Justia Trademark Opinion Summaries
Valancourt Books, LLC v. Merrick Garland
The Copyright Office sent a letter to Valancourt Books, LLC, an independent press based in Richmond, Virginia, demanding physical copies of Valancourt’s published books on the pain of fines. Valancourt protested that it could not afford to deposit physical copies and that much of what it published was in the public domain. In response, the Office narrowed the list of demanded works but continued to demand that Valancourt deposit copies of its books with the Library of Congress or otherwise face a fine. Valancourt then brought this action against the Register of Copyrights and the Attorney General. Valancourt challenged the application of Section 407’s deposit requirement against it as an unconstitutional taking of its property in violation of the Fifth Amendment and an invalid burden on its speech in violation of the First Amendment. The district court granted summary judgment to the government on both claims. The DC Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in the government’s favor and remanded for the entry of judgment to Valancourt and the award of relief. The court concluded that Section 407, as applied by the Copyright Office in this case, worked an unconstitutional taking of Valancourt’s property. The court explained that the Office demanded that Valancourt relinquish property (physical copies of copyrighted books) on the pain of fines. And because the requirement to turn over copies of the works is not a condition of attaining (or retaining) copyright protection in them, the demand to forfeit property cannot be justified as the conferral of a benefit in exchange for property. View "Valancourt Books, LLC v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law
ORACLE USA, INC., ET AL V. RIMINI STREET, INC.
This civil contempt dispute is the fallout from the protracted copyright infringement litigation between Oracle USA, Inc. and Rimini Street, Inc.—now in its thirteenth year. In the underlying case, the district court entered a permanent injunction that enjoined Rimini from various infringing practices. Years later, the district court identified ten potential violations of the permanent injunction (“Issues 1– 10”), and ultimately held Rimini in contempt on five. Rimini was ordered to pay $630,000 in statutory sanctions plus attorneys’ fees. On appeal, Rimini argued that the contempt order should be reversed and that the sanctions should be vacated. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and vacated in part the district court’s order. The permanent injunction generally prohibited Rimini from reproducing, preparing derivative works from, or distributing certain Oracle software. The district court identified ten potential violations of the permanent injunction (Issues 1–10) and held Rimini in contempt on five (Issues 1-4, 8). The panel affirmed the district court’s finding of contempt on Issues 1-4. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in holding Rimini in contempt for hosting Oracle files on its computer systems (Issue 1). The panel also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding Rimini in contempt for violating the injunction against the “cross use” of development environments (Issues 2, 3, and 4). Reversing the finding of contempt on Issue 8, the panel held that the district court abused its discretion in holding Rimini in contempt for creating copies of an Oracle Database file on its systems. View "ORACLE USA, INC., ET AL V. RIMINI STREET, INC." on Justia Law
D.H. Pace Company, Inc. v. OGD Equipment Company, LLC
Pace (a company that sells and services garage doors) sued a competitor, Overhead Garage Door (“OGD”) (a company that also offers garage door services), alleging a host of federal and state law violations relating to OGD’s trade practices. Pace and Overhead Door Corporation (a garage door manufacturer that is not a party to this case but that has a name noticeably similar to Defendant OGD, its competition) have a licensing agreement in which Pace is the licensee, and Overhead Door Corporation is the licensor. As part of this agreement, Pace uses Overhead Door Corporation’s marks. The district court granted summary judgment to OGD on all of Pace’s claims, concluding in large part that Pace could not bring suit because Pace was a nonexclusive licensee that lacked sufficient ownership rights in Overhead Door Corporation’s marks and because OGD and Overhead Door Corporation’s settlement agreement extinguished Pace’s claims. Pace timely appealed. The Eleventh Circuit vacated. The court concluded that Pace may bring its federal and state law claims. The court concluded that the licensing agreement, Pace’s status as a nonexclusive licensee, and the settlement agreement do not bar Pace from bringing its claims under the Lanham Act, state law, or common law. The court explained that although the agreement may prevent OGD and Overhead Door Corporation from suing each other, the settlement agreement is “not . . . binding on . . . current and future licensees.” As such, the settlement agreement is not binding on licensees like Pace and does not prevent Pace from suing View "D.H. Pace Company, Inc. v. OGD Equipment Company, LLC" on Justia Law
Dewberry Engineers Inc. v. Dewberry Group, Inc.
Two companies that operate in the real estate development industry have spent years embroiled in a dispute over their shared name: “Dewberry.” Dewberry Engineers sued Dewberry Group to quell the latter’s use of several new insignias it developed as part of its rebrand. Dewberry Engineers owns federal trademark rights to the “Dewberry” mark and claims Dewberry Group’s rebranding efforts infringe that mark and breach an agreement struck between the sparring corporations over a decade ago. The district court sided with Dewberry Engineers in the proceedings below, assessing a nearly $43 million profit disgorgement award against Dewberry Group for its infringement, enjoining it from further breaches of its agreement with Dewberry Engineers, and ordering it to pay attorneys’ fees for forcing Dewberry Engineers to litigate an exceptional case of trademark infringement. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the parties share an identical, arbitrary dominant word and disclaim different suffixes (and prefixes in some cases) in the marks at issue. The record shows they also employ those marks in related, overlapping, and complementary services. Those details go some distance toward creating a likelihood of confusion as to the origin of either party’s “Dewberry” mark. Moreover, the court explained that despite Dewberry Group’s failure to calculate exact figures or provide evidence of deductions from infringement revenues for losses and expenses, the court equitably reduced the requested award by twenty percent to $42,975,725.60. The court finds no error of fact or law suggesting the district court’s conclusions were an abuse of its discretion. View "Dewberry Engineers Inc. v. Dewberry Group, Inc." on Justia Law
ZACHARY SILBERSHER, ET AL V. VALEANT PHARMACEUTICALS INT’L, ET AL
Plaintiff alleged that Valeant fraudulently obtained two sets of patents related to a drug and asserted these patents to stifle competition from generic drugmakers. Plaintiff further alleged that Defendants defrauded the federal government by charging an artificially inflated price for the drug while falsely certifying that its price was fair and reasonable. Dismissing Plaintiff’s action under the False Claims Act’s public disclosure bar, the district court concluded that his allegations had already been publicly disclosed, including in inter partes patent review (“IPR”) before the Patent and Trademark Office. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal. The panel held that an IPR proceeding in which the Patent and Trademark Office invalidated Valeant’s “‘688” patent was not a channel (i) disclosure because the government was not a party to that proceeding, and it was not a channel (ii) disclosure because its primary function was not investigative. The panel held that, under United States ex rel. Silbersher v. Allergan, 46 F.4th 991 (9th Cir. 2022), the patent prosecution histories of Valeant’s patents were qualifying public disclosures under channel (ii). The panel assumed without deciding that a Law360 article and two published medical studies were channel (iii) disclosures. The panel held that the “substantially the same” prong of the public disclosure bar applies when the publicly disclosed facts are substantially similar to the relator’s allegations or transactions. None of the qualifying public disclosures made a direct claim that Valeant committed fraud, nor did they disclose a combination of facts sufficient to permit a reasonable inference of fraud. View "ZACHARY SILBERSHER, ET AL V. VALEANT PHARMACEUTICALS INT'L, ET AL" on Justia Law
La Bamba Licensing, LLC v. La Bamba Authentic Mex. Cuisine, Inc.
La Bamba Licensing operates Mexican restaurants in the Midwest under the name “La Bamba.” In 1998, La Bamba registered “LA BAMBA” as a trademark for restaurant services and for various food items. Nearly two decades later, La Bamba Authentic Mexican Cuisine opened a Mexican restaurant under the name “La Bamba Authentic Mexican Cuisine” with one location in Lebanon, Kentucky—about 65 miles from one of La Bamba’s restaurants in Louisville. In May 2016, La Bamba sent Cuisine a cease-and-desist letter, citing La Bamba’s federal trademark registrations. La Bamba subsequently sued, alleging trademark infringement and unfair competition under the Lanham Act and Kentucky common law. In October 2017, Cuisine changed the name of its restaurant to “La Villa Rica Authentic Mexican Cuisine, Inc.”The district court granted La Bamba summary judgment and awarded La Bamba $50,741.76 ($22,907.26 in profits; $27,309.50 for attorneys’ fees; and $525.00 for court costs. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, Under the Lanham Act, a plaintiff who succeeds on an infringement claim “shall be entitled” subject to equitable principles, to recover a defendant’s profits, any damages sustained by the plaintiff, and the costs of the action, 15 U.S.C. 1117(a). The district court did not abuse its discretion in considering the relevant factors and making the awards. View "La Bamba Licensing, LLC v. La Bamba Authentic Mex. Cuisine, Inc." on Justia Law
Y.Y.G.M. SA V. REDBUBBLE, INC.
Y.Y.G.M. SA, doing business as Brandy Melville, manufactures its own clothing, home goods, and other items. It owns several trademarks, including the Brandy Melville Heart Mark (Heart Mark) and the LA Lightning Mark (Lightning Mark). Redbubble owns and operates an online marketplace where artists can upload their artwork to be printed on various products and sold. After a jury found that Redbubble, Inc. had violated Brandy Melville’s trademarks, the district court granted partial judgment as a matter of law to Redbubble on one trademark claim. Both parties appealed. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the district court’s judgment after a jury trial in an action brought under the Lanham Act against Red Bubble. Vacating the district court’s order granting in part and denying in part Redbubble’s motion for judgment as a matter of law, the panel held that a party is liable for contributory infringement when it continues to supply its product to one whom it knows or has reason to know is engaging in trademark infringement. A party meets this standard if it is willfully blind to infringement. Agreeing with other circuits, the panel held that contributory trademark liability requires the defendant to have knowledge of specific infringers or instances of infringement. The panel held that, in granting judgment as a matter of law to Redbubble on the claim for contributory trademark counterfeiting as to the Heart Mark, the district court further erred by failing to evaluate the evidence of likelihood of confusion under the correct legal standard. View "Y.Y.G.M. SA V. REDBUBBLE, INC." on Justia Law
HERBAL BRANDS, INC. V. PHOTOPLAZA, INC., ET AL
Herbal Brands, Inc., which has its principal place of business in Arizona, brought suit in Arizona against New York residents that sell products via Amazon storefronts. Herbal Brands alleged that Defendants’ unauthorized sale of Herbal Brands products on Amazon to Arizona residents and others violated the Lanham Act and state law. The district court dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction over Defendants. The Ninth Circuit reversed. The panel held that if a defendant, in its regular course of business, sells a physical product via an interactive website and causes that product to be delivered to the forum, then the defendant has purposefully directed its conduct at the forum such that the exercise of personal jurisdiction may be appropriate. The panel applied the Arizona long-arm statute, which provides for personal jurisdiction co-extensive with the limits of federal due process. Due process requires that a nonresident defendant must have “certain minimum contacts” with the forum such that the exercise of personal jurisdiction does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. The panel held that Herbal Brands met its initial burden of showing that Defendants purposefully directed their activities at the forum because, under the Calder effects test, Defendants’ sale of products to Arizona residents was an intentional act, and Herbal Brands’ cease-and-desist letters informed defendants that their actions were causing harm in Arizona. The court held that Defendants had sufficient minimum contacts with Arizona, Herbal Brands’ harm arose out of those contacts, and the exercise of personal jurisdiction would be reasonable in the circumstances. View "HERBAL BRANDS, INC. V. PHOTOPLAZA, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law
Abitron Austria GmbH v. Hetronic International, Inc.
Hetronic (a U.S. company) manufactures remote controls for construction equipment. Abitron Austria, once a licensed Hetronic distributor, claimed ownership of the rights to much of Hetronic’s intellectual property and began employing Hetronic’s marks on products it sold. Hetronic sued Abitron in the Western District of Oklahoma under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1114(1)(a), 1125(a)(1). A jury awarded Hetronic approximately $96 million. The Tenth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the Lanham Act extended to “all of [Abitron’s] foreign infringing conduct.”The Supreme Court vacated. Applying the presumption against extraterritoriality, the relevant sections of the Lanham Act are not extraterritorial and extend only to claims where the infringing use in commerce is domestic. Neither provision provides an express statement of extraterritorial application or any other clear indication that it is one of the “rare” provisions that nonetheless applies abroad. Both simply prohibit the use “in commerce” of protected trademarks when that use “is likely to cause confusion.” Because sections 1114(1)(a) and 1125(a)(1) are not extraterritorial, the Court considered the location of the conduct relevant to the focus of the statutory provisions: the unauthorized “use in commerce” of a protected trademark under certain conditions. “Use in commerce” provides the dividing line between foreign and domestic applications of these provisions. View "Abitron Austria GmbH v. Hetronic International, Inc." on Justia Law
Spireon, Inc. v. Flex Lrd.
In 2018, Spireon sought to register the mark FL FLEX, for “[e]lectronic devices for tracking the locations of mobile assets" such as trailers, cargo containers, and transportation equipment, using global positioning systems and cellular communication networks. An Examining Attorney approved the application. Flex opposed the registration, citing priority and the likelihood of confusion with Flex’s marks, FLEX, FLEX (stylized), and FLEX PULSE, registered in 2016-2017, for services including supply chain management services, transportation logistics services, and inventory management, and computers, computer software for use in supply chain management, logistics and operations management, quality control, inventory management, scheduling, and related services.The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board Board sustained Flex’s opposition. The Federal Circuit vacated. The Board erred in analyzing conceptual strength under the first DuPont factor, the similarity of the marks, rather than the sixth DuPont factor. The existence of third-party registrations on similar goods can bear on a mark’s conceptual strength. Third-party registrations containing an element that is common to both the opposer’s and the applicant’s marks can show that that element has “a normally understood and well-recognized descriptive or suggestive meaning.” Flex failed to show that the identical marks for identical goods were not used in the marketplace, but on remand, should be allowed to make such a showing. The Board also erred by comparing FL FLEX to FLEX PLUS rather than the relevant mark. View "Spireon, Inc. v. Flex Lrd." on Justia Law