Articles Posted in New Decisions

Hammond, IndianaTyler Research Corporation (“TRC”), the Plaintiff, filed suit against the Defendants, Envacon, Inc., Kieran Bozman, and JKKB Holding Corporation, alleging infringement of its rights in United States Patent No. 6,273,053 (the “‘053 Patent”). After amending the Complaint, the Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint Pursuant to Forum Non-Conveniens.

TRC is apparently a Pennsylvania corporation having its principal place of business in Alberta, Canada. According to the Opinion of the Court, Envacon, Inc. and JKKB Holding Corporation are both Canadian entities and Kieran Bozman resides in Canada.

Forum non conveniens allows a district court to dismiss a case “in order to best service the convenience of the parties and the ends of justice.” Stroitelstvo Bulgaria Ltd. v. Bulgarian-American Enter. Fund, 589 F.3d 417, 421 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Clerides v. Boeing Co., 534 F.3d 623, 627–28 (7th Cir. 2008)). The Court in this case found that while a “Canadian court is unlikely to adjudicate a claim for the infringement of a United States patent,” TRC could still bring a claim for infringement of its Canadian patent and a claim for breach of contract, “which alone would remedy the alleged wrong.” Opinion at p. 9. After finding an alternative forum is available for the case, the Court conducted an analysis and found the public interest and private interests of the parties would be best served by dismissing the case and allowing it to proceed in Canada. Therefore, the Court granted the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss.

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https://www.iniplaw.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/366/2020/10/Booking.com-Logo-300x76.pngWashington, D.C.– A travel-reservation website, Booking.com, filed federal trademark applications for a number of marks including the term “Booking.com.” After being examined, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) refused registration for the mark on the grounds it was a generic name for online reservation services.

However, the District Court, the Fourth Circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court all found “Booking.com” should be granted registration even though the term “booking” on its own would be generic. The Courts reasoned that because only one entity can occupy an internet domain name at one time, consumers could associate a term styled as “generic.com” with a particular website and source of services.

While the USPTO also argued that allowing trademark protection for “Booking.com” could inhibit competitors from using the term “booking,” the Supreme Court cited multiple doctrines that guard against anticompetitive effects. Those doctrines ensure that a registration for terms such as “Booking.com” would not give the registrant a monopoly on the term “booking.” Therefore, the Supreme Court declined to rule in a manner “that would largely disallow registration of ‘generic.com’ terms and open the door to cancellation of scores of currently registered marks.”

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Indianapolis, Indiana – Eli Lilly and Company (“Lilly”) filed suit on November 13, 2019 in the Southern District of Indiana against Defendant SensorRx seeking a declaratory judgment that it had not misappropriated trade secrets among other things. SensorRx in turn, on November 22, 2019 filed a lawsuit in the Western District of North Carolina seeking injunctive relief and monetary damages. SensorRx then filed a Motion to Dismiss or to Transfer Lilly’s declaratory action suit to North Carolina.

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The Southern District found Lilly’s declaratory action was an “improper anticipatory filing” as there was a clear threat of litigation prior to the filing of the declaratory action. As such, the Court declined to exercise its discretion to hear the declaratory judgment action. The Court further found that the balance of factors under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) weighed in favor of transferring the action to the Western District of North Carolina where SensorRx filed its suit. Therefore, SensorRx’s Motion to Transfer was granted and the case was transferred to the Western District of North Carolina. Continue reading

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion in the case of Molson Coors Beverage Co. (“Molson Coors”) v. Anheuser-Busch Companies, LLC (“Anheuser-Busch”) which was originally filed in United District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

The basic issue is whether “the true statement ‘their [Molson Coors] beer is made using corn syrup and ours [Anheuser-Busch] isn’t’ wrongly implies that ‘their beer contains corn syrup.’” While the ingredient lists for both Miller Lite and Coors Light include “Corn Syrup (Dextrose),” Molson Coors argues that a list of “ingredients” is different from what is contained in the finished product. To support its argument, Molson Coors relies on the fact alcohol is omitted from the ingredients list, but is included in the final product. Continue reading

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling that Flexible Steel Lacing Co.’s (“Flexco”) trade dress is invalid because it is functional.

Flexco originally filed suit in the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division for trade dress infringement and unfair competition against Conveyor Accessories, Inc. (“CAI”). CAI counterclaimed seeking cancellation of Flexco’s trademarks and seeking declaratory judgment of invalidity, unenforceability, and noninfringement. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of CAI, finding that Flexco’s trade dress was functional because the product’s utilitarian advantages were disclosed in an expired utility patent, internal corporate documents, and advertising materials.

This case was before Chief Judge, Diane Wood, Judge Joel Flaum and Judge Kenneth Ripple assigned Appeal No. 19-2035 and was decided April 7, 2020.

U.S. Supreme Court–Frederick Allen (“Allen”) was hired as a videographer to document the recovery of the Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck off the North Carolina coast. Allen worked to document the recovery for over a decade and registered copyrights for his works. When North Carolina published some of Allen’s work online, Allen sued for copyright infringement. North Carolina moved to dismiss the lawsuit on the ground of state sovereign immunity; while Allen argued the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act of 1990 (“CRCA”) removed the States’ sovereign immunity.

The District Court agreed with Allen while the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in favor of North Carolina on March 23, 2020.

Sovereign immunity has recently been the basis for granting summary judgment in several recent copyright cases in the Southern District of Indiana, namely at least Richard N. Bell v. Jay L. Hess, Case No. 1:16-cv-02463-TWP-DML, (S.D. Ind. March 9, 2018) and Richard N. Bell v. Jason Henderson, Case No. 1:16-cv-02488-RLY-DML, (S.D. Ind. July 23, 2018).

Indianapolis, Indiana – Appellants, GS CleanTech Corporation and Greenshift Corporation (collectively “CleanTech”), appealed the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana’s finding that U.S. Patent Nos. 7,601,858 (the “‘858 patent”), 8,008,516 (the “‘516 patent”), 8,008,517 (the “‘517 patent”), and 8,283,484 (the “‘484 patent”) (together, the “Patents-in-Suit”) are unenforceable due to inequitable conduct. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed.

Before joining CleanTech in 2006, David Cantrell founded Vortex Dehydration Technology (“VDT”). In June 2003, Mr. Cantrell sent an email to two Agri-Energy LLC (“Agri-Energy”) employees regarding how VDT’s oil recovery system may be applicable in an ethanol plant. He also included an operational cost spreadsheet and an image of the system. VDT representatives conducted tests with Agri-Energy’s ethanol syrup in early July 2003.

A proposal dated July 31, 2003 was emailed to multiple Agri-Energy employees on August 1, 2003 offering “Agri-Energy a No-Risk trial [of the] ‘Oil Recovery System.’” The proposal allowed Agri-Energy to use the unit for sixty days at which point it could purchase the system for $423,000 or return it to VDT. That proposal was not accepted, however, in early 2004 communications resumed and the system was installed in the Agri-Energy plant in May 2004.

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District of Oregon – Richard Bell, a well-known copyright infringement litigant, has filed over 100 lawsuits regarding infringement of U.S. Copyright No. VA0001785115 (the “Indianapolis Photo”). However, in September 2019, a federal jury in Bell v. Carmen Commercial Real Estate Servs. found that Bell was unable to prove that he actually owned the Indianapolis Photo. Case No. 1:16-cv-01174-JRS-MPB, (S.D. Ind. Sept. 26, 2019). Being that the first element in a copyright infringement claim is to prove ownership of a valid copyright, it appeared that the jury’s decision would put an end to future litigation for Bell.

In the present case, Bell, sought a default judgment against Michael J. Davis and three other Defendants for allegedly infringing his rights in the Indianapolis Photo in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. After the Defendants failed to appear or respond to the Complaint, the Magistrate Judge issued an entry of default against all of the Defendants. Bell then filed a motion for an entry of default judgment to be entered along with an award of $150,000 in statutory damages, attorneys’ fees, costs, and injunctive relief.

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Indianapolis, Indiana – Cook Medical was granted a new trial after the Honorable Richard L. Young, a judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, admitted to errors in allowing inadmissible evidence to be presented to the jury by counsel for Plaintiff, Tonya Brand.

Ms. Brand was implanted with a Cook Celect® Inferior Vena Cava Filter (“Cook IVC Filter”) prior to undergoing a complex spine surgery in March 2009. The next month, imaging was taken that showed the filter perforating Ms. Brand’s IVC in multiple places and that one of the filter’s “struts” was hooked on a bone spur. The Cook IVC Filter later fractured in three places in just over two years after its initial placement. A piece of the Cook IVC Filter emerged through Ms. Brand’s thigh. After a failed attempt by Ms. Brand’s doctor to retrieve the filter in July 2011, the doctor and Ms. Brand elected to leave the fractured Cook IVC Filter in place until it was removed in 2015. Ms. Brand filed a products liability suit in November 2014 and was awarded a jury verdict in the amount of $3 million on February 1, 2019.

A new trial may be granted if the trial was not fair to the moving party or if the improper admission of evidence has a “substantial influence on the jury” and the result was “inconsistent with substantial justice.” The main piece of evidence objected to by Cook was Brand’s trial exhibit 1913 (“PX-1913”). This exhibit was an email chain between Cook employees including multiple instances of hearsay and a table with details of 27 deaths associated with Cook IVC Filters. The Court on review found Ms. Brand’s injuries were not substantially similar to those patients listed on the table and the emails contained inadmissible hearsay and therefore PX-1913 was improperly admitted. Further, Ms. Brand’s counsel relied heavily on the connection between the Cook IVC Filter and death based on PX-1913 which was found to be inappropriate and prejudicial on review. Finally, the Court found “a jury could have just as easily found in Cook’s favor.” and because this trial was so close it, “is more likely to have been affected by errors.” Therefore, the Court granted Cook’s Motion for New Trial.

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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