interference with prospective contractual relations, and unfair competition, 17 U.S.C. 411(a). The district court entered an injunction. The Third Circuit vacated, finding the copyright invalid. Pyrotechnics’s digital message format is an uncopyrightable idea and the individual digital messages described in the Deposit Copy are insufficiently original to qualify for copyright protection. View "Pyrotechnics Management Inc v. XFX Pyrotechnics LLC" on Justia Law

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Vitamin Energy is the defendant in 5-hour Energy’s 2019 lawsuit under the Lanham Act for trademark infringement, false designation of origin, false advertising, and trademark dilution; 5-hour also made claims under Michigan law for trademark infringement, indirect trademark infringement, and unfair competition. Vitamin Energy was insured by Evanston. In a declaratory judgment action, the district court decided Evanston had no duty to defend. The Third Circuit vacated. Pennsylvania law imposes on insurers a broad duty to defend lawsuits brought against those they insure. An insured’s burden to establish its insurer’s duty to defend is light, and Vitamin Energy has carried it. The policy excludes coverage for Advertising Injury, defined as an injury “arising out of oral or written publication of material that libels or slanders.” While some allegations of the complaint involve disparagement, others do not. An underlying complaint need only contain at least one allegation that falls within the scope of the policy’s coverage for the duty to defend to be triggered. The duty to defend is broader than the duty to indemnify. Similarly, exclusions for suits based on “Intellectual Property,” “Incorrect Description,” “Failure to Conform,” and “Knowing” actions do not defeat the duty to defend. View "Vitamin Energy LLC v. Evanston Insurance Co" on Justia Law

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In 2019, Mallet learned that Bundy was its newest competitor in the sale of baking release agents, the lubricants that allow baked goods to readily separate from the containers in which they are made. Bundy was well-known for other commercial baking products when it launched a new subsidiary, Synova, to sell baking release agents. Synova hired two Mallet employees, both of whom had substantial access to Mallet’s proprietary information. That information from Mallet helped Synova rapidly develop, market, and sell release agents to Mallet’s customers.Mallet sued, asserting the misappropriation of its trade secrets. The district court issued a preliminary injunction. restraining Bundy, Synova, and those employees from competing with Mallet. The Third Circuit vacated and remanded for further consideration of what, if any, equitable relief is warranted and what sum Mallet should be required to post in a bond as “security … proper to pay the costs and damages sustained by any party found to have been wrongfully enjoined or restrained.” A preliminary injunction predicated on trade secret misappropriation must adequately identify the allegedly misappropriated trade secrets. If the district court decides that preliminary injunctive relief is warranted, the injunction must be sufficiently specific in its terms and narrowly tailored in its scope. View "Mallet & Co., Inc. v. Lacayo" on Justia Law

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Hepp hosts FOX 29’s Good Day Philadelphia. In 2018, Hepp was told by coworkers that her photograph was making its way around the internet. The image depicts Hepp in a convenience store, smiling, and was taken without Hepp’s knowledge or consent. She never authorized the image to be used in online advertisements. Hepp alleged each use violated her right of publicity under Pennsylvania law. A dating app advertisement featuring the picture appeared on Facebook. A Reddit thread linked to an Imgur post of the photo. Hepp sued, citing 42 PA. CONS. STAT. 8316, and common law. The district court dismissed Hepp’s case, holding that the companies were entitled to immunity under the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which bars many claims against internet service providers, 47 U.S.C. 230(c). The Third Circuit reversed, citing an exclusion in 230(e)(2) limitation for “any law pertaining to intellectual property.” Hepp’s claims are encompassed within the intellectual property exclusion. View "Hepp v. Facebook" on Justia Law

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In 1969, Beasley founded a band, “The Ebonys,” one of many bands that created the “Philadelphia Sound.” The Ebonys achieved some commercial success in the 1970s but never reached the notoriety of similar artists such as The O’Jays. Beasley alleges that The Ebonys have performed continuously. Howard joined the band in the mid-1990s. Beasley obtained a New Jersey state service mark for THE EBONYS in 1997. Beasley and his bandmates performed with Howard for several years before parting ways. Each artist claimed the Ebonys name. In 2012, Howard registered THE EBONYS with the Patent & Trademark Office (PTO). Beasley alleges that Howard’s registration has interfered with his business; he has not been able to register a band website that uses “the Ebonys” in its domain name, Howard has kept concert venues from booking Beasley’s performances, Howard has tried to collect royalties from Beasley’s recordings, and Howard has claimed to be the Ebonys’s true founder. Beasley filed unsuccessful petitions with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) to cancel the mark, contending that Howard defrauded the PTO. The district court relied on claim preclusion to dismiss Beasley’s subsequent complaint. The Third Circuit remanded for a determination of the scope of Beasley’s claims. Trademark cancellation proceedings before TTAB do not have claim preclusive effect against federal trademark infringement lawsuits. TTAB’s limited jurisdiction does not allow trademark owners to pursue infringement actions or the full scope of infringement remedies. The court affirmed the dismissal of any claim that Howard defrauded the PTO. View "Beasley v. Howard" on Justia Law

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America Can! Cars for Kids and Kars 4 Kids are charities that sell donated vehicles to fund children’s programs. America began receiving donations in the late 1980s and, in the early 1990s, began using the mark “Cars for Kids” in advertising campaigns. Kars first used flyers and bumper stickers, then distributed nationwide mailers. In the early 2000s, Kars began other advertising. In 2003, America noticed Kars’ advertisements in Texas and sent a cease and desist letter. America did not notice Kars’ advertisements in Texas for several years. Kars, however, kept advertising, including in Texas, and procured the URL www.carsforkids.com. In 2013, America sent Kars another cease and desist letter. Kars sued in 2014, bringing federal and state trademark infringement, unfair competition, and trademark dilution claims, and seeking equitable relief. America filed suit in 2015, asserting the same claims and seeking cancelation of Kars’ trademark for 1-877- KARS-4-KIDS under 15 U.S.C. 1119, financial compensation, and a nationwide injunction prohibiting Kars from using the mark.The Third Circuit held that America did not preserve its challenge to the denial of summary judgment on its trademark cancelation claims; America was first to use its mark in Texas and Kars waived any challenge to the validity of America’s marks; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by declining to award enhanced monetary relief or prejudgment interest. The court remanded for reexamination of the court’s conclusions on laches and disgorgement. View "Kars 4 Kids Inc. v. America Can! Cars For Kids." on Justia Law

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Oakwood hired Dr. Thanoo in 1997. As Oakwood's Senior Scientist, he signed confidentiality agreements. Thanoo designed Oakwood’s microsphere process technology. Oakwood invested more than $130 million and two decades in its Microsphere Project and developed the “Leuprolide Products,” which are bioequivalent to Lupron Depot®. Aurobindo contacted Oakwood to discuss collaboration. Some of Oakwood’s trade secret information was shared under a confidentiality agreement. Negotiations failed. Aurobindo hired Thanoo six months later and began developing microsphere-based injectable products that Oakwood alleges are “substantially similar to and competitive with Oakwood’s Microsphere Project." Oakwood asserts that the product could not have been developed within the rapid timeframe without Thanoo’s assistance and the use of Oakwood’s trade secret information.The Third Circuit vacated the dismissal of Oakwood's suit, asserting trade secret misappropriation, breach of contract, and tortious interference with contractual relations. Under the Defend Trade Secrets Act, 18 U.S.C. 1836(b), Oakwood sufficiently identified its trade secrets and sufficiently alleged that the defendants misappropriated those trade secrets. The “use” of a trade secret encompasses all the ways one can take advantage of trade secret information to obtain an economic benefit, competitive advantage, or other commercial value, or for an exploitative purpose, such as research or development. A trade secret plaintiff need not allege that its information was the only source by which a defendant might develop its product. Aurobindo's avoidance of substantial research and development costs that Oakwood has invested is recognized as "harm" in the DTSA. View "Oakwood Laboratories LLC v. Thanoo" on Justia Law

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AndroGel, a testosterone replacement therapy, generated billions of dollars in sales, The Federal Trade Commission sued the owners of an AndroGel patent under Section 13(b) of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 21 U.S.C. 301, alleging that they filed sham patent infringement suits against Teva and Perrigo and entered into an anticompetitive reverse-payment agreement with Teva. The FTC accused the defendants of trying to monopolize and restrain trade over AndroGel. The District Court dismissed the FTC’s claims to the extent they relied on a reverse-payment theory but found the defendants liable for monopolization on the sham-litigation theory. The court ordered the defendants to disgorge $448 million in profits but denied the FTC’s request for an injunction.The Third Circuit reversed in part. The district court erred by rejecting the reverse-payment theory and in concluding that the defendants’ litigation against Teva was a sham. The court did not err in concluding the Perrigo litigation was a sham and that the defendants had monopoly power in the relevant market. The FTC has not shown that monopolization entitles it to any remedy. The court did not abuse its discretion in denying injunctive relief. The court erred by ordering disgorgement because that remedy is unavailable under Section 13(b). View "Federal Trade Commission v. AbbVie Inc" on Justia Law