In a recent CAFC ruling on U.S. Patent No. 9,361,658, owned by Mantissa Corporation, the court addressed the issue of claim definiteness in the context of an infringement dispute with FirstPicture1-1-210x300 Financial Corporation and First Financial Bank, N.A. The case focused on interpreting terms like “transaction partner” and “OFF” within the patent claims. The district court, relying on expert testimony, found “transaction partner” indefinite, a decision challenged by Mantissa. However, the CAFC majority emphasized intrinsic evidence from the patent itself, highlighting the term’s absence in the original specification and rejecting Mantissa’s argument that a person of ordinary skill would understand it as a seller. The court declined to address the construction of “OFF” due to jurisdictional constraints. Judge Schall dissented, arguing for a broader interpretation of “transaction partner” based on the specification’s references to multiple parties involved in transactions.

Ultimately, the CAFC’s ruling highlights the importance of precision and clarity in patent claims. It emphasizes the intrinsic evidence as a primary source for claim interpretation and underscores the significance of ensuring that claim terms are adequately defined within the patent specification itself. This case serves as a reminder of the critical role that claim definiteness plays in the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights.

Opinion

pic-300x169Baskin-Robbins Franchising LLC (“Baskin-Robbins”) v. Blue Moo Ice Cream Inc. (“Blue Moo”) is a breach of contract and trademark infringement suit involving Plaintiff Baskin-Robbins/BR IP Holder, a well-known franchisor in the ice cream industry, and Defendants Blu Moo Ice Cream Inc., and Robert Holocher.

According to the complaint, Baskin-Robbins entered into franchise agreements with Blu Moo Ice Cream Inc. for the operation of Baskin-Robbins franchises in the greater Indianapolis area. However, Baskin-Robbins claims the termination of the agreements ensued due to Blu Moo’s repeated failure to fulfill financial obligations to Baskin-Robbins, triggering a series of legal actions.

The crux of the case revolves around Blu Moo’s alleged unauthorized use of Baskin-Robbins’ intellectual property, including trademarks and trade dress, after the termination of franchise agreements. Baskin-Robbins claims to have given clear instructions to cease operations and de-identify the restaurants, but Blu Moo purportedly continued to operate, sparking Baskin-Robbins’ claim of irreparable harm to their brand reputation and goodwill.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently provided crucial clarification on the patentability of inventions facilitated by artificial intelligence (AI). The announcement, made on February 12th, has significant implications for intellectual property (IP) law and innovation in the rapidly evolving realm of AI technology.

AIPhoto-300x200The USPTO’s guidance delineates the conditions under which patents will be granted for AI-assisted inventions, emphasizing the indispensable role of human ingenuity in the innovation process. According to the new directive, patents can encompass AI-assisted inventions “for which a natural person provided a significant contribution.” This pivotal criterion underscores the agency’s commitment to fostering innovation while maintaining a balance that avoids undue restrictions on future developments.

The emergence of artificial intelligence has precipitated novel challenges in IP law, prompting inquiries into the patentability of inventions produced with AI assistance. While U.S. courts have determined that AI systems themselves cannot be patent holders for fully AI-generated inventions, the issue of human involvement in AI-assisted inventions remained unresolved until now.

Plaintiff Excelencia Importing Pty Ltd. d/b/a Kennels & Kats (“K&K”) brought forth a complaint against Defendant Jinping Leng d/b/a Delomo (“Defendant”). The core allegation was that the Defendant, through inequitable conduct, obtained U.S. Patent No. D827,946 for a “Pet Grooming Glove,” a design that was allegedly already in circulation in the United States before the patent application. The complaint contended that the Defendant deliberately failed to disclose this information to the USPTO during the patent’s prosecution.

The legal action cPicture1-213x300laimed that the Defendant’s failure to disclose prior art during the patent prosecution process was intentional. K&K, an online retailer specializing in pet supply products, alleged that the Defendant was fully aware of the materiality of the omissions, which rendered the design in the Asserted Patent unpatentable. The complaint suggested that, had the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) been aware of this information, the patent would not have been granted.

The complaint further asserted that the Defendant, despite knowledge of the invalidity of the Asserted Patent, made false infringement claims to Amazon against K&K. This action resulted in the suspension of K&K’s Amazon listings, causing immediate harm to its business. The ramifications of such suspension on an online retailer’s revenue and reputation are substantial, especially given Amazon’s market dominance.

Picture1On January 12, 2024, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in the matter of UIRC-GSA Holdings v. William Blair, upheld a district court’s ruling to award summary judgment and attorneys’ fees in favor of Blair. The issue revolved around copyright infringement claims brought by UIRC-GSA Holdings against William Blair, a financial services company. UIRC-GSA Holdings (hereafter referred to as UIRC) alleged that Blair copied certain documents used in bond offerings, which UIRC claimed copyright protection over. Blair prevailed at summary judgment, and the district court awarded attorneys’ fees under the Copyright Act.  UIRC appealed, arguing that the district court erred in ruling that UIRC lacked the requisite originality for valid copyrights in the documents and in awarding fees to Blair.

The case involved UIRC, a company managing properties leased to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), seeking capital by pooling GSA properties and offering bonds. UIRC produced key documents for this process, including a private placement memorandum (PPM) and an indenture of trust, largely adapted from documents by the Idaho Housing and Finance Association, with the addition of some new language. The legal issue concerned the originality and copyrightability of UIRC’s documents, as copyright law requires works to be independently created with some degree of creativity to qualify for protection.

The district court ruled in favor of Blair, finding that UIRC’s documents lacked the necessary originality for copyright protection. The court noted that UIRC had extensively copied language from documents prepared by the Idaho Housing and Finance Association. Additionally, the court found that the new text added by UIRC consisted primarily of facts, fragmented phrases, or language dictated by functional considerations, which are not eligible for copyright protection.

Kat-297x300In a courtroom showdown that has captivated both the art and legal worlds, celebrity tattoo artist Kat Von D emerged victorious in a copyright lawsuit brought against her by photographer Jeffrey Sedlik. The case, which centered on Von D’s use of Sedlik’s portrait of jazz legend Miles Davis as the basis for a tattoo she inked on a friend’s arm, has been closely followed by industry insiders and fans alike.

The verdict, delivered by a Los Angeles jury after just over two hours of deliberation, was a resounding win for Von D and the broader tattoo artist community. The jury found that Von D’s tattoo, drawing, and social media posts based on Sedlik’s portrait constituted fair use of the copyrighted work, effectively dismissing the photographer’s claims of infringement.

For Von D, the decision marked the end of a two-year legal ordeal. “I’m obviously very happy for this to be over,” she said, acknowledging the toll the lawsuit had taken on her and her fellow tattoo artists. The outcome was met with similar relief and excitement among supporters who had stood by her throughout the trial.

Zanzi-PicIn a recent announcement from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division, the legal community welcomes a new addition to its ranks. Abizer Zanzi has been selected as the United States Magistrate Judge, succeeding the esteemed Honorable Joshua P. Kolar, who has recently been elevated to Circuit Judge of the United states Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

With degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Duke University School of Law, Mr. Zanzi arrives with a wealth of expertise. As an Assistant United States Attorney in Hammond, Indiana, he has played a pivotal role in prosecuting diverse cases, spanning national security, public corruption, terrorism, human trafficking, and white-collar crimes. Beyond his legal work, his commitment to justice shines through his pro bono representation of indigent clients and his volunteer coaching of youth baseball during his leisure time.

Upon the announcement, Chief Judge Holly A. Brady remarked, “While many qualified candidates applied for the position, Mr. Zanzi’s extensive experience in both civil and criminal litigation and his prior experience clerking with the Court made him a clear choice for the vacancy. In addition to his diverse experience, the pro bono work he has performed demonstrates his clear commitment to equal justice under the law. We are all anxious for Mr. Zanzi to join the Court. He will be a tremendous asset to the Court and litigants.”

The U.S. Trademark Office issued the following  342 trademark registrations to persons and businesses in Indiana in January 2024 based on applications filed by Indiana trademark attorneys:

Registration Number                 Wordmark
7273469 ELEVEN FIFTY ACADEMY
7290247 IN INDIANA
7279911 C AI
7269833 I
7271920 INDIANA PUBLIC MEDIA
7281179 INDIANA PUBLIC MEDIA
7271919 INDIANA PUBLIC MEDIA

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Judge-Lee-207x300In a solemn moment that echoed across the Northern District of Indiana, the flags flew at half-staff, paying tribute to a titan of justice, Senior Judge William C. Lee. With a career spanning over four decades at the U.S. District Court, Judge Lee left an indelible mark on the legal community and beyond, his passing marking the end of an era.

Born and raised in Fort Wayne, Judge Lee’s journey into law commenced with humble beginnings. Graduating from North Side High School in 1955, he embarked on a path that led him to Yale University, where he laid the groundwork for what would become a remarkable career. However, it was his time at the University of Chicago Law School, where he earned his Juris Doctorate in 1962, that truly shaped his trajectory towards judicial excellence.

The pinnacle of Judge Lee’s career came with his appointment as a district judge by U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Serving as Chief Judge from 1997 to 2003, he embodied integrity and wisdom, earning respect and admiration from his peers and the community alike.

Pic-300x282In a recent legal action, California-based Plaintiff Secada Medical LLC, doing business as Ventris Medical, LLC, has filed a complaint against Defendant Nexxt Spine, LLC alleging trademark infringement and unfair competition under the federal Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1051 et seq.

Court documents state that Ventris has expertise in creating, promoting, and distributing advanced tissue and bone healing solutions tailored to meet the specific requirements of different surgical fields. Ventris claims to have actively advertised and sold items bearing the CONNEXT® brand for numerous years. They allege that Nexxt Spine, and Indiana company, is violating Ventris’ trademark by using a similar mark, CONNEXX, for their own surgical implant kits.

The crux of Ventris’ complaint lies in the similarity between the CONNEXT® mark and Nexxt Spine’s CONNEXX mark, with the only difference being the final letter (“T” vs. “X”). Ventris asserts that both marks are used in connection with highly related surgical products and are targeted at the same consumers within the medical community, thus increasing the likelihood of confusion among consumers regarding the source or affiliation of the products.

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