March 27, 2014

Indiana Patent Litigation: Orthopaedic Hospital Seeks Injunction and Damages for Patent Infringement

Fort Wayne, Indiana - Patent attorneys for Orthopaedic Hospital of Los Angeles, California (the "Hospital") filed a lawsuit in the Central District of California alleging that DePuy Patent-Picture.bmpOrthopaedics, Inc. of Warsaw, Indiana ("DePuy") infringed Oxidation-Resistant and Wear-Resistant Polyethylenes for Human Joint Replacements and Methods for Making Them, Patent No. 8,658,710, which has been issued by the U.S. Patent Office. The lawsuit was transferred to the Northern District of Indiana pursuant to a joint stipulation by the parties.

The Hospital, located in Los Angeles, is an independent nonprofit charitable organization that treats children with musculoskeletal disorders and conducts scientific research aimed at improving orthopaedic materials, implants, surgical instrumentation, and surgical techniques.

At issue in this Indiana patent lawsuit is United States Patent No. 8,658,710 (the "'710 patent"), which was issued on February 25, 2014. The Hospital asserts that it is the owner of the '710 patent, and that it possesses the exclusive right to bring suit for infringement of the patent.

The Hospital contends that DePuy is infringing and has infringed the '710 patent by making, selling, offering for sale, and using infringing products, including but not limited to DePuy's AOX Antioxidant Polyethylene for Sigma and LCS Rotating Platform Systems. It is also claimed that DePuy's infringement of the '710 patent has been and continues to be willful, deliberate, and/or objectively reckless.

The Hospital further asserts that DePuy has known of the '710 patent since at least February 25, 2014, when the patent issued. It also states that DePuy had constructive notice of the '710 patent by operation of law, as the Hospital and any of its predecessors-in-interest have complied with all marking requirements of 35 U.S.C. § 287.

A single-count complaint asserting patent infringement was filed by California patent lawyers for the Hospital. The Hospital asks that the court:

• Adjudge that DePuy has infringed and is infringing the '710 patent;
• Preliminarily and/or permanently enjoin DePuy and its affiliates and agents from further    infringement, including inducement and contributory infringement, of the '710 patent;
• Award damages for willful infringement of three times the damages so determined, as provided by 35 U.S.C. § 284, together with interest;
• Order an accounting of all accrued damages;
• Award any supplemental damages to the Hospital;
• Award the Hospital their costs and, where appropriate, reasonable attorneys' fees under 35 U.S.C. § 285; and
• Award compensatory damages to the Hospital, together with interest.

Practice Tip

The question of willfulness in the context of patent infringement consists of two elements: (1) an objective element that is often, but not always, a question of law, and (2) a subjective element that is inherently a question of fact, to be decided by the jury.

Under the first prong, if an "accused infringer's position is susceptible to a reasonable conclusion of no infringement," the infringer's conduct cannot be objectively unreasonable. Conversely, an action is objectively unreasonable if the infringer acted despite an objectively high likelihood that its actions constituted infringement of a valid patent.

When considering the second prong -- the element of subjective willfulness -- fact-finders should consider: (1) whether the infringer copied the patentee's commercial products; (2) whether the infringer presented evidence that it obtained legal opinions of patent counsel to justify its infringing actions; (3) whether the infringer attempted to avoid infringement by designing around the patents; and (4) whether the infringer acted in accordance with the standards of commerce.

Continue reading "Indiana Patent Litigation: Orthopaedic Hospital Seeks Injunction and Damages for Patent Infringement" »

March 26, 2014

Daughter's Facebook Comments Establish Breach of Confidentiality, Cost Her Father $80,000

Miami, Florida - The Third District Court of Appeal for the State of Florida heard the appeal of Gulliver Schools, Inc. ("Gulliver") and School Management Systems, Inc. in the age-discrimination and retaliation lawsuit of Patrick Snay. Appellants prevailed on their claim that Mr. Snay had breached the confidentiality clause of the settlement agreement, thus gulliver Stamp picture.jpgeliminating Gulliver's obligation to pay portions of the settlement amount.

Patrick Snay, formerly the headmaster of Gulliver, sued for age discrimination and retaliation when Gulliver did not renew his contract for the 2010-2011 school term. The dispute was settled and the parties executed a release for the full and final settlement of Snay's claims. Under the settlement, the school would pay $10,000 in back pay and $80,000 to Snay to settle the matter, as well as $60,000 for Snay's legal fees.

As part of the settlement, Snay agreed to a detailed confidentiality clause, which provided that the existence and terms of the agreement between Snay and the school were to be kept strictly confidential and that, should Snay or his wife breach the confidentiality provision, a portion of the settlement proceeds (the $80,000) would be disgorged by Snay to Gulliver. This provision read, in pertinent part: "[T]he plaintiff shall not either directly or indirectly, disclose, discuss or communicate to any entity or person, except his attorneys or other professional advisors or spouse any information whatsoever regarding the existence or terms of this Agreement . . . A breach . . . will result in disgorgement of the Plaintiffs [sic] portion of the settlement Payments."

Shortly after the agreement was signed, Snay informed his daughter that his lawsuit against Gulliver had been settled and that he was happy with the result. Snay's daughter posted news of the agreement on Facebook, "Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer." This Facebook post was available for viewing by approximately 1,200 of Snay's daughter's Facebook friends, many of whom were either current or past Gulliver students.

Gulliver learned of the Facebook post. Four days after the agreement was signed, Gulliver notified Snay that it considered the Facebook post to be a material breach of the agreement. Gulliver stated that, while it would pay the amount of the settlement which constituted attorneys' fees, it would not pay any of Snay's portion as a result of the breach of the confidentiality clause.

Snay moved to enforce the settlement agreement, arguing that his statement to his daughter and her comment on Facebook did not constitute a breach. The trial court agreed, finding that neither Snay's comments to his daughter nor his daughter's Facebook comments constituted a breach of the confidentiality agreement.

Gulliver appealed. The appellate court held that the plain language of the contract prohibited the disclosure that Snay had made, stating "before the ink was dry on the agreement, and notwithstanding the clear language . . . mandating confidentiality, Snay violated the agreement by doing exactly what he had promised not to do." Moreover, the court noted that the significance of confidentiality to Gulliver was evinced by the fact that the majority of the proceeds of the settlement agreement expressly hinged on compliance with the confidentiality provision.

Based on the clear and unambiguous language of the parties' agreement and Snay's subsequent testimony that he had, in fact, breached the confidentiality provision, the appellate court found for Gulliver and reversed the trial court's order granting the Snays' motion to enforce the settlement agreement.

Practice Tip:

It's not hard to see how this happened. As parents, the Snays recognized that it was important to inform their daughter of the resolution of this matter. Not only was this settlement significant to Mr. Snay, but the news that a satisfactory resolution had been reached also was presumably intended to assist his daughter in dealing with the difficulties she had apparently encountered as a result of the dispute with Gulliver. According to Mr. Snay, these difficulties had left his daughter with "quite a few psychological scars which forced [him] to put her into therapy." It is also not difficult to imagine that, feeling vindicated, the Snays' college-aged daughter would do what many people that age do with big news: she posted it on Facebook.

In situations such as these, contract attorneys must take special care to provide whole-picture legal counseling to their clients, both during settlement negotiations and after. It was not unforeseeable that Mr. or Ms. Snay would inform their daughter of the settlement. Nor was it unforeseeable that she would, in turn, want to share the news with her friends. Presumably, the Snays' daughter had not realized the importance of confidentiality.

Here, this problem might have been avoided. First, in drafting the confidentiality clause, release of the information to the daughter could have been included. Thus, Mr. Snay would not have signed an agreement that he presumably knew - as he was signing it - that he would soon violate. Second, an explicit and dire warning by the settlement attorney representing Mr. Snay should have been given to anyone privy to the settlement to lessen the chance of an inadvertent breach of the contract, for example: "You, your wife and your daughter absolutely must adhere to the provisions of the confidentiality clause or you could lose some or all of the benefits of this settlement agreement."

Continue reading "Daughter's Facebook Comments Establish Breach of Confidentiality, Cost Her Father $80,000" »

March 24, 2014

Indiana Patent Litigation: Headsight Sues John Deere for Patent Infringement

Fort Wayne, Indiana - Patent lawyers for Richard Gramm and Headsight, Inc., both of Indiana, sued in the Northern District of Indiana alleging that Deere and Company of Moline, jdcombinepicture.jpgIllinois (also known as "John Deere") infringed the patented "Combine Header Height Control", Patent No. 6,202,395, which has been issued by the U.S. Patent Office.

Gramm, the founder and President of Plaintiff Headsight, claims to own all right, title and interest to Patent No. 6,202,395 (the "395 patent"). In its complaint, Plaintiffs allege that Deere makes, uses, sells and/or offers for sale products that infringe at least claim 27 of the '395 patent, including at least the header height sensor kit, for the Deere 600C Series corn headers (the "Deere Height Sensor").

Plaintiffs contend that Deere has had actual knowledge of the '395 patent since at least as early as 2002 and that Deere has been and now is directly infringing, actively inducing others to infringe and/or contributing to the infringement of the '395 patent by making, using, selling, offering for sale and/or importing in the United States products, including at least the Deere Height Sensor, in violation of 35 U.S.C. § 271.

Plaintiffs assert one claim in their complaint, filed by Indiana patent attorneys: "Count I: Patent Infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,202,395." Gramm and Headsight ask the court for:

• a declaration that Deere has infringed one or more claims of the '395 patent in violation of 35 U.S.C. § 271;
• equitable relief under 35 U.S.C. § 283, including, but not limited to, permanently enjoining Deere and its agents from infringing, contributing to, and/or inducing infringement of the '395 patent;
• an award of damages adequate to compensate Plaintiffs for Deere's infringement of the '395 patent, together with prejudgment and post-judgment interest under 35 U.S.C. § 284;
• a declaration that Deere's infringement is willful and/or an order increasing damages up to and including three times the amount found or assessed consistent with 35 U.S.C. § 284; and
• a declaration that this case is "exceptional" under 35 U.S.C. § 285 and awarding Plaintiffs their reasonable attorney fees, costs, and expenses.

Practice Tip:

A court may award increased damages for willful infringement. These punitive damages, up to and including a trebling of damages, are appropriate when an infringer has acted in wanton disregard of the patentee's intellectual property rights. In determining whether the infringing behavior supports increased damages, the court will consider the "totality of the circumstances."

Potential exposure for increased damages may be reduced by seeking - and acting on - timely advice from a competent patent lawyer. In contrast, the failure to seek and heed such advice may increase the chance of a finding of willfulness.

Continue reading "Indiana Patent Litigation: Headsight Sues John Deere for Patent Infringement" »

March 21, 2014

USPTO to Host Additive Manufacturing Partnership Meeting

Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Department of Commerce's United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") will host a meeting to serve as a forum for sharing ideas and insights between stakeholders and the USPTO.

The Additive Manufacturing Partnership Meeting will taUSPTOBanner.gifke place on Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is a process of making three-dimensional solid objects from a digital model. The technology is growing in use, including in such fields as jewelry, footwear, architecture, engineering and construction, automotive, aerospace, dental and medical industries.

The meeting will serve as a forum for sharing ideas, experiences, and insights between stakeholders and the USPTO. Industry representatives will also provide an overview of the application of additive manufacturing in different technologies. Individual opinions are sought from varying participants, and the meeting is intended to be informal in nature. These partnership groups are formed with full recognition of the USPTO's responsibility under the Federal Advisory Committee Act ("FACA"), and are not established as FACA compliant committees.

What: Additive Manufacturing Partnership Meeting
When: April 9, 2014 at 1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. ET
Where: USPTO Campus, Madison North Auditorium
600 Dulany Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

Space is limited and registration will be done on a first-come first-served basis. Please contact the USPTO by e-mail at jill.warden@uspto.gov or maria.ewald@uspto.gov, or by telephone: Jill Warden at (571) 272-1267 or Veronica Ewald at (571) 272-8519 to confirm your attendance.

March 20, 2014

Dyer's General Store May Not Proceed Pro Se, Ordered to Retain Counsel

Terre Haute, Indiana - Indiana trademark litigation against a corporate entity requires the participation of an attorney for the defense to avoid default.

In 2013, a trademark lawyer for Coach, Inc. of New York, New York and Coach Services, Inc.ImageAgentProxy.jpg of Jacksonville, Florida (collectively "Coach") sued for trademark infringement in the Southern District of Indiana. Plaintiffs alleged that Dyer's General Store and Outlet ("Dyer's General"), Kimberly Dyer and David L. Dyer, all of Worthington, Indiana, infringed Trademark Registration Nos. 2,088,706 and 3,157,972, which have been registered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

In the complaint, Coach asserted Lanham Act violations including counterfeiting, trademark infringement, false advertising, common law trademark infringement, unfair competition, forgery, counterfeiting and unjust enrichment. Coach alleges that it is suffering irreparable injury and has suffered substantial damages as a result of Defendants' allegedly illegal activities.

David Dyer filed an answer pro se purporting to represent himself, Kimberly Dyer and Dyer's General. While only Mr. Dyer signed this answer, the court seems to have accepted the filing with respect to both Mr. and Ms. Dyer. However, in its most recent order, the court noted that "corporations cannot appear pro se, but must appear through an attorney." District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson ordered Dyer's General, a corporate entity, to retain counsel to prepare an answer to the complaint if it intends to participate in the litigation.

Practice Tip: Coach is an active litigant, especially in matters of protecting its intellectual property. Since 2009, it has sued more than 20 retailers in Indiana federal courts.

Continue reading "Dyer's General Store May Not Proceed Pro Se, Ordered to Retain Counsel" »

March 19, 2014

Divided Federal Circuit Rules En Banc to Retain Cybor Rule of De Novo Review for Claim Construction

Washington, D.C. - The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit concluded in a six-to-four decision that the rule in Cybor - that claim construction is an issue of law subjectCAFC-Picture.jpg to de novo review on appeal - will be retained under the principles of stare decisis.

In 1998, the Federal Circuit, sitting en banc, decided Cybor Corp. v. FAS Technologies, Inc. Among the issues in Cybor was the standard of appellate review of district court decisions concerning the meaning and scope of patent claims ("claim construction"). The Federal Circuit held that, for purposes of appellate review, claim construction was to be considered to be a question of law, not one of fact, and subject to de novo review.

Recently, in Lighting Ballast Control LLC v. Philips Electronics North America Corp, the Federal Circuit was asked to revisit the Cybor holding. In addition to the arguments presented by the parties, patent attorneys for thirty-eight organizations and individuals filed twenty-one amicus briefs.

The opinion of the Court, written by Judge Newman, was joined by Judges Lourie, Dyk, Prost, Moore, and Taranto; it included a concurring opinion by Judge Lourie. A dissenting opinion, written by Judge O'Malley, was joined by Chief Judge Rader and Judges Reyna and Wallach.

The court, again sitting en banc, retained the rule, as stated in Cybor, that no deference will be given by the appellate court to the trial court's decisions concerning the meaning and scope of patent claims.

Among the arguments presented for reversal of Cybor was an assertion that treating claim construction as a matter of law increases uncertainty, "negates settlement and increases litigation costs." The court found these arguments unpersuasive. Instead, it discussed two reasons to maintain the Cybor rule.

The court cited the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370 (1996) (also known as "Markman II"), in which the Court had stressed that issues of claim construction should be considered "purely legal." Moreover, the Supreme Court has emphasized the importance of "uniformity in the treatment of a given patent." For example, the possibility of differing claim constructions could lead to different results for infringement and validity, as well as the possibility of disparate district court constructions. De novo review by an appellate court ensures national uniformity, stability and predictability in claim construction.

The court also cited the rule of stare decisis in its refusal to abandon the fifteen-year-old rule established in Cybor and the subsequent years of experience with that rule, stating that it had been presented with "no argument of public policy, or changed circumstances, or unworkability or intolerability, or any other justification for changing the Cybor methodology and abandoning de novo review of claim construction." The court held that the demanding standard for departure from established law had not been met and retained the de novo review of claim construction established in Cybor.

Practice Tip #1: The issues addressed in claim construction are not considered to be questions of weight of the evidence or credibility of witnesses, but rather of the scope of the claims as set forth in the patent documents.

Practice Tip #2: Claim construction is typically conducted relatively early in the trial court's proceedings, before addressing questions such as patent infringement, patent validity and damages. At the outset, the trial court must establish the metes and bounds of the claims that define the scope of the intellectual property.

Practice Tip #3: In a dissent that was, at times, strongly worded, Judge O'Malley opined that "no one in the legal community--except perhaps the members of the majority--has come to believe that either the wisdom or vitality of Cybor is settled." She cited previous statements of Circuit Judges who challenged Cybor as improperly relying on the legal fiction that there are no facts to be decided in claim construction and as "profoundly misapprehend[ing]" the Supreme Court's decision in Markman.

Continue reading "Divided Federal Circuit Rules En Banc to Retain Cybor Rule of De Novo Review for Claim Construction" »

March 17, 2014

Indiana Patent Infringement Litigation: Eli Lilly Sues Numerous Defendants

Indianapolis, Indiana - An Indiana patent attorney for Eli Lilly and Company of Indianapolis, Indiana ("Lilly") filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of Indiana against multiple defendants asserting infringement of Patent Nos. 5,288,726, "Tetrahydrothienopyridine Derivatives, Furo and Pyrrolo Analogs Thereof and Their Preparation and Uses for Inhibiting Blood Platelet Effient-picture.jpgAggregation," 8,569,325, "Method of Treatment with Coadministration of Aspirin and Prasugrel" and 8,404,703, "Medicinal Compositions Containing Aspirin," which have been issued by the U.S. Patent Office.

In a 101-page complaint, Indiana patent counsel for Plaintiffs Lilly; Daiichi Sankyo Co., Ltd.; Daiichi Sankyo, Inc.; and Ube Industries, Ltd. sued alleging patent infringement by more than thirty Defendants. The Defendants are:  Accord Healthcare, Inc. USA; Accord Healthcare, Inc.; Intas Pharmaceuticals Ltd.; Amneal Pharmaceuticals LLC; Amneal Pharmaceuticals of New York, LLC; Amneal Pharmaceuticals Co. India Pvt. Ltd.; Aurobindo Pharma Limited; Aurobindo Pharma USA Inc.; Dr. Reddy's Laboratories, Ltd; Dr. Reddy's Laboratories, Inc.; Glenmark Generics Inc., USA; Glenmark Generics Ltd.; Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Ltd.; Hetero USA Inc.; Hetero Labs Limited; Hetero Labs Limited Unit V; Hetero Drugs Ltd.; Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Mylan Inc.; Mylan Laboratories Limited (these three companies are, collectively, "Mylan"); Par Pharmaceutical Companies, Inc.; Par Pharmaceutical, Inc.; Sun Pharma Global FZE; Caraco Pharmaceutical Laboratories, Ltd.; Sun Pharma Global Inc.; Sun Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd.; Watson Laboratories, Inc.; Actavis plc; Actavis, Inc.; Actavis Pharma, Inc.; Zydus Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; and Cadila Healthcare Ltd. (d/b/a Zydus Cadila). Defendants hail from various areas of the world, including India, the United Arab Emirates, the British Virgin Islands, Israel, Ireland and the United States.

This complaint asserts patent infringement arising out of the filing by Defendants of Abbreviated New Drug Applications ("ANDA"s) with the United States Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") seeking approval to manufacture and sell generic versions of two pharmaceutical products - Effient® 5mg and Effient® 10mg tablets (pictured above) - prior to the expiration of United States Patent Nos. 5,288,726 (the "'726 patent"), 8,404,703 (the "'703 patent") and 8,569,325 (the "'325 patent"), which cover the two Effient® products and/or methods of using Effient® products and for which Lilly claims an exclusively license.

Effient® products were approved by the FDA for the reduction of thrombotic cardiovascular events in certain patients with acute coronary syndrome (ACS) who are to be managed with percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI, or angioplasty). Effient® products contain prasugrel hydrochloride, which is also known as 5-[(1RS)-2-cyclopropyl-1-(2-fluorophenyl)-2-oxoethyl]-4,5,6,7-tetrahydrothieno[3,2-c]pyridin-2-yl acetate hydrochloride or 2-acetoxy-5-(alpha-cyclopropylcarbonyl-2-fluorobenzy1)-4,5,6,7-tetrahydrothieno[3,2-c]pyridine hydrochloride, and is covered by the '726 patent.

The instructions accompanying Effient® products state that patients taking Effient® products should also take aspirin. The use of Effient® products in combination with aspirin for the reduction of thrombotic cardiovascular events in patients with ACS who are to be managed with PCI is allegedly covered by the claims of the '703 and '325 patents.

Defendants are, in general, accused of infringing the patents-in-suit by including with their products instructions for use that substantially copy the instructions for Effient® products, including instructions for administering the Defendants' products with aspirin as claimed in the '703 and '325 patents. Moreover, Plaintiffs contend that Defendants know that the instructions that will accompany the Defendants' Products will induce and/or contribute to others using the Defendants' Products in the manner set forth in the instructions.

Plaintiffs also contend that Defendants specifically intend that health care providers, and/or patients will use the Defendants' Products in accordance with the instructions provided by Defendants to directly infringe one or more claims of the '703 and '325 patents. In doing so, state Plaintiffs, Defendants will actively induce and/or contribute to infringement of the '703 and '325 patents.

The complaint, filed by an Indiana patent attorney, lists a total of fifty counts. All Defendants are accused of infringement of the '703 and '325 patents. Declaratory judgment of infringement of these patents is sought against all Defendants. Additionally, claims of infringement of, and a request for declaratory judgment regarding, the '726 patent are made against Mylan.

Plaintiffs ask the court for judgment:

• That all Defendants, either individually or collectively, have infringed or will infringe one or more claims of the '703 patent;
• That all Defendants, either individually or collectively, have infringed or will infringe one or more claims of the '325 patent;
• That Mylan, either individually or collectively, has infringed or will infringe one or more claims of the '726 patent;
• That, pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 271(e)(4)(B), Defendants be permanently enjoined from making, using, selling or offering to sell any of the Defendants' accused products within the United States, or, where applicable, importing accused products into the United States prior to the expiration of the '703 and '325 patents;
• That, pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 271(e)(4)(A), the effective date of any approval of any ANDAs under § 505(j) of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. § 355(j)) shall not be earlier than the later of the expiration dates of the '703 and '325 patents, including any extensions;
• That the '703 patent remains valid and enforceable;
• That the '325 patent remains valid and enforceable;
• That the '726 patent remains valid and enforceable;
• If any Defendant commercially makes, uses, sells or offers to sell any accused product within the United States, or, where applicable, imports any accused product into the United States, prior to the expiration of either of the '703 and '325 patents, including any extensions, that Plaintiffs be awarded monetary damages for those infringing acts to the fullest extent allowed by law and be awarded prejudgment interest based on those monetary damages;
• If Mylan commercially makes, uses, sells or offers to sell any accused product within the United States, or, where applicable, imports any accused product into the United States, prior to the expiration of the '726 patent, including any extensions, that Plaintiffs be awarded monetary damages for those infringing acts to the fullest extent allowed by law and be awarded prejudgment interest based on those monetary damages;
• That the case be deemed exceptional under 35 U.S.C. § 285; and
• That Plaintiffs be awarded reasonable attorney's fees, costs and expenses.

Practice Tip: Lilly is not an infrequent litigant. This may be in part due to the fact that the company is facing a significant patent cliff. Its patent for a former top product, the antipsychotic Zyprexa - which once generated $5 billion in annual revenues - expired in 2011. Its top-selling drug of 2013, the antidepressant Cymbalta, lost patent protection last year. The patent on blockbuster Evista, a drug for breast cancer and osteoporosis, expires this month.

Continue reading "Indiana Patent Infringement Litigation: Eli Lilly Sues Numerous Defendants " »

March 14, 2014

Meeting on Notice and Takedown System to be Held

Washington, D.C. - A public meeting to focus on improving the operation of the notice and takedown system under the DMCA will be held on March 20, 2014.

DOC Picture.bmpThe U.S. Department of Commerce's Internet Policy Task Force ("IPTF") will hold the first meeting of the public multistakeholder forum on improving the operation of the notice and takedown system for removing infringing content from the Internet under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA") at the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. The meeting was called for in the Commerce Department's Green Paper on Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy released last year. The IPTF is a joint effort between the USPTO and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration ("NTIA").

The goal of the multistakeholder forum is to identify best practices and/or produce voluntary agreements for improving the operation of the DMCA notice and takedown system. The IPTF plans to hold several additional meetings throughout the year. The initial meeting will focus on identifying concrete topics to be addressed by participants, and to discuss and make decisions about the process for the forum's ongoing work. The IPTF aims to have participation from a wide variety of the notice and takedown system's current users, including right holders and individual creators, service providers, and any other stakeholders that are directly affected - such as consumer and public interest representatives, technical and engineering experts, and companies in the business of identifying infringing content.

Issued in July 2013, the Green Paper represents the most thorough and comprehensive analysis of digital copyright policy issued by any administration since 1995. To help produce the Green Paper, the USPTO and NTIA held more than a dozen listening sessions with interested stakeholders, convened a symposium, received hundreds of public comments, and reviewed comments submitted to other agencies on relevant topics.

The meeting will be open to members of the public on a first-come, first-served basis. The meeting will also be webcast at http://new.livestream.com/uspto/CopyrightMarch2014. The agenda for the meeting will be available approximately one week prior to the meeting on the Internet Policy Task Force website (www.ntia.doc.gov/internetpolicytaskforce) and the USPTO website (http://www.uspto.gov/ip/global/copyrights/index.jsp). Additional information including RSVP instructions and directions can be found at http://events.Signup4.com/copyrightgreenpaperand in the Federal Register Notice: www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/03/11/2014-05159/improving-the-operation-of-the-notice-and-takedown-system-under-the-dmca-multist.

For further information regarding the meeting, contact Hollis Robinson or Darren Pogoda, Office of Policy and International Affairs, at (571) 272-9300, or hollis.robinson@uspto.gov or darren.pogoda@uspto.gov.

March 13, 2014

Indiana Court of Appeals Finds Noncompetition Agreement Overly Broad and Unenforceable

Indianapolis, Indiana - The Court of Appeals of Indiana has affirmed the decision of the Crone-picture.jpgMarion Superior Court to deny injunctive relief to Clark's Sales & Service, Inc. ("Clark's") of Indianapolis, Indiana in its suit against John D. Smith ("Smith") of Indiana and Ferguson Enterprises, Inc. ("Ferguson") of Newport News, Virginia.

In 1998, Smith began working for Clark's, a company that sells and services appliances in the builder-distributor market in Indiana. In 2004, after one of Clark's high-level managers left for a competitive position at another company, Clark's had Smith and various other employees sign a written employment agreement containing both a confidentiality clause and a noncompetition agreement.

Smith resigned his position at Clark's on April 13, 2012 but, before doing so, he took copies of Clark's sales records from 2010 and 2011, including customer and builder contact information, the price of materials sold and the costs and profit margins of Clark's. On April 18, 2012, he accepted an offer of employment with Ferguson, a nearby competitor. In his new position, he solicited business from various customers of Clark's.

Indiana attorneys for Clark's sued to enforce the confidentiality and noncompetition provisions of the agreement entered into with Smith. The trial court concluded that the restrictive covenant that Clark's drafted was overly broad and unreasonable, and denied Clark's motion for a preliminary injunction. From that order, this interlocutory appeal was brought.

On appeal, Clark's challenged the trial court's ruling, calling it clearly erroneous. It claimed that the noncompetition agreement was not unreasonable and unenforceable. Clark's also argued that, even if the noncompetition agreement were unreasonable and unenforceable as written, the court should apply the "blue-pencil doctrine" to make whatever modifications were necessary to render the covenant reasonable and enforceable.

The Indiana appellate court first discussed whether Clark's had a legitimate and protectable interest, defined as "some reason why it would be unfair to allow the employee to compete with the former employer." Indiana courts have held that "the advantageous familiarity and personal contact which employees derive from dealing with an employer's customers are elements of an employer's 'good will' and are a protectible interest which may justify a restraint." The appellate court held that, while the trial court had not explicitly stated that it had found such a protectable interest, such a finding was implicit in its ruling. The appellate court ruled that the trial court had not erred by determining that Clark's had established this element.

The Indiana appellate court then evaluated the reasonableness of the restrictions. Both parties agreed that the two-year limit was reasonable and valid. They disagreed, however, regarding the reasonableness of the noncompetition agreement as to the scope of activities and Barnes-picture.jpggeographic area restricted.

The appellate court held that the one type of activities prohibited - Clark's restrictions against contact with any of its past or prospective customers - was vague and too broad. The agreement also prohibited not merely those activities which Smith had engaged in during his tenure at Clark's, but also prohibited him from providing any services competitive to "those offered by" Clark's. That provision was held to be "overly broad, onerous, and an undue restriction on Smith's economic freedom" and, thus, unenforceable.

The restrictions placed on the geographic area in which Smith could work were also evaluated. Those restrictions included working "in any state in which Gregg [Smith's previous employer] does business, as well as working for any other entity providing services competitive to Clark's in Marion County, any county contiguous to Marion County, any county in Indiana in which Clark's has at least one customer, the State of Indiana, or within a fifty-mile radius of Smith's principal office with Clark's, which was in Castleton." The appellate court held that it was "unquestionable that the expansive geographic scope . . . is unreasonable as written."

Finally, the court addressed the "blue-pencil doctrine." This doctrine allows a court to strike unreasonable restrictions in a covenant not to compete, provided that they are divisible. However, this doctrine does not extend to allow a court to create a reasonable restriction, as this would subject the parties to an agreement that they have not made.

The court held that blue pencil doctrine was inapplicable, as the terms that Clark's proposed be stricken had been written as merely a small part of an indiscrete whole. Moreover, it held that, even if it were to strike the text that Clark's had proposed be stricken, the restrictions would still be overly broad and in excess of what would be required to protect Clark's legitimate business interest.

The Indiana appellate court affirmed the trial court, holding that its judgment was not clearly Pyle-Picture.jpgerroneous.

Practice Tip #1: To demonstrate the reasonableness of a noncompetition agreement, the employer must first show that it has a legitimate interest to be protected by the agreement. The employer also bears the burden of showing that the agreement is reasonable in terms of the time, activities, and geographic area restricted.

Practice Tip #2: Covenants not to compete are in restraint of trade and are not favored by the law. If a court applying Indiana law finds that portions of a noncompetition agreement are unreasonable, it may not modify the restrictions to make them reasonable. Doing so would subject the parties to an agreement they had not made. The court may, however, employ the "blue pencil" rule to "cross out" portions deemed unreasonable while leaving any separable and reasonable portions intact.

Practice Tip #3: This is at least the second time that the Indiana Court of Appeals has heard an interlocutory appeal on this non-compete litigation. In a prior appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court, which had improperly concluded that the noncompetition agreement failed for lack of consideration. We blogged about that appeal here.

Practice Tip #4: While Appellant-Plaintiff here argued that broad drafting was permissible and simply a "good faith effort to provide itself the greatest level of protection allowed by law," the Indiana appellate court did not agree. Instead, it called the practice "unsavory" and reminded Clark's that "Indiana law strongly discourages employers' attempts to draft unreasonably broad and oppressive covenants."

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March 12, 2014

Supreme Court Reverses Federal Circuit on Burden of Proof in Patent Infringement Litigation Brought Under the Declaratory Judgment Act

Washington, D.C. - An issue in the patent infringement dispute between medical-device giant Medtronic, Inc. and Mirowski Family Ventures, LLC ("Mirowski") was heard by the United USSCPicture.bmpStates Supreme Court. In question was the placement of the burden of proof in patent infringement litigation that seeks a declaratory judgment. The Supreme Court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, holding that the burden of proof of infringement rests with the patent holder even if the lawsuit is filed under the Declaratory Judgment Act.

After hearing arguments by patent attorneys for each side, the district court had held that Mirowski, the party asserting infringement, had the burden of proving patent infringement; it found that Mirowski had not met that burden.

The Federal Circuit reversed. It concluded that, when a patentee (Mirowski) is a declaratory judgment defendant and is also prevented from asserting an infringement counterclaim by the existence of a license between the parties - as Mirowski was - the party seeking the declaratory judgment (Medtronic) bears the burden of proving that it had not infringed the patent.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari. The question before the Court was "whether the burden of proof shifts when the patentee is a defendant in a declaratory judgment action, and the plaintiff (the potential infringer) seeks a judgment that he does not infringe the patent."

Mirowski argued that it would be unfair to place a burden of proof on the party that was not seeking relief. The Intellectual Property Owners Association supported Mirowski's position, contending that a failure to shift the burden of proof in such cases would lead to abuse of declaratory judgment actions, as the risks and burdens of patent infringement litigation would be placed entirely on the patent owner.

In contrast, Medtronic argued that placing the burden on a licensee would create an unacceptable choice between finality and fairness, as it would require the judicial system to permit a party to relitigate issues that had been previously decided under a different burden of proof.

The Supreme Court reversed the shifted burden of proof imposed by the Federal Circuit. The Court declared that it saw "no convincing reason why burden of proof law should favor the patentee" simply because it was filed under the Declaratory Judgment Act.

Practice Tip #1: It is settled law that, in patent infringement litigation, a patentee normally bears the burden of proof. Because 1) the operation of the Declaratory Judgment Act is only procedural and leaves substantive rights unchanged and 2) the burden of proof is a substantive aspect of a claim, this holding by the Supreme Court is not unanticipated.

Practice Tip #2: When drafting the terms of a license, patent owners should consider adding provisions to deter potential challenges by licensees.

Practice Tip #3: We have also blogged recently about another declaratory judgment case involving Mirowski, which is being heard in the Southern District of Indiana.

Continue reading "Supreme Court Reverses Federal Circuit on Burden of Proof in Patent Infringement Litigation Brought Under the Declaratory Judgment Act" »

March 10, 2014

Southern District of Indiana to Begin Pilot Program

Indianapolis, Indiana - The Southern District of Indiana is beginning a pilot program that will allow active hyperlinks to be included within e-filed and court-issued documents. Hyperlinks picture-insd.pngwill allow immediate access by the reader to the referenced materials, i.e., case management and electronic court filing system ("CM/ECF") filings, case and statute citations, attachments, and exhibits.

During the initial phase of the pilot program, the court will be issuing a limited number of entries and orders containing hyperlinks. The hyperlinks may be page-specific. For instance, an order may contain a hyperlink to a specific page of a specific affidavit, which will be accessible with one click. Access to court-issued documents will continue to be available via the Notice of Electronic Filing ("NEF") email system.

The next, and most important, phase of the pilot program will involve a small group of attorneys e-filing documents with hyperlinks. When utilized by attorneys, hyperlinks in briefs and other court filings will provide quick, easy, and pinpoint access to particular sections of a case, or to specific filings in the court's record, adding another level of persuasion to their writing. Hyperlinking will also be a great benefit to the court, allowing members of the judiciary and their staff to quickly and easily review case-supporting materials.

Once this pilot program has been tested and meets the court's expectations, detailed information will be available for all attorneys to use in future filings.

If you have questions about this process, they may be directed to the court's ECF Administrator, Jordan Davison, at jordan_davison@insd.uscourts.gov.

Practice Tip: Even though attorneys can utilize the one "free look" to the e-filed documents associated with the NEF, accessing other CM/ECF hyperlinked documents contained within the main document will be subject to normal PACER fees, and any hyperlinks to Westlaw or LexisNexis citations will require attorneys to login to those services.

March 7, 2014

Supreme Court Grants Review for Four Intellectual Property Lawsuits

Washington, D.C. - The Supreme Court of the United States agreed to review the judgmentsUSSCPicture.bmp of several Courts of Appeals in four intellectual property disputes. The cases included two patent cases (regarding joint-infringement liability and indefiniteness invalidity), a copyright case (concerning public performances), and a case which may have implications under trademark law (whether a Lanham Act claim is barred by the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act).

Limelight Networks, Inc. v. Akamai Technologies, Inc., Docket No. 12-786, is a patent case involving technology for managing web images and video. Appellate attorneys for Limelight Networks brought the case to the Court after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that, in the case of method patents, multiple parties could be found to jointly infringe on a patent. The Federal Circuit, sitting en banc, held by a 6-5 vote that "all the steps of a claimed method must be performed in order to find induced infringement, but that it is not necessary to prove that all the steps were committed by a single entity."

The question raised for review by the Supreme Court is whether a defendant may be liable for inducing patent infringement under 35 U.S.C. § 271(b) even if none has committed direct infringement under § 271(a). Patent attorneys for technology companies including Google Inc., Cisco Systems, Inc., Oracle Corporation, Red Hat, Inc., and SAP America, Inc. filed a brief in support of Limelight.

Nautilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc., Docket No. 13-369, also involves patent infringement litigation. The patent in dispute relates to heart-rate-monitor technology. At issue is the acceptance of ambiguity within patent claims. The Federal Circuit held that the its use of the claim term "spaced relationship" in describing the positioning of two electrodes with respect to each other was not "insolubly ambiguous" when the intrinsic evidence is considered from the perspective of a person skilled in the art.

The question raised for review is whether the Federal Circuit's acceptance of ambiguous patent claims with multiple reasonable interpretations - so long as the ambiguity is not "insoluble" by a court - defeats the statutory requirement of particular and distinct patent claiming. Amicus briefs have been filed by patent lawyers for multiple organizations, including AARP, Amazon.com, Inc.,  Cisco Systems, Inc., Dell Inc.ESRI, Garmin International, Inc.,  Google Inc., J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc., Limelight Networks, Inc., Netflix, Inc., Newegg Inc.,  Red Hat, Inc., SAP America, Inc., SAS Institute Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., the American Bar Association, the Intellectual Property Law Association of Chicago, Sigram Schindler Beteiligungsgesellschaft mbh, and Yahoo! Inc.

American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. v. Aereo, Inc., Docket No. 13-461, involves copyright litigation over the online streaming of television programs. The Second Circuit affirmed a district court's holding that Aereo's transmission of broadcast TV via the Internet did not constitute a "public performance" and thus did not infringe the right of public performance under copyright law. Aereo contends that, because its mini-antennas are individually leased by the subscribers, all streamed content should be considered a "private performance." American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. ("ABC") contends that the transmission of broadcast programming to the public should be considered to be "public performance" under copyright law.

The question raised for review by the Supreme Court is whether a company "publicly performs" a copyrighted television program when it retransmits a broadcast of that program to thousands of paid subscribers over the Internet. Eight amicus briefs were filed in support of ABC by various media-affiliated entities.

The final intellectual property litigation to recently granted certiorari by the Court is POM Wonderful LLC v. The Coca-Cola Company, Docket No. 12-761. This case was brought by POM Wonderful under the Lanham Act to challenge Coca-Cola's use of the name "Pomegranate Blueberry" for a beverage. POM Wonderful asserted that under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a), an action could be brought against Coca-Cola for use of a false or misleading description or representation "in connection with any goods." However, the Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Coca-Cola on the grounds that the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act comprehensively regulates food and beverage labeling and that, as a result, the Lanham Act claim could not proceed.

The question raised for review is whether a private party may bring a Lanham Act claim challenging a product label regulated under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

Practice Tip: The Supreme Court has ultimate, and largely discretionary, appellate jurisdiction. The Court exercises that appellate jurisdiction only for "compelling reasons," such as: resolving a split among the federal circuit courts on an important federal matter; addressing conflicting holdings regarding important federal questions between a federal appellate court and a state's court of law resort or between two state courts of law resort; and where a state court or a federal court of appeals has decided an important question of federal law that has not been, but should be, settled by the Supreme Court, or has decided an important federal question in a way that conflicts with relevant decisions of the Court.

March 6, 2014

Patent Office Issues 127 Patents To Indiana Citizens in February 2014

The U.S. Patent Office issued the following 127 patent registrations to persons and businesses in Indiana in February 2014, based on applications filed by Indiana patent attorneys:

PAT. NO. Title
D700,366 Wall panel
D700,365 Wall panel
D700,364 Wall panel
D700,333 Intraspinous process spacer implant
8,659,374 Solenoid coil with reverse turn

 

Continue reading "Patent Office Issues 127 Patents To Indiana Citizens in February 2014" »

February 28, 2014

PC Ruehl Engineering Sues AM General for Patent Infringement of Humvee Frame Rail Assembly

South Bend, Indiana - Indiana and Wisconsin patent attorneys for Phillip C. Ruehl of viewer.pngWauwatosa, Wisconsin ("Ruehl") and PC Ruehl Engineering, Inc. of Wisconsin ("PC Ruehl") filed patent infringement litigation in the Northern District of Indiana alleging that AM General LLC of South Bend, Indiana infringed Boxed Frame Member and Method for Manufacture, Patent No. 8,484,930 B2 (the "'930 Patent"), which has been issued by the U.S. Patent Office.

From 1969 to 2001, Ruehl was employed as an automotive frame chassis engineer. In his various positions, including as a manager of product design, Ruehl's responsibilities included contributing to the designs of many light truck and sport utility vehicle frames.

Since the early 1980s, AM General has manufactured for the United States military, and eventually for the militaries of many other countries around the world, a High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle (or HMMWV, also known as the Humvee).

In November 2004, an employee of AM General allegedly contacted Ruehl to inquire if Ruehl was interested in consulting on a project to upgrade the frame rails for AM General's Humvee line of trucks. The employee described the frame rail project objectives to Ruehl and sent drawings to Ruehl showing the current side rail design.

From December 2004 through February 2005, Ruehl indicates that he studied the drawings and began to consider ways to meet AM General's objectives so that he could add value if and when AM General decided it wanted to retain him as a consultant. He contends that he was neither under contract with AM General nor was he being paid or otherwise compensated by AM General during this time.

Ruehl states in his complaint that he began to consider several potential solutions which he believed to be the most efficient means of solving the stated challenges. He sketched up many of these potential solutions so that he would remember each and be able to explain how he would proceed with each idea if he were asked. One of the new solutions Ruehl conceived of and sketched was a design that solved many of the unique dimensional and quality problems that AM General was experiencing with its current frame rail design (the "Invention").

AM General allegedly was never invoiced and never paid Ruehl for the work he did during this preparation period. Instead, Ruehl states that AM General specifically told him that the rail design program itself was tentative, and that if it did go forward, he would not be "on board" and under contract until he had met with representatives of AM General and signed additional documents at AM General's Michigan facility.

In February 2005, having allegedly already conceived of the Invention, PC Ruehl received from AM General a purchase order dated February 24, 2005 for "engineering support for HMMWV frame rail feasibility study." Under this purchase order, AM General asked Ruehl to provide engineering support for a feasibility study and stated that PC Ruehl would be paid $150 per hour for Ruehl's efforts. Ruehl signed the purchase order on behalf of PC Ruehl.

In March 2005, Ruehl drew a more detailed, presentable, and buildable sketch illustrating the Invention in its preferred embodiment, and had the owner of a Milwaukee-area prototype shop confirm its manufacturability, witness it, and agree to build a small "proof-of-concept" sample. Ruehl states that he did not bill, and was not paid by, AM General for this work.

Ruehl then brought the Invention to a meeting with AM General. Before beginning the substance of the meeting, Ruehl states that he (on behalf of PC Ruehl) and AM General signed a Mutual Confidentiality Agreement. This agreement provided that all confidential information disclosed by Ruehl to AM General and by AM General to Ruehl would "remain the property of [the] Disclosing Party[.]" "Confidential Information" was defined in the agreement as "[a]ny information that has value to the Disclosing Party and is not generally known to its competitors," and specifically included "ideas, concepts, plans,...drawings,...products, processes[.]" Moreover, the agreement stated, "Nothing contained in this Agreement shall be construed as granting or conferring to Receiving Party any patent rights or licenses from Disclosing Party either expressly or by implication[.]"

Following this agreement, Ruehl worked with AM General to provide engineering support services for the frame rail feasibility study. Ruehl was paid for this work pursuant to the February 2005 purchase order. Ruehl also provided additional engineering support services to AM General under an April 2005 purchase order. Ruehl contends that AM General never paid him or PC Ruehl for the transfer of ownership of Ruehl's Invention.

On November 1, 2005, Ruehl filed a patent application on the Invention, Provisional Patent Application No. 60/732,451. Ruehl followed that application with a non-provisional patent application, Patent Application Serial No. 11/279,321, on April 11, 2006.

AM General filed its own patent application on Ruehl's Invention, filing Provisional Patent Application Serial No. 60/764,045 on February 1, 2006, and non-provisional patent application Serial No. 11/670,217, on February 1, 2007.

On November 1, 2005, the day that Ruehl filed the provisional patent application, he informed AM General of the filing and of his expectation of receiving royalties for the use of his Invention. Conversely, AM General has purportedly advised Ruehl that it is AM General's position that Ruehl had an obligation to assign his rights in the Invention to AM General.

On July 16, 2013, the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued the '930 Patent to Ruehl. Ruehl now contends that AM General has incorporated Ruehl's Invention into the frame rail assembly it is now using for its Humvee which it is manufacturing and selling to the United States Military and to others.

At issue in this Indiana patent litigation are the following:

• Count I: Infringement of the '930 Patent, and
• Count II: Breach of Contract.

Ruehl and PC Ruehl, via patent counsel, ask the court for a judgment that AM General has directly infringed and continues to infringe the '903 Patent; damages, including treble damages; a judgment that AM General's infringement has been willful; an injunction enjoining AM General from infringing the '930 Patent; a declaration that this case is exceptional; costs and fees.

Practice Tip: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office provides for the recordation of assignments of applications, patents, and registrations. The patent assignment abstract of title shows that an interest in this patent was assigned from Ruehl to AM General in 2008. In 2010, another assignment of this patent was executed from AM General to Ruehl. In 2011, an assignment from AM General to itself was filed to correct error. Finally, in 2013, a second assignment to correct error, this time to and from Ruehl, was executed.

Continue reading "PC Ruehl Engineering Sues AM General for Patent Infringement of Humvee Frame Rail Assembly" »

February 27, 2014

James Dean, Inc.'s Indiana Trademark Infringement Litigation Against Twitter Removed to Federal Court

Indianapolis, Indiana - Illinois and Missouri trademark attorneys for James Dean, Inc. of James_Dean_in_Rebel_Without_a_Cause.jpgIndiana sued in Indiana state court alleging that Twitter, Inc. of California infringed the trademark James Dean, which has been issued by the U.S. Trademark Office by allowing the registration of the Twitter handle @JamesDean. The case was removed from the Superior Court of the County of Hamilton, Indiana to the Southern District of Indiana.

Plaintiff James Dean, Inc. filed a trademark complaint against Twitter, as well as the fictitious persons, John Doe Defendants 1-5 Company, in an Indiana state court. In the complaint, Plaintiff alleged that it is the exclusive owner of the name, likeness, voice, right of publicity and endorsement, worldwide trademarks, copyrights, and other intellectual property including but not limited to visual and aural depictions, artifacts, memorabilia, and life-story rights, and/or trade dress of the late movie star James Dean.

James Dean, Inc. further alleges that Twitter has allowed the registration and operation of a Twitter account, using the handle @JamesDean, located at https://twitter.com/JamesDean, which is purportedly in violation of Plaintiff's rights.

In the complaint, filed by an Indiana trademark lawyer, James Dean, Inc. asserted nine causes of action against Twitter:

• Count I - Trademark Infringement Under Section 32(1) or 3(A) of the Lanham Act;
• Count II - False Endorsement Under Lanham Act § 43(A);
• Count III - Indiana State Statutory Right of Publicity;
• Count IV - Common Law Right of Publicity;
• Count V - Common Law Unfair Competition;
• Count VI - Unjust Enrichment;
• Count VII - Conversion;
• Count VIII - Deception; and
• Count IX - Indiana Crime Victims' Act.

For relief, James Dean, Inc. sought damages, including treble damages, costs, and attorney's fees as set out in the Indiana Right of Publicity Statute, Lanham Act and other statutes. In addition, Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief.

Twitter removed the action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal-question jurisdiction) and 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (diversity-of-citizenship jurisdiction). To support the former basis for federal jurisdiction, Twitter noted federal questions inherent in the filing of a claim under the Lanham Act. Twitter also claimed supplemental jurisdiction for the remaining claims under Indiana law.

To support the latter basis for jurisdiction in an Indiana federal court, Twitter asserted that the two prongs for diversity-of-citizenship jurisdiction were met. First, James Dean, Inc. is a citizen of Indiana, as it has alleged that it is incorporated under the laws of the State of Indiana with its principal place of business in Indiana, while Twitter claims to be a citizen of two states: Delaware and California. Second, while Twitter "strongly contests liability and does not believe Plaintiff is entitled to any relief whatsoever," it indicated that, were liability to be found, the amount in controversy could exceed $75,000, given that James Dean, Inc. is suing for "all damages" allowed by the applicable statutes, which can include actual damages, treble damages, punitive damages, statutory damages and attorneys' fees.

Practice Tip:

James Dean was born on February 8, 1931, in Marion, Indiana. He grew up in Fairmount, Indiana, about 60 miles northeast of Indianapolis. Dean starred in East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant, receiving two Academy Award nominations for Best Actor.

In 1955, Dean died in an automobile accident. As a result of the nearly 60 years that have passed since his death, it is unlikely that those who follow @JamesDean believe that the tweets have been written by James Dean himself. Nonetheless, celebrity licensing agency CMG Worldwide, based out of Carmel, Indiana, is attempting to recover the James Dean Twitter account.

CMG, which also represents such celebrity images as Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth, has attempted "on numerous occasions" to make Twitter take action to block and identify owners of various unauthorized accounts. Those accounts could give the impression, it says, that the users have permission from the estates of the celebrities or CMG and "result in immeasurable and irreparable damage."

Finally, most of the James Dean trademarks that were registered by the U.S. Trademark Office have been either abandoned or cancelled. It will be interesting to see to what degree this fact influences the court, should liability be established and a calculation of damages be appropriate.

Continue reading "James Dean, Inc.'s Indiana Trademark Infringement Litigation Against Twitter Removed to Federal Court" »