January 16, 2014

Fourth Circuit Affirms Districts Court's Injunction and Admission of Evidence in False Advertising Case

Richmond, Virginia - PBM Products, LLC ("PBM") sued Mead Johnson & Company, LLC ("Mead Johnson") alleging false advertising in violation of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)(1)(A) and (B), and commercial disparagement. Mead Johnson filed counterclaims againstproducts.jpg PBM. The district court dismissed the counterclaims and entered an injunction against Mead Johnson. Mead Johnson appealed. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed.

PBM produces store-brand, "generic," infant formula. Mead Johnson produces baby formula products under the brand name Enfamil, including a standard formula, a formula with broken-down proteins, and a formula with added rice starch. Both companies use the same supplier for two key nutrients--docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA)--which are important to an infant's brain and eye development. Mead Johnson calls these nutrients by their brand name "Lipil," while PBM describes them generically as "lipids." Both companies use the same level of the lipids. As a result, PBM includes a comparative advertising label on their formula that states, "Compare to Enfamil."

PBM sued Mead Johnson under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a), alleging that Mead Johnson engaged in false advertising and commercial disparagement when it distributed more than 1.5 million direct-to-consumer mailers that falsely claimed that PBM's baby formula products were inferior to Mead Johnson's baby formula products.

MJBF.bmpMead Johnson filed counterclaims against PBM alleging breach of contract, defamation, false advertising, and civil contempt. Mead Johnson's defamation counterclaim was based primarily on a press release issued by PBM CEO Paul Manning declaring that "Mead Johnson Lies About Baby Formula ... Again." Mead Johnson's false advertising counterclaim alleged that labels on PBM's products conveyed several implied messages comparing PBM and Mead Johnson's formulas. Mead Johnson's breach of contract and civil contempt counterclaims related to prior litigation between the parties.

After a jury found that Mead Johnson had engaged in false advertising, the district court issued an injunction prohibiting Mead Johnson from making similar claims, which enjoined all four advertising claims that Mead Johnson had made, including the express claim that "only Enfamil LIPIL is clinically proven to improve brain and eye development."

On appeal, Mead Johnson presented three clusters of issues for review by the Fourth Circuit: (1) whether the district court erred in its dismissal of Mead Johnson's counterclaims; (2) whether the district court abused its discretion in its admission of expert opinion testimony and evidence of prior litigation between the parties; and (3) whether the district court erred or abused its discretion in issuing the injunction.

The dismissals of Mead Johnson's counterclaims for breach of contract, defamation, false advertising, and civil contempt were all affirmed. The allegedly defamatory statement "Mead Johnson Lies About Baby Formula ... Again" was held to be true, as it was found that Mead Johnson had made false statements prior to the publication of PBM's press release ("Mead Johnson Lies") and had also made previous false statements about PBM's baby formula (the "Again" portion of the PBM's press release). The dismissal of the defamation claim on summary judgment was held to be proper as no false statement had been made.

The Fourth Circuit then upheld the district court's disposal of Mead Johnson's Lanham Act counterclaims as a matter of law. Those claims accruing prior to the two-year statute of limitations were affirmed to be time-barred. Claims accruing after that period were affirmed as correctly estopped under the equitable principle of laches.

The Fourth Circuit also held that the district court did not err in granting judgment as a matter of law on Mead Johnson's Lanham Act counterclaim concerning PBM's rice starch formula advertisements, holding that the district court had properly concluded that, because the consumer surveys that had been conducted by Mead Johnson had failed to address the allegations in the lawsuit, no relevant evidence had been produced by Mead Johnson on this claim. Moreover, it was held that Mead Johnson had failed to show either falsity of the statements or that any damage was caused by any of the "compare to Enfamil" language that had been used by PBM.

The appellate court then addressed Mead Johnson's contention that the district court erred by admitting (1) expert survey evidence and (2) evidence of prior Lanham Act litigation between the parties. These decisions were reviewed for abuse of discretion.

Mead Johnson had argued that the survey evidence offered by PBM should be excluded as the consumers involved in the survey did not exactly match the "universe" of consumers appropriate to this litigation. The district court was not convinced. It noted that "while Mead Johnson has pointed out numerous ways in which it would have conducted [the] survey differently, its arguments do not demonstrate that the methods used were not of the type considered reliable by experts . . . ." The district court concluded that the possibility that the survey had targeted the wrong universe went to the weight to be accorded to the survey, not to its admissibility. The appellate court cited a Seventh Circuit case, AHP Subsidiary Holding Co. v. Stuart Hale Co., which noted that "[w]hile there will be occasions when the proffered survey is so flawed as to be completely unhelpful to the trier of fact and therefore inadmissible, such situations will be rare" and affirmed the district court's conclusion "without difficulty."

Mead Johnson also had also asserted that the district court had erred in admitting evidence of the 2001 and 2002 Lanham Act lawsuits filed by PBM, contending that the evidence was irrelevant and more prejudicial than probative. The Fourth Circuit found that the history of prior litigation was both relevant and that its probative value was not substantially outweighed by any danger of unfair prejudice. Moreover, in upholding the trial court's ruling, the appellate court opined that a district court's decision to admit evidence over an objection based on the potential for unfair prejudice "will not be overturned except under the most extraordinary circumstances, where [the district court's] discretion has been plainly abused."

The Fourth Circuit then turned to Mead Johnson's contention that the injunction issued by the district court had been improper. Mead Johnson argued that the injunction was improper for two reasons. First, it asserted that PBM failed to establish any risk of recurrence of the violation. Second, it argued that the scope of the injunction was too broad, as it prohibited conduct that PBM had not proved at trial and that it was beyond the harm PBM sought to redress.

The appellate court was not persuaded. At trial, the jury had returned a verdict in favor of PBM on its false advertising claim and had awarded PBM $13.5 million in damages. In such a case, where a violation has been established and the party seeking the injunction has made a showing that such an injunction is proper, section 1116(a) of the Lanham Act vests district courts with the "power to grant injunctions, according to the principles of equity and upon such terms as the court may deem reasonable, to ... prevent a violation under [§ 1125(a) of the Lanham Act]." The Fourth Circuit held that a showing sufficient to support the district court's injunction had been made and upheld the lower court's ruling. The appellate court further indicated that the injunction was proper as, "PBM cannot fairly compete with Mead Johnson unless and until Mead Johnson stops infecting the marketplace with misleading advertising."

Finally, Mead Johnson argued that, because the general jury verdict did not specify which of the four statements in the mailer the jury found to be false and/or misleading, the district court's injunction must be limited only to the mailer or other advertisements not colorably different from the mailer. The Fourth Circuit rejected the narrow construction suggested by Mead Johnson. It noted again that, inter alia, Mead Johnson's claim that it was the "only clinically proven" formula had been found to be misleading by the district court. It concluded that because the district court's interpretation of the jury verdict was plausible in light of the record viewed in its entirety, the factual findings upon which it based the scope of its injunction could not as a matter of law be clearly erroneous. Consequently, the scope of the injunction also was affirmed.

Practice Tip #1: These parties are familiar combatants on the Lanham Act battlefield. For example, in 2001, Mead Johnson distributed brochures and tear-off notepads to patients in pediatricians' offices stating that store-brand formula did not have sufficient calcium or folic acid. PBM sued and obtained a restraining order prohibiting Mead Johnson from making similar statements. The parties settled that dispute. Then, in 2002, Mead Johnson distributed a chart to physicians stating that store-brand formula did not contain beneficial nucleotides. PBM sued and, again, the parties settled.

Practice Tip #2: The Lanham Act prohibits the "false or misleading description of fact, or false or misleading representation of fact, which ... in commercial advertising or promotion, misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities, or geographic origin of his or her or another person's goods, services, or commercial activities." 15 U.S.C.A. § 1125(a)(1)(B).

Practice Tip #3: In the Seventh Circuit, as with other federal circuits, "[A] court may find on its own that a statement is literally false, but, absent a literal falsehood, may find that a statement is impliedly misleading only if presented with evidence of actual consumer deception." Abbott Labs. v. Mead Johnson & Co., 971 F.2d 6, 14 (7th Cir. 1992).

Practice Tip #4: Before an injunction may issue, the party seeking the injunction must demonstrate that (1) it has suffered an irreparable injury; (2) remedies available at law are inadequate; (3) the balance of the hardships favors the party seeking the injunction; and (4) the public interest would not be disserved by the injunction. eBay, Inc. v. MercExchange, 547 U.S. 388, 391 (2006).

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January 15, 2014

Indiana Tax Court Shields Orbitz from Disclosure of Trade Secrets

Indianapolis, Indiana - In the matter of Orbitz, LLC v. Indiana Department of State Revenue, Orbitz, LLC of Chicago, Illinois was heard by the Indiana Tax Court on its request to prohibit public access to information in the court record. The court granted the request, holding thewentworth-new.jpg trade secrets contained in documents submitted to the court were protected against public disclosure by both the Access to Public Records Act (Indiana Code § 5-14-3-1 et seq.) and Indiana Administrative Rule 9

Orbitz, an online travel company, provides travel-related services on its website that enable its customers to search for and make reservations for a broad array of travel products, including airline tickets, lodging, rental cars, cruises and vacation packages.

The broad issue in this Indiana-state tax appeal was the appropriate base on which to calculate the Indiana state and local taxes due. Generally speaking, a hotel will contract with Orbitz to make its rooms available for reservation through Orbitz's website. Pursuant to the contract, the hotel agrees to accept a certain amount for its rooms ("net rate"). Nevertheless, a customer who books a room through the website sees - and ultimately pays - a different amount, as Orbitz has added a facilitation fee, a service charge, and a tax recovery charge to the net rate. The tax recovery charge is equal to the amount of state and local taxes due on the room's rental at the net rate.

After the customer has occupied the room, Orbitz forwards to the hotel the portion of the payment it collected from the customer that constitutes the room's net rate and tax recovery charge. The hotel is then responsible for remitting to the taxing authorities the appropriate state and local taxes due on the room's rental.

Following an audit in which the Indiana Department of Revenue found Orbitz to have underpaid the taxes due, Orbitz brought this appeal. Orbitz argued to the court that tax was due only on the net amount paid by Orbitz to the hotel. The Indiana Department of Revenue, in contrast, maintained that Orbitz had been deficient in remitting Indiana's gross retail (sales) and county innkeeper taxes on the hotel bookings at issue. It contended that the total amount paid by the customer to Orbitz for the room was the correct figure on which to base the Indiana-state tax.

When asking the Indiana Tax Court for summary judgment, Orbitz also asked that the court prohibit public access to its contracts with the Indiana hotels, stating that the contracts were "proprietary [and] competitively sensitive" and that they contained trade secrets belonging to Orbitz.

The general rule in Indiana is that the public has access to court records. Citing the Access to Public Records Act, Ind. Code § 5-14-3-1, the court stated "all persons are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of [their] government." However, in certain circumstances, that right of access is restricted. An example of such a circumstance is when materials submitted to the court qualify as a trade secret. Trade secrets are protected from disclosure by statute in Indiana.

Indiana Code Section 24-2-3-2 defines a trade secret as:

information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method,             technique, or process, that:

1. derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by, other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and

2. is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.

The court then enumerated the four general characteristics of a trade secret:

1. it is information;

2. that derives independent economic value;

3. that is not generally known, or readily ascertainable by proper means by others who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and

4. that is the subject of efforts, reasonable under the circumstances, to maintain its secrecy.

The court granted Orbitz's motion to shield Orbitz's contracts with Indiana hotels, holding the information in those contracts to be properly protected as trade secrets. It stated, "Competition is the bedrock of our country's economic system. The protection afforded to trade secrets under [the Access to Public Records Act] and Administrative Rule 9 helps to foster a healthy, competitive marketplace . . . . Here, Orbitz's contracts contain trade secrets and therefore are protected from public disclosure under both APRA and Administrative Rule 9."

Practice Tip:

When, as here, the documents sought to be protected fall within a mandatory exception set forth in the Access to Public Records Act or Indiana Administrative Rule 9, a court can seal those records without holding a hearing and balancing the competing interests. However, in other cases, when issuing an order to shield information from public access, the court must specifically outline why the need for privacy outweighs the strong public policy to allow such access.

In such a case, Indiana Code § 5-14-3-5.5(d) requires that the court's order be based on findings of fact and conclusions of law and show "that the remedial benefits to be gained by effectuating the [state's] public policy of [public access] are outweighed by proof by a preponderance of the evidence by the person seeking the sealing of the record that: (1) a public interest will be secured by sealing the record; (2) dissemination of the information contained in the record will create a serious and imminent danger to that public interest; (3) any prejudicial effect created by dissemination of the information cannot be avoided by any reasonable method other than sealing the record; (4) there is a substantial probability that sealing the record will be effective in protecting the public interest against the perceived danger; and (5) it is reasonably necessary for the record to remain sealed for a period of time."

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January 13, 2014

Contour Hardening Sues Vanair for Patent and Trademark Infringement

Indianapolis, Indiana - Indiana patent and trademark attorneys for Contour Hardening, Inc. of Indianapolis, Indiana sued seeking injunctive and monetary relief in the Southern District of Indiana. Contour Hardening alleges that Vanair Manufacturing, Inc. of Michigan City, Indiana has infringed the trademark "REAL POWER", Trademark Registration No. 3,124,014, as well as Contour Hardening's patented "Vehicle Mounted Electrical Generator System." The invention is covered by Patent Nos. 6,979,913 and 7,057,303, which have been issued by the U.S. Patent Office.

US06979913-20051227-D00005.PNGIn this lawsuit, Plaintiff Contour Hardening contends that Defendant Vanair has violated, and continues to violate, inter alia, the patent laws of the United States, 35 U.S.C. §§271 and 281- 285, as well as the Federal Trademark Act by infringing Contour Hardening's two patents, U.S. Patent Nos. 6,979,913 and 7,057,303 (collectively, the "Contour Patents"), and infringing Contour Hardening's REAL POWER trademark by using Vanair's allegedly similar ROAD POWER trademark.

Contour Hardening is a developer and provider of Power Take-Off ("PTO") driven generator systems for vehicles ranging from Class 2 pickup trucks (e.g., full-size trucks) to larger Class 8 Heavy Duty trucks (e.g., tractor trailer trucks). It states that these systems have been utilized in municipal, fire-rescue, construction, healthcare, mining, farming and other applications.

Plaintiff asserts that, sometime around 2007, Vanair first began offering vehicle-mounted AC-generator systems that infringe one or more of the claims of the Contour Patents. Vanair is accused of having received actual knowledge that it was infringing the Contour Patents at least as early December 17, 2012, when an Indiana patent and trademark lawyer for Contour Hardening sent to Vanair a letter providing it with actual notice of the Contour Patents and expressing "concerns regarding possible infringement." The letter requested that Vanair "evaluate [its] activities relative to these two (2) patents and provide a written response as to when any infringing activities will cease." According to Contour Hardening, Vanair did not respond this letter.

In addition to its allegations of patent infringement, Contour Hardening asserts trademark infringement. Contour Hardening indicates that it is the owner of United States Registration No. 3,124,014 for the trademark REAL POWER for providing AC generators. It claims that, since at least 2004 and continuously to date, it has adopted and used in interstate commerce the trademark REAL POWER in connection with its PTO-driven AC-generator systems and related operations and that the trademark has become distinctive to consumers in the vehicle-mounted AC-generator industry.

Contour Hardening contends that Vanair offers the allegedly infringing products under the trademark ROAD POWER with knowledge of Contour Hardening's REAL POWER trademark. It further asserts that the nameplates, labels or other graphic displays that Vanair uses are confusingly similar to Contour Hardening's trademark and that Vanair's use of the ROAD POWER trademark is likely to cause confusion or mistake or deception of consumers as to the source of origin of Vanair's goods or services. Contour Hardening further claims that Vanair's activities have been willful, deliberate and intentional, have caused a likelihood of confusion, and have been done with the intent to trade upon Contour Hardening's goodwill in the trademark REAL POWER.

In the complaint, Indiana patent and trademark attorneys assert the following on Contour Hardening's behalf:

• Count I - Infringement of U.S. Patent 6,979,913
• Count II - Infringement of U.S. Patent 7,057,303
• Count III - Trademark Infringement
• Count IV - False Designation of Origin

Contour Hardening asks the court for a judgment of infringement of the Contour Patents; a judgment of infringement of Contour Hardening's REAL POWER trademark; a permanent injunction prohibiting further infringement; an order that all infringing devices be delivered and destroyed; damages, including treble damages; costs and expenses; an order declaring that the case is exceptional and an award of attorney's fees pursuant to such a finding.

Practice Tip: A 2006 opinion from the Federal Circuit, AERO Products International, Inc., et al. v. INTEX Recreation Corp., et al., addressed double recovery in cases where both patent infringement and trademark infringement are found. The Federal Circuit held that the trial court's award of both $2.95 million for patent infringement - which was doubled to $5.9 million pursuant to a finding of willful patent infringement - and $1 million for trademark infringement was impermissible as a double recovery for the "same injury." The court vacated the $1 million award for trademark damages stating, "even though damages are claimed based upon separate statutes or causes of action, when the claims arise out of the same set of operative facts, as is the case here, there may be only one recovery."

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January 10, 2014

USPTO to Host Forum to Discuss Proposed Changes to Implement Patent Law Treaties Implementation Act of 2012 - Title I The Hague Agreement

Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Department of Commerce's United States Patent and 140px-US-PatentTrademarkOffice-Seal.svg.pngTrademark Office ("USPTO") recently announced that it will hold a public forum to discuss implementation of Title I of the Patent Law Treaties Implementation Act of 2012 ("PLTIA"). The law, which serves as the implementing legislation for the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs ("the Hague Agreement"), allows applicants to file a single international design application to acquire global protection. The forum will be held on Tuesday, January 14, 2014, at the USPTO campus in Alexandria, Virginia.

On November 29, 2013, the USPTO published a notice in the Federal Register seeking written comments on proposed changes to the rules of practice to implement Title I of the PLTIA.

The PLTIA and the proposed rules call for the following: standardizing formal requirements for international design applications; establishing the USPTO as an office through which international design applications may be filed; providing for substantive examination by the Office of international design applications that designate the United States; providing provisional rights for published international design applications that designate the United States; and setting the patent term for design patents at 15 years from the date of patent grant.

Further information about the proposed rules and upcoming forum may be found in the Federal Register Notice.

Practice Tip: This new law allows applicants to file a single international design application to pursue global protection.

January 9, 2014

Supreme Court's Holding in Gunn Requires Remand of Suit Alleging Malpractice in Patent Law

Indianapolis, Indiana - Citing the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gunn v. Minton, the court-bench-picture.jpgSouthern District of Indiana has remanded to the Marion Superior Court the legal malpractice lawsuit filed by the Indiana patent lawyer for Miller Veneers, Inc. The Defendants in the case are Indiana patent attorney Clifford W. Browning as well as two Indiana law firms, Krieg DeVault, LLP and Woodard, Emhardt, Moriarty, McNett & Henry, LLP.

In September 2012, Miller Veneers sued Clifford W. Browning; Krieg DeVault; and Woodard, Emhardt, Moriarty, McNett & Henry in Marion Superior Court alleging attorney malpractice regarding the acquisition of patents. Defendants removed the case to the Southern District of Indiana in October 2012, asserting federal question jurisdiction and 28 U.S.C. § 1338(a) (2008).

Although the court originally found that it had subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1338(a), the Supreme Court's recent decision in Gunn v. Minton led the court to reconsider the question of federal jurisdiction and to conclude that it did not, in fact, have subject matter jurisdiction over the suit, despite that the legal malpractice claims were based on underlying patent matters.

According to the new standard set forth in Gunn, federal jurisdiction exists over state law claims "if a federal issue is (1) necessarily raised, (2) actually disputed, (3) substantial, and (4) capable of resolution in federal court without disrupting the federal-state balance approved by Congress."

While the issues of federal law in this malpractice lawsuit were found to meet the first two prongs, the court held that they failed the second two prongs. Specifically, the third Gunn prong requires that the issue be "substantial," which requires the court "to look to the importance of the issue to the federal system as a whole." The court held that, as was the case in Gunn, this issue was not important to the federal system as a whole but merely to the parties. The court also held that the fourth prong had not met. It stated that, where issues such as malpractice are to be litigated, the balance is in favor of the states as they have "a special responsibility for maintaining standards among members of the licensed professions."

The court, upon determining that it lacked jurisdiction under the standard set forth in Gunn, remanded the matter to the Marion Superior Court.

Practice Tip: In Gunn, the Supreme Court held that a legal malpractice claim pertaining to the handling of a patent infringement case did not afford jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1338(a), stating, "We are comfortable concluding that state legal malpractice claims based on underlying patent matters will rarely, if ever, arise under federal patent law for purposes of § 1338(a)."

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January 8, 2014

Court Strikes Four Affirmative Defenses of BitTorrent Defendant

Fort Wayne, Indiana - District Magistrate Judge Roger B. Cosbey struck four affirmative defenses asserted by anonymous Defendant John Doe in Plaintiff Malibu Media's lawsuit in the Northern District of Indiana for copyright infringement.

Plaintiff Malibu Media, LLC, filed a copyright infringement action against Defendant John Doe. Defendant answered with ten affirmative defenses. Malibu Media sought to strike four of those defenses--laches, unclean hands, waiver, and estoppel; failure to mitigate damages; failure to join an indispensable party; and implied license, consent, and acquiescence.

Plaintiff first moved to strike Defendant's second affirmative defense--that "Plaintiff's claims are barred by the equitable doctrines of laches, unclean hands, waiver and estoppel"--as a bare conclusory allegation unsupported by any factual basis. The court ordered that defense stricken, stating "[m]erely stringing together a long list of legal defenses...does not do the job of apprising opposing counsel and this Court of the predicate for the claimed defense--which is after all the goal of notice pleading."

Plaintiff next moved to strike Defendant's fifth affirmative defense--that Plaintiff did not mitigate its damages. Malibu Media argued that this defense was improper because it had elected to pursue only statutory, rather than actual, damages. The court agreed that a copyright plaintiff's exclusive pursuit of statutory damages invalidates a failure-to-mitigate defense and struck this affirmative defense.

The court also struck Defendant's seventh affirmative defense, in which Defendant argued that Plaintiff had failed to join an indispensable party. Defendant asserted that he had not engaged in any infringing activity and Plaintiff has not joined those who had. The court held that Defendant's assertion that he had not engaged in any improper activity was not an affirmative defense but rather a mere denial of liability. It further held that Defendant was incorrect in asserting that joinder was necessary, holding that the court would be able to adjudicate the matter and "accord complete relief to Plaintiff regardless of whether any other allegedly infringing members were joined in the action.

Finally, Plaintiff asked that Defendant's eighth affirmative defense as be struck as conclusory. Defendant had asserted that "Plaintiff's claims are barred by Plaintiff's implied license, consent, and acquiescence to Defendant because Plaintiff authorized use via Bit Torrent [sic]." The court held that Defendant's Answer foreclosed the possibility of an implied license defense, as Defendant had denied downloading the copyrighted work. As such, Defendant could not also argue that he had downloaded the copyrighted work with a license.

Practice Tip #1: Generally speaking, motions to strike portions of pleadings are disfavored as they consume scarce judicial resources and may be used for dilatory purposes. Such motions will generally be denied unless the portion of the pleading at issue is prejudicial. When faced with a motion to strike affirmative defenses under Rule 12(f), Indiana federal courts apply a three-part test: (1) whether the matter is properly pled as an affirmative defense; (2) whether the affirmative defense complies with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8 and 9; and (3) whether the affirmative defense can withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) challenge. An affirmative defense that fails to meet any of these standards must be stricken.

Practice Tip #2: Defendant did not file a response to Malibu Media's motion to strike Defendant's affirmative defenses. For that reason alone, the court could have ruled on the motion summarily under the Northern District's Local Rule 7-1(d)(4).

Practice Tip #3: Even under the liberal notice pleading standards of the Federal Rules, an affirmative defense must include either direct or inferential allegations as to all elements of the defense asserted. Bare bones conclusory allegations are insufficient. Moreover, laches, waiver, estoppel, and unclean hands are equitable defenses that must be pled with the specific elements required to establish the defense.

Practice Tip #4: An implied license, which Defendant argued as an affirmative defense, arises when (1) a person (the licensee) requests the creation of a work, (2) the creator (the licensor) makes that particular work and delivers it to the licensee who requested it, and (3) the licensor intends that the licensee-requestor copy and distribute his work.

Practice Tip #5: This opinion demonstrates one of the pitfalls of pleading in the alternative. Defendant appears to have tried to argue that he didn't download the copyrighted material but that, if he had, it was with an implied license from Plaintiff. The court was not persuaded, however, as Defendant's Answer had denied downloading the copyrighted material with BitTorrent. As a result, Defendant was not permitted to argue also that he downloaded the copyrighted material using BitTorrent but that he had an implied license to do so.

A well-known example of such alternative pleading was demonstrated by Richard Haynes: "Say you sue me because you say my dog bit you. Well, now this is my defense: My dog doesn't bite. And second, in the alternative, my dog was tied up that night. And third, I don't believe you really got bit. And fourth, I don't have a dog."

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January 6, 2014

Joe Hand Promotions Sues for Unlawful Interception of Championship Fight

South Bend, Indiana - Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. of Feasterville, Pennsylvania, via a Kentucky intellectual property lawyer, has sued in the Northern District of Indiana alleging that Lee H. Holmes, individually and d/b/a Homer's Restaurant, both of Peru, Indiana, unlawfully Lesnar-Overeem-Picture.jpgintercepted and televised the Ultimate Fighting Championship 141:Brock Lesnar v. Alistar Overeem ("the Program").

Joe Hand Promotions, a commercial distributor of sporting events, states that it was granted exclusive rights to distribute via closed-circuit telecast the Ultimate Fighting Championship ("UFC") fight between Brock Lesnar and Alistar Overeem, which Joe Hand Promotions asserts was broadcast nationwide on December 30, 2011.

In the complaint against Holmes and Homer's Restaurant, Joe Hand Promotions has alleged such wrongful acts as interception, reception, publication, divulgence, display, exhibition, and "tortuously" [sic] converting the Program.

In addition to naming the restaurant, which was not listed as a separate legal entity, Joe Hand Promotions has also sued Holmes as an individual, claiming that he had the right and ability to supervise the activities of Homer's Restaurant. Joe Hand Promotions asserts that those activities included the unlawful interception of its UFC Program.

Holmes and Homer's Restaurant have been accused of violating 47 U.S.C. § 605 and 47 U.S.C. § 553. The complaint, filed by a Kentucky intellectual property attorney, also lists a count of conversion. Joe Hand Promotions seeks statutory damages of $110,000 for each willful violation of 47 U.S.C. § 605; $60,000 for each willful violation of 47 U.S.C. § 553; compensatory and punitive damages on the claim of conversion; costs, including costs incurred for the service of process and the investigation of potential wrongdoing; and attorney's fees.

Practice Tip #1: While on the surface this appears to be a copyright case, an allegation of interception under 47 U.S.C. § 605 is a different cause of action from copyright infringement. However, a suit alleging interception does not preclude an additional lawsuit asserting different causes of action. For example, the copyright holder can also sue for copyright infringement, which could increase damages by as much as $150,000.

Practice Tip #2: Most satellite signal providers employ encryption to limit receiption to certain groups, such as paying subscribers.  However, not all licenses grant equal rights.  for example, if an individual as a "residential" agreement with a satellite provider, that agreement does not also give that individual the right to display the performance in a public setting like a bar or restaurant..

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January 3, 2014

160 Trademark Registrations Issued to Indiana Companies in December 2013

The U.S. Trademark Office issued the following 160 trademark registrations to persons and businesses in Indiana in December 2013 based on applications filed by Indiana trademark attorneys:

Reg. Number Word Mark Click to View
4455043 GESSO VIEW
4454629 KSIR VIEW
4454173 CO VIEW

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January 2, 2014

Patent Office Issues 184 Patents To Indiana Citizens in December 2013

The U.S. Patent Office issued the following184 patent registrations to persons and businesses in Indiana in December 2013, based on applications filed by Indiana patent attorneys: 

Patent No.  Title
D696,781 Orthopaedic tool handle 
8,621,641 Systems and methods for authorization of information access 
8,620,625 Above bed sensor 
8,620,477 Control for pressurized bladder in a patient support apparatus 
8,618,954 Mobile FLOW readout and mobile FLOW sequencer features 
8,618,918 Patient support, communication, and computing apparatus including movement of the support and connection to the hospital network 
8,618,511 Marking method for the reject marking of test elements 
8,618,475 Ion mobility spectrometer with one or more integral ion activation regions 
8,618,444 Rotary door heater system 
8,618,293 Redox mediators 

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December 31, 2013

Vehicle Service Group Sues Mohawk Resources for Patent Infringement

New Albany, Indiana - Vehicle Services Group, LLC  of Madison, Indiana("VSG"), via anpatent-picture.png Indiana patent lawyer, has sued Mohawk Resources, LTD of Amsterdam, New York("Mohawk") alleging patent infringement of VSG's "Electronically Controlled Vehicle Lift and Vehicle Service System," Patent No. 6,983,196 (the "'196 patent"), which has been registered by the U.S. Patent Office.

VSG is a designer and manufacturer of vehicle lifts, such as those one might see lifting a car in an auto mechanic's shop. VSG's '196 patent relates to a vehicle lift that has an electronic control which is functional to control the raising and lowering of the lift and to enable the display of a variety of information.

Mohawk also makes vehicle lifts, and is a direct competitor of VSG in the marketplace. The lifts that are at issue in this case (the "Accused Lifts") include various Mohawk products. The complaint cites infringement by the Mobile Column Lifts identified as model numbers MP-18, MP-24 and MP-30. Those particular lifts purportedly incorporate the technology covered by VSG's '196 patent, and thus infringe that patent.

In addition to levying allegations of patent infringement, VSG also claims that Mohawk is actively and knowingly inducing infringement of at least claim 145 of the '196 patent by instructing third parties, such as customers, to network together the Accused Lifts. Finally, Mohawk is accused of knowingly contributing to the infringement by others of the '196 patent by making, using, offering for sale, and selling the Accused Lifts.

An Indiana patent attorney alleged the following on behalf of VSG in a civil action for patent infringement:

• Count I: Patent Infringement
• Count II: Inducing Infringement
• Count III: Contributory Infringement

VSG asserts that Mohawk's acts of infringement of the '196 patent have caused and will continue to cause VSG substantial and irreparable injury. It also contends that the infringing activities have been willful and asks the court for judgment as follows:

A. That Mohawk be found to infringe the '196 patent;
B. That Mohawk, its officers, agents, servants, employees and attorneys, and all persons in active concert with them, or any of them, be preliminarily and permanently enjoined from infringing the '196 patent;
C. That VSG be awarded damages adequate to compensate for Mohawk's infringement of the '196 patent;
D. That the Court deem this case to be exceptional; and
E. That VSG be awarded its attorneys' fees, expenses, and costs of this action.

Practice Tip: This is at least the second complaint filed by VSG in the Southern District of Indiana and assigned to Judge Sarah Evans Barker. A previous lawsuit, Vehicle Service Group, LLC v. Stertil-Koni USA, Inc., makes similar allegations of patent infringement.

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December 30, 2013

Draft of Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement Released by WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks recently released the entire Intellectual property Rights Chapter from the secret negotiated draft text of theTrans-Pacific Partnership ("TPP") Intellectual Property Rights Chapter. The TPP is the largest-everwikiLeaks.png economic treaty, encompassing nations representing more than 40 percent of the world's gross domestic product ("GDP"). The WikiLeaks release of the text came ahead of the decisive TPP Chief Negotiators summit in Salt Lake City, Utah. The chapter published by WikiLeaks is perhaps the most controversial chapter of the TPP due to its wide-ranging effects on medicines, publishers, internet services, civil liberties and biological patents. Significantly, the released text includes the negotiation positions and disagreements between all 12 prospective member states.

The TPP is the forerunner to the equally secret US-EU pact, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership ("TTIP"), for which President Obama initiated US-EU negotiations in January 2013. Together, the TPP and TTIP will cover more than 60 percent of global GDP. Both pacts exclude China.

Since the beginning of the TPP negotiations, the process of drafting and negotiating the treaty's chapters has been shrouded in an unprecedented level of secrecy. Access to drafts of the TPP chapters is shielded from the general public. Members of the U.S. Congress are able to view only selected portions of treaty-related documents in highly restrictive conditions and under strict supervision. It has been previously revealed that only three individuals in each TPP nation have access to the full text of the agreement, while 600 'trade advisors' - often lobbyists for large U.S. corporations - are granted privileged access to crucial sections of the treaty text.

The 95-page, 30,000-word Intellectual Property Chapter lays out provisions for instituting a far-reaching, transnational legal and enforcement regime, modifying or replacing existing laws in TPP member states. The Chapter's subsections include agreements relating to patents (who may produce goods or drugs), copyright (who may transmit information), trademarks (who may describe information or goods as authentic) and industrial design.

The longest section of the Chapter - "Enforcement" - is devoted to detailing new policing measures, with implications for individual rights, civil liberties, publishers, internet service providers and internet privacy, as well as for the creative, intellectual, biological and environmental commons. Particular measures proposed include supranational litigation tribunals to which sovereign national courts are expected to defer, but which have no human rights safeguards. The TPP Intellectual Property Chapter states that these courts can conduct hearings with secret evidence. The Intellectual Property Chapter also replicates many of the surveillance and enforcement provisions from the shelved Stop Online Piracy Act and Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement treaties.

The current TPP negotiation member states are the United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei.

Practice Tip:

According to WikiLeaks, the TPP negotiations are at a critical stage. WikiLeaks contends that the Obama administration is preparing to fast-track the TPP treaty in a manner that will prevent the U.S. Congress from discussing or amending any parts of the treaty. Numerous TPP heads of state and senior government figures, including President Obama, have declared their intention to sign and ratify the TPP before the end of 2013.

WikiLeaks' Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange stated: "The US administration is aggressively pushing the TPP through the US legislative process on the sly." The advanced draft of the Intellectual Property Rights Chapter, published by WikiLeaks on November 13, 2013 was designed to provide the public with an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the details and implications of the TPP.

The consolidated text obtained by WikiLeaks after the August 2013 TPP meeting in Brunei - unlike any other TPP-related documents previously released to the public - contains annotations detailing each country's positions on the issues under negotiation. Assange commented that a "cringingly obsequious" Australia is the nation most likely to support the hardline position of U.S. negotiators against other countries, while states including Vietnam, Chile and Malaysia are more likely to be in opposition. Numerous key Pacific Rim and nearby nations - including Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, South Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines and, most significantly, Russia and China - have not been involved in the drafting of the treaty.

According to Assange, "If instituted, the TPP's IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons. If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you're ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs."

December 27, 2013

Federal Circuit Rejects Broad Right of Public Access to Patent Trials

Washington, D.C. - The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that a showing of good cause was sufficient to support parties' requests to file documents under seal. The case was heard by Circuit Judges Sharon Prost, William C. Bryson and Kathleen O'Malley.

Courts have traditionally acknowledged a right of free access to patent information. Lately, however, judges have increasingly restricted the general public's access to patent litigation. The Federal Circuit spoke to this in the matter of Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., which recently resulted in a new verdict for Apple, this time for $290 million.picture of the court.jpg

In the patent litigation that led to that verdict, the parties had agreed that certain documents were to be filed under seal. Judge Lucy H. Koh had rejected this agreement and instead had required that the parties provide "compelling reasons" for sealing documents. The parties appealed this ruling.

The Federal Circuit discussed the public-policy implications of shielding patent infringement trials from the public eye. It rejected the notion that general public interest in a trial involving patent litigation is sufficient to require that the briefs and evidence be made available to the public. Instead, the Federal Circuit held that the public's interest must be more than mere curiosity where the information at issue was not central to the court's decision on the merits of the case. It also held that the interests of the parties in maintaining the confidentiality of their information must be considered. The court wrote, "[w]hile protecting the public's interest in access to the courts, we must remain mindful of the parties' right to access those same courts upon terms which will not unduly harm their competitive interest."

The Federal Circuit reversed the district court, holding that a showing of "compelling reasons" was not the correct standard to apply when determining if parties should be allowed to file documents under seal. Instead, under the law, only a showing of "good cause" is required.

Practice Tip: This case is unusual in that it reached the appeals court. Typically, when patent attorneys for the parties agree to keep information secret, most district court judges are willing to allow evidence and briefs to be filed under seal. It is perhaps due to the considerable public interest in this case that Judge Koh declared before the trial that "the whole trial is going to be open."

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December 24, 2013

Innovations in Santa Detection Proliferate for Both National and Personal Uses

For over 50 years, the North American Aerospace Defense Command ("NORAD") and itspicture-1.bmp predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command, have tracked Santa's flight around the world. Their high-technology approach includes not only radar and satellites in geo-synchronous orbit but also the recent additions of strategically placed SantaCams and jet pilots flying F-15s, F-16s and F-22s to escort Santa as he delivers presents to children on the "nice" list worldwide.

However, as technologically advanced as NORAD's equipment is, it lacks the precision that some children desire. It is, after all, one thing to know that Santa is in your city. It is another thing entirely to receive notification of Santa's arrival in your house.

As a result, even as NORAD finalizes this year's preparations to track Santa, enterprising children have turned to some recent innovations to fill this gap. Among them is the "Santa Claus Detector," U.S. Patent No. 5,523,741. This invention includes a pin in the toe of the Christmas stocking, as illustrated in Figures 2 and 4.

After this stocking is hung by the chimney with care, the pin in the stocking is attached with a cord to another decoration hung on the other side of the chimney. This configuration would result in a layout similar to the following:

picture-2.bmpWhen Santa enters the house to deliver presents, he will walk through the cord. In doing so, he will pull the pin from the stocking. That, in turn, will break the electrical circuit in the stocking which will cause the stocking to emit auditory and visual alarms, thus announcing the arrival of Santa.

Practice Tip #1: Children considering employing this device may wish to consider the possibility that the implementation of such Santa-detection measures may result in a removal from the "nice" list.

Practice Tip #2: From everyone at Overhauser Law Offices, we wish you happy holidays!

December 23, 2013

CleanTech Adds Three Additional Defendants to Multidistrict Litigation

Indianapolis, Indiana - GS CleanTech Corporation of Alpharetta, Georgia ("CleanTech") has filed complaints against three new Defendants in its ongoing multidistrict litigation in which it asserts infringement of its patented corn-oil-extraction technology. Patent lawyers for gas_pump1.jpgCleanTech sued Homeland Energy Solutions, LLC of Lawler, Iowa ("Homeland") in the Northern District of Iowa. Pacific Ethanol, Inc. of Sacramento, California ("Pacific") was sued in the Eastern District of California. Guardian Energy, LLC of Janesville, Minnesota ("Guardian") was sued in the District of Minnesota. At issue in this litigation are the following: Patent Nos. 7,601,858, Method of Processing Ethanol Byproducts and Related Subsystems; 8,008,516, Method of Processing Ethanol Byproducts and Related Subsystems; 8,008,517, Method of Recovering Oil from Thin Stillage; 8,283,484, Method of Processing Ethanol Byproducts and Related Subsystems; and 8,168,037, Method and Systems for Enhancing Oil Recovery from Ethanol Production Byproducts, which have been issued by the U.S. Patent Office. The cases were transferred to Southern District of Indiana as part of Multidistrict Litigation No. 2181.

This Multidistrict Litigation ("MDL") began with an assertion of patent infringement by CleanTech of Patent No. 7,601,858 (the "'858 patent"), which was issued on October 13, 2009. CleanTech sued numerous Defendants alleging infringement of that patent shortly after its issuance. The Defendants accused of patent infringement in prior litigation include: Big River Resources Galva, LLC; Big River Resources West Burlington, LLC; Cardinal Ethanol, LLC; ICM, Inc.; LincolnLand Agri-Energy, LLC; David J. Vander Griend; Iroquois Bio-Energy Co., LLC; Al-Corn Clean Fuel; Blue Flint Ethanol, LLC; ACE Ethanol, LLC; Lincolnway Energy, LLC; United Wisconsin Grain Producers, LLC; Bushmills Ethanol, Inc.; Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co.; Heartland Corn Products; Adkins Energy, LLC; Little Sioux Corn Processors, LLLP; Little Sioux Corn Processors, LLLP and Western New York Energy, LLC.

Since September 29, 2011, when the court overseeing the MDL issued its order on claim construction with respect to the disputed claims of the '858 patent, patentee CleanTech has further asserted infringement by some of the allegedly infringing Defendants of four additional patents in the '858 patent family: U.S. Patent Nos. 8,008,516 (the "'516 patent"), 8,008,517 (the "'517 patent"), 8,283,484 (the "'484 patent") and, the newest addition, 8,168,037 ("the '037 patent"), (the '858, '516, '517, '484, '037 patents are, collectively, the "'858 patent family" or "the patents-in-suit").

CleanTech claims that the method claimed increases the efficiency and economy of recovering corn oil. CleanTech's patented methods recover corn oil by evaporating, concentrating and mechanically separating thin stillage ("stillage"), a byproduct of ethanol produced from corn, into two components: corn oil and a post-recovery syrup ("syrup") with most of its corn oil removed.

In one embodiment, the patented method comprises initially processing the whole stillage by mechanically separating (such as by using a centrifugal decanter) the whole stillage into distillers wet grains and thin stillage, and then introducing the thin stillage into an evaporator to form a concentrated syrup byproduct. Prior to recombining the then-concentrated syrup with the distillers wet grains, the syrup is introduced into a second mechanical separator, such as a second centrifuge, which is different from the centrifuge that mechanically separated the whole stillage into distillers wet grains and thin stillage. This second centrifuge separates corn oil from the syrup thereby allowing for the recovery of usable corn oil. The syrup that exits the centrifuge is then recombined with the distillers wet grain and dried in a dryer. The corn oil that is extracted from the syrup can be used for various purposes such as feedstock for producing biodiesel.

Patent attorneys for CleanTech have made different claims against the three new Defendants. All of the patents-in-suit - the '858 patent, the '516 patent, the '517 patent, the '484 patent, and the '037 patent - have purportedly been infringed by Homeland. Guardian has been accused of having infringed four of the five patents-in-suit: the '858 patent, the '516 patent, the '517 patent and the '484 patent. One claim of patent infringement, regarding the '858 patent, has been asserted against Pacific.

Practice Tip: Multi-district litigation affords consistency and judicial economy, as well as allowing plaintiffs and defendants to concentrate their efforts in one forum. However, lawsuits that are not settled before trial must later be remanded to the transferring court and to a judge who has had little opportunity to become familiar with the issues.

Continue reading "CleanTech Adds Three Additional Defendants to Multidistrict Litigation" »

December 20, 2013

Indiana University Sues AngioDynamics for Patent Infringement

Indianapolis, Indiana - Patent attorneys for Indiana University Research and Technology Corporation ("IURTC") of Indianapolis, Indiana sued in the Southern District of Indiana alleging that AngioDynamics, Inc. of Latham, New York infringed Patent No. 6,719,717, which has been registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO"). This Indiana patent has a publication date of April 13, 2004.

patent-picture.bmpIURTC is a not-for-profit corporation that fosters collaboration between Indiana University faculty and researchers and private industry through the licensing of technology. IURTC states that its goals include acting as a resource for researchers, for industry and for Indiana.

AngioDynamics was founded in 1988. It seeks to provide benefits to patients through the designing, developing, manufacturing and marketing of innovative therapeutic devices used by interventionalists and surgeons for the minimally invasive treatment of peripheral vascular disease, tumor therapy and other, non-vascular disease.

IURTC, via its patent attorneys, is suing AngioDynamics for patent infringement under 35 U.S.C. § 101, et seq. The patent at issue is Patent No. 6,719,717 (the "'717 Patent"), which relates to thrombectomy treatment systems and methods. IURTC states that, by assignment, it is the current owner of all rights, title, and interests in the '717 Patent, including the right to enforce the patent.

The products accused of infringing IURTC's patent (the "Accused Products") are allegedly manufactured by Vortex Medical, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of AngioDynamics. IURTC contends that AngioDynamics has made and/or currently imports, sells, offers to sell, and/or uses the Accused Products. It also asserts that AngioDynamics provides instructions and directions on how to use the Accused Products to doctors, and other medical personnel.

IURTC further claims that AngioDynamics has known of the '717 Patent since at least the date of its issuance by the USPTO. It contends that, as a result, AngioDynamics' infringement of the '717 Patent has been and continues to be willful and deliberate.

Patent lawyers for IURTC filed a complaint alleging a single count of patent infringement. The complaint contends that AngioDynamics is currently infringing and has infringed the '717 Patent directly by, without authority, having made and/or currently importing into the United States, and/or using, selling, and/or offering for sale the Accused Products, which embody the inventions claimed in the '717 Patent. It also claims that AngioDynamics is actively, intentionally, and/or knowingly inducing infringement of the '717 Patent by others, including doctors,and other medical professionals, and is thus liable to IURTC pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 271(b).

IURTC has asked that the court enter judgment:

A. Finding that U.S. Patent No. 6,719,717 is valid, enforceable, and infringed by AngioDynamics, and that AngioDynamics is liable for inducement of infringement and contributory infringement of the '717 Patent;
B. Entering a permanent injunction against AngioDynamics, enjoining it, its respective directors, officers, agents, employees, successors, subsidiaries, assigns, and all persons acting in privity or in concert or participation with AngioDynamics from making, using, selling, or offering for sale in the United States, or importing into the United States, any and all products and/or services embodying the patented inventions claimed in the '717 Patent;
C. Holding that AngioDynamics acted willfully in causing damage to IURTC;
D. Awarding IURTC such damages to which it is entitled, pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 284;
E. Awarding IURTC enhanced damages, pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 284;
F. Awarding IURTC pre-judgment and post-judgment interest as allowed by law; and
G. Awarding IURTC its costs, expenses, and fees, including reasonable attorneys' fees, pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 285.

Practice Tip:

Universities today often own sizeable portfolios of patents and can earn substantial royalties from licensing those patents. To maintain that revenue, most universities seek ownership of the inventions created by their employees, typically by having the employee assign the intellectual property rights to the university. Moreover, if federal funds were used to pursue the research leading to the invention, universities are required under the Bayh-Dole Act to obtain ownership of the resulting patent.

Substantial legal difficulty can arise when the ownership of a patent is unclear. Such a problem can arise when the duty of an inventor to convey ownership of his or her invention has not been established in advance of the creation of new intellectual property. An Indiana patent attorney can help Indiana inventors determine what rights they have with respect to their inventions.

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