Articles Posted in New Decisions

The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed the trial court on both issues on appeal in the case of American Consulting, Inc. d/b/a American Structurepoint, Inc. (“American”) versus Hannum Wagle & Cline Engineering, Inc., d/b/a HWC Engineering, Inc. (“HWC”), Marlin A. Knowles, Jr., Jonathan A. Day, David Lancet, and Tom Mobley, originally filed in the Marion County Superior Court.

American-HWC-Engineering-logos-1-300x100Knowles, Day, Lancet, and Mobley were all previous employees of American. Mobley was granted summary judgment in his favor in the trial court so claims against him were not discussed on appeal. Each of the employees signed contracts precluding them from hiring or employing other American employees. These contracts each had clauses for liquidated damages upon breach set at 50% of the employee’s pay during the twelve months prior to the breach for Knowles and 100% of the employee’s pay during the twelve months prior to the breach for Day and Lancet.

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The Supreme Court of the United States has issued an Opinion affirming the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in the case of Laura Peter, Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, versus NantKwest, Inc. (“NantKwest”).

Following an adverse decision by the USPTO, an applicant may either appeal directly to the Federal Circuit, 35 U.S.C. § 141,  or may file a new civil action against the USPTO Director in the United NantKwest-BlogPhotoStates District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, 35 U.S.C. § 145. In this case, NantKwest filed a new civil action in the District Court. Under § 145, the applicant is required to pay “[a]ll the expenses of the proceedings.”

The District Court granted summary judgment for the USPTO affirming the denial of NantKwest’s patent application. The Federal Circuit then affirmed the decision of the District Court. Following this affirmation, the USPTO moved for the reimbursement of its expenses, “including the pro rata salaries of PTO attorneys and a paralegal who worked on the case.” The District Court denied the motion finding “that the statutory language referencing expenses was not sufficient to rebut the ‘American Rule’ presumption that parties are responsible for their own attorney’s fees.” That decision was affirmed by the en banc Federal Circuit.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued an opinion as to Summary Judgment in the case of Columbia Sportswear North America, Inc. (“Columbia”), an Oregon Corporation, versus Seirus Innovative Accessories, Inc. (“Seirus”), a Utah Corporation. This appeal by Seirus-logo-300x289 Columbia came after a jury trial in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California found that claims 2 and 23 of U.S. Patent 8,453,270 (the “’270 Patent”) are invalid as anticipated and obvious. Seirus cross-appealed from the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon’s grant of summary judgment that it infringes U.S. Patent D657,093 (the “’093 Patent”) and from the entry of the jury’s damages award. The Court of Appeals found claims 2 and 23 of the ‘270 Patent are invalid and that the Court for the District of Oregon erred in granting summary judgment for infringement of the ‘093 Patent.

Columbia originally filed suit in the District of Oregon on January 12, 2015 claiming that Seirus infringed both the ‘270 and ‘093 Patents. Seirus moved to transfer the case to the Southern District of California, but that motion was denied. The district court then “granted summary judgment that Seirus’s HeatWave products infringe the ‘093 patent” stating that “the difference in wave pattern, orientation, and the presence of Seirus’s logo” were characterized as “minor differences.” Seirus moved to transfer the case to the Southern District of California for a second time, two years after its first motion, in light of the decision in TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Grp. Brans LLC, 137 S. Ct. 1514 (2017). Due to the intervening case law, the District of Oregon transferred the remainder of the claims to the Southern District of California.

A jury trial wPatent-Design-Logo-274x300as held in the Southern District of California and claims 2 and 3 of the ‘270 Patent were found to be invalid as anticipated and obvious. The jury also awarded Columbia $3,018,174 in damages for non-willful infringement of the ‘093 Patent. Both Parties “filed post-trial motions for judgment as a matter of law and for a new trial, but the court summarily denied them in a two-page opinion.” Subsequently, the Parties each filed notices of appeal.

The court’s denial of the motions for judgment as a matter of law is reviewed by the substantial evidence standard. “A jury’s verdict must be upheld if supported by substantial evidence.” OTR Wheel Eng’g, Inc. v. W. Worldwide Servs. Inc., 897 F.3d 1008, 1015 (9th Cir. 2018) (citing Unicolors, Inc. v. Urban Outfitters, Inc., 853 F.3d 980, 984 (9th Cir. 2017). The court’s denial of a motion for a new trial is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Molski v. M.J. Cable, Inc., 481 F.3d 724, 728 (9th Cir. 2007). The granting of a new trial may only be done “if the verdict is contrary to the clear weight of the evidence, is based upon false or perjurious evidence, or to prevent a miscarriage of justice.” Passantino v. Johnson & Johnson Consumer Prods., Inc., 212 F.3d 493, 510 n.15 (9th Cir. 2000). Continue reading

The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued an opinion reversing the denial of attorney’s fees, remanding for an entry BlogPhoto-300x96of a reasonable fee reward under 15 U.S.C. § 1117(a), and affirming all other aspects of the judgment of the district court in the case of 4SEMO.com Incorporated (“4SEMO”) versus Southern Illinois Storm Shelters, Inc. (“SISS”), et al. (collectively “Defendants”). While the Defendants originally sued 4SEMO in this case, the case was reconfigured as above for the July 2017 bench trial and decision, which was on appeal.

According to the opinion, 4SEMO began selling storm shelters manufactured by SISS in 2005. 4SEMO is a Missouri-based home-remodeling firm while Robert Ingoldsby and his brother Scott (the “Ingoldsbys”) run the Illinois based company, SISS. 4SEMO began marketing the storm shelters under a wordmark “Life Saver Storm Shelters” and a matching logo (the “Marks”) that it affixed to the shelters it sold in Missouri and Arkansas pursuant to an exclusive dealership agreement with SISS. The Ingoldsbys were granted a limited license to use the 4SEMO Marks for shelters marketed in southern Illinois. However, the Ingoldsbys violated the limited license by using the 4SEMO Marks on shelters sold throughout the country.

SISS sued 4SEMO for trademark infringement over the “Life Saver” wordmark, claiming they had used it prior to 4SEMO and that they had ownership of the wordmark. 4SEMO counterclaimed for trademark infringement and false endorsement, along with various state-law claims. After SISS’s claim did not survive summary judgement, 4SEMO’s counterclaims were tried to the bench and the district court found in favor of 4SEMO on all counts and awarded $17,371,003 in damages for profit disgorgement and $26,940 for breach of contract. However, 4SEMO’s motion for vexatious-litigation sanctions and attorney’s fees under 28 U.S.C. § 1927 and the Lanham Act, respectively, was denied.

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LHO Chicago River, LLC (“LHO”) filed a trademark infringement suit against Joseph J. Perillo, Rosemoor Suites, LLC, and Portfolio HotelsBlogPhoto1-300x138 & Resorts, LLC (collectively the “Defendants”) in the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern BlogPhoto2-300x172District. The case was voluntarily dismissed by LHO and after being denied their Lanham Act attorney fees, the Defendants appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The Court of Appeals held the Supreme Court’s decision in Octane Fitness, LLC v. ICON Health & Fitness, Inc., 572 U.S. 545 (2014), which was a patent case, should guide district courts when facing attorney fee applications under the Lanham Act.

LHO’s upscale hotel in downtown Chicago underwent a branding change to become “Hotel Chicago” in February 2014. Just over two years later, the Defendants opened their own “Hotel Chicago” about three miles from LHO’s hotel. LHO then sued “for trademark infringement and unfair competition under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a), and for trademark infringement and deceptive trade practices under Illinois state law.” After litigating for over one year, LHO moved to voluntarily dismiss its claims and the judgment was entered on February 21, 2018.

After judgment was entered, pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1117(a), Defendants made a post-judgment request for attorney fees. In their brief, the Defendants cited two different standards for determining if attorney fees should be granted: (1) the Seventh Circuit’s prevailing standard, “that a case is exceptional under § 1117(a) if the decision to bring the claim constitutes an ‘abuse of process’; and (2) the more relaxed totality-of-the-circumstances approach under the Patent Act” from the Octane case. The district judge acknowledged Octane in his findings but did not adopt that approach and denied Defendants request for attorney fees.

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Indianapolis, IndianaThe case of AWGI, LLC and Atlas Van Lines, Inc. versus American Wide Relocation Inc. d/b/a Atlas Moving and Storage (“American Wide”) was filed by Plaintiffs alleging American Wide infringed their rights in two separate United States Registered Trademarks. American Wide failed to appear or respond to Plaintiffs’ Complaint and upon Motion for Final Default Judgment, the Court granted default judgment to the Plaintiffs on October 1, 2019.

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In accordance with the default judgment, American Wide and all those persons who receive actual notice of the Court’s Order are permanently enjoined and restrained from: causing likelihood of confusion; “directly or indirectly falsely designating or representing that any goods or services are authorized, approved, associated with, or originate from, Plaintiffs”; “directly or indirectly using the ‘Atlas’ mark and the Infringing Logo or any confusingly similar variants”; utilizing the “Atlas” mark and the Infringing Logo; and “publishing, assembling, marketing, distributing, or otherwise utilizing any literature . . . which bear the ‘Atlas’ mark and the Infringing Logo”.

American Wide was further ordered: to destroy all literature, advertisements, etc. that bear the “Atlas” mark and the Infringing Logo; to notify its customers that the “Atlas” mark and Infringing Logo are not connected with Plaintiffs; and to immediately comply with the Court’s Order including filing “a statement, under oath and penalty of perjury, that each and every injunctive provision has been fully and completely complied with.” Finally, American Wide was ordered to transfer all internet domains and social media accounts that incorporate the term “Atlas” to the Plaintiffs.

Hammond, IndianaThe Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division, issued its Opinion and Order denying a Motion for Preliminary Injunction in the case of Furrion Property Holding Limited, and Furrion Limited (collectively “Furrion”) versus Way Interglobal Network, LLC (“Way Interglobal”). This case was filed by Furrion-BlogPhoto-300x173Furrion in July 2019 alleging Way Interglobal’s oven infringed Furrion’s 2 in 1 Range Oven. Furrion then moved for a preliminary injunction, barring any further sales of the allegedly infringing product until the lawsuit was decided. The Court held Furrion “failed to meet its burden of showing irreparable harm”, and therefore denied the Motion for a Preliminary Injunction.

Furrion, as evidence of intentional copying and infringement, claims the user manual produced by Way Interglobal utilizes identical language to Furrion’s manual. While that could be an exceptional coincidence, Judge Simon found the images included in Way Interglobal’s manual included images of Furrion’s 2 in 1 Range Oven including Furrion’s trademarked logo. Way Interglobal’s CEO and president, Wayne Kaylor, testified that he was unaware of the similarities in the user manuals and speculated that the Chinese manufacturer who writes the user manual may have taken a shortcut when preparing the manual. Kaylor further testified that Way Interglobal had heard rumors that Furrion was alleging Way Interglobal’s range oven infringed Furrion’s patents in or around July 2018 and that “Way Interglobal changed the metal grate of its gas range to distinguish it from Furrion’s” without admitting any infringement.

To find in favor of Furrion’s motion for preliminary injunction, Furrion must show “(1) a likelihood of success on the merits . . . ; (2) a likelihood of irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted; (3) the balance of hardships between the parties favors an injunction; and (4) the public interest likewise favors an injunction.” PHG Techs., LLC v. St. John Companies, Inc., 469 F.3d 1361, 1365 (Fed. Cir. 2006). “[I]f the moving party fails to clear the likelihood of success and irreparable harm hurdles, ‘a court’s inquiry is over and the injunction must be denied” in the Seventh Circuit. Abbott Labs v. Mead Johnson & Co., 971 F.2d 6, 11 (7th Cir. 1992). However, if the moving party shows all four elements, the court weighs he factors in deciding whether to grant the injunction.

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The Petitioner, Lippert Components, Inc. (“Lippert”), filed a Petition for inter partes review of claims 12 and 13 of Days Corporation’s (“Days”) United States Patent No. 6,619,693 B1 (the “‘693 Patent”) for “Apparatus andLippert-BlogPhoto-300x214 Method for Automatically Leveling an Object”. In addition to filing its Reply and Sur-Reply to the inter partes review, Days also filed a Motion to Amend the ‘693 Patent. Days also filed a Motion to Exclude Evidence prior to the oral hearing. The United States Patent Trial and Appeal Board (the “PTAB”) determined claims 12 and 13 of the ‘693 Patent are unpatentable, denied Days’ Motion to Amend, and dismissed Days’ Motion to Exclude as moot.

The ‘693 Patent “discloses an apparatus for automatically leveling a vehicle, such as a recreational vehicle, that is located on uneven terrain or an out-of-level surface.” The vehicle to be leveled contains four adjustable legs that can be manually lowered and raised to achieve a feeling of true level relative to horizontal in the interior of the vehicle. The leveling process can also be performed automatically with the use of a controller. The person having ordinary skill in the art for the Court’s analysis was found to be a person having “either a bachelor’s degree in engineering, preferably mechanical or electrical, or at least five years of work experience in the field of vehicle leveling systems and related equipment.”

The PTAB interpreted the claims 12 and 13 of the ‘693 Patent using the “broadest reasonable construction in light of the patent’s specification.” See 37 C.F.R. § 42.100(b) (2018). The term “reference level plane”, when referring to a pre-set vehicle orientation plane, may be construed to be a plane in which the vehicle feels at true level to horizontal. In claims 12 and 13, there are two identical “Sensor Limitations”. Those Sensor Limitations are “a sensor . . . to sense pitch and roll of the vehicle relative to a reference level plane,” and “the sensor produces an orientation signal representing the vehicle pitch and roll.” In this case, the PTAB agreed with Lippert in that when construed “under the broadest reasonable construction in light of the ‘693 patent specification, claims 12 and 13 do not require the sensor to be aligned directly along the vehicle’s longitudinal and lateral axes.” The PTAB further stated that “[c]onstruing claims 12 and 13 to be limited to a sensor that must be aligned directly along the vehicle’s longitudinal and lateral axes would improperly incorporate a limitation into the claims from the specification.”

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Indianapolis, Indiana – Attorneys for Plaintiff, Tenstreet, LLC (“Tenstreet”) of Tulsa, Oklahoma, filed suit in DriverReach-BlogPhotothe Southern District of Indiana alleging that Defendant, DriverReach, LLC (“DriverReach”) of Indianapolis, Indiana, infringed its rights in United States Patent No. 8,145,575 (the “‘575 Patent”) for “Peer to Peer Sharing of Job Applicant Information”. Defendant moved to dismiss the Complaint and the Court has now granted that motion.  This case was described on this site here.

Tenstreet develops products for the transportation industry such as its XchangeTM network to help share job applicant verification data between employers, past and present, for commercial truck drivers. The ‘575 Patent, obtained by Tenstreet on March 27, 2012, claims to streamline the verification process between past and prospective employers while giving the drivers a chance to review and correct information before it is sent to the prospective employer. DriverReach allegedly sells its own employment verification product, VOE Plus Solutions. Tenstreet claimed VOE Plus Solutions infringed on the ‘575 Patent. DriverReach moved the Court to dismiss Tenstreet’s claims “on the ground that the ‘575 patent is patent-ineligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101.”

Pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 101, patentable subject matter is “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.” However, the Supreme Court has held “that this provision contains an important implicit exception[:] Laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas are not patentable.” Ass’n for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., 569 U.S. 576, 589 (2013) (quoting Mayo Collaborative Servs. V. Prometheus Labs., Inc., 566 U.S. 66, 70 (2012)). In this case, the Court discusses the abstract idea exception. When determining if a patent claims an abstract idea, the Court first looks to whether the claims are directed to a patent-ineligible concept. Second, the Court looks for an “inventive concept” which transforms the claim into a patent-eligible application.

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Indianapolis, Indiana – Judge Richard L. Young of the Southern District of Indiana issued a decision on cross-motions for attorneys’ fees and costs in the case of Richard N. Bell (“Bell”) versus Michael Maloney (“Maloney”). The Court first entered judgment in favor of Bell on June 11, 2019 granting him $200 in statutory damages, and costs. Bell sought $33,536,25 in attorney’s fees and $4,719.80 in costs. Maloney made a cross-motion “for leave to file a Bill of Costs totaling $2,183.77 and to enforce the Rule 68 offer. The Court found that the Rule 68 offer should be enforced and Maloney is entitled to the costs he incurred after the offer was rejected.

Bell sent a demand letter to Maloney for $5,000.00 prior to filing this suit. After Bell filed suit, Maloney filed his Answer and then sent Bell an Offer of Judgment pursuant to FRCP 68. This offer was for $2,500.00 for Bell to take judgment against Maloney and would include all attorney’s fees and costs. Bell denied the Rule 68 offer and after the denial of cross-motions for summary judgment, the case went to a bench trial. After the one-day bench trial, the Court found Bell was the prevailing party and was entitled to $200 in statutory damages. Bell filed his motion for fees and costs eleven months after the bench trial occurred.

FRCP 68 provides in part, “[i]f the judgment that the offeree finally obtains is not more favorable than the unaccepted offer, the offeree must pay the costs incurred after the offer was made.” The court in Payne v. Milwaukee Cty., 288 F.3d 1021, 1024 (7th Cir. 2002), found that “Rule 68 is designed to provide a disincentive for plaintiffs from continuing to litigate a case after being presented with a reasonable offer.” In determining if a final judgment obtained is less favorable than a Rule 68 offer, “the attorney’s fees and costs that accrued before the offer must be added to the judgment.” Lawrence v. City of Philadelphia, 700 F.Supp. 832, 836 (E.D. PA. 1988).

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