Justia International Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Intellectual Property
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In 2020, Zircon Corp. filed a complaint with the United States International Trade Commission alleging that Stanley Black & Decker, Inc. and Black & Decker (U.S.), Inc. violated section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 by importing and selling electronic stud finders that infringed on Zircon's patents. The Commission instituted an investigation based on Zircon's complaint. A Commission Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found no violation of section 337. On review, the Commission affirmed the ALJ's finding of no violation.The Commission's decision was based on two independent reasons. First, it affirmed the ALJ's determination that Zircon had not satisfied the economic prong of the domestic industry requirement. Zircon had argued that it met this requirement based on its investment in plant and equipment, its employment of labor and capital, and its investment in the exploitation of the asserted patents. However, the Commission found that Zircon had not provided an adequate basis to evaluate the investments and the significance of those investments with respect to each asserted patent.Second, the Commission found each of the claims of the patents that were before the Commission were either invalid or not infringed. The Commission found that all the asserted claims of one patent would have been obvious in view of four prior art references; that several claims of two other patents were invalid as anticipated by or obvious in light of Zircon’s original stud finder; and that several of the claims of these two patents were not infringed.Zircon appealed the Commission's decision, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the Commission's decision. The court agreed with the Commission's interpretation of section 337 and found that substantial evidence supported the Commission's finding that Zircon failed to meet its burden to prove the existence of a domestic industry relating to articles protected by each of its patents. View "ZIRCON CORP. v. ITC " on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute between GeLab Cosmetics LLC, a New Jersey-based online nail polish retailer, and Zhuhai Aobo Cosmetics, a China-based nail polish manufacturer. The founders of GeLab, Xingwang Chen and Shijian Li, are both Chinese citizens. The dispute centers around the ownership of GeLab and allegations of trade secret theft. According to Chen, he and Li founded GeLab with Chen owning 60% and Li 40%. They entered a joint venture with Zhuhai, which was supposed to invest in GeLab for an 80% ownership stake. However, Chen alleges that Zhuhai never sent the money and instead began using low-quality materials for GeLab's products, selling knock-off versions under its own brand, and fraudulently claiming majority ownership of GeLab. Zhuhai, on the other hand, asserts that Chen was its employee and that it owns 80% of GeLab.The dispute first began in China, where Li sued Chen for embezzlement. Chen then sued Li, Zhuhai, and Zhuhai's owners in New Jersey state court, alleging that he had a 60% controlling interest in GeLab and that Zhuhai had no ownership interest. The state defendants counterclaimed, seeking a declaratory judgment that Zhuhai owns 80% of GeLab. GeLab then filed a second action in New Jersey against Li alone. The state court consolidated the two cases.While the New Jersey proceedings were ongoing, GeLab filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against Zhuhai and its owners, alleging violations of the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act and the Illinois Trade Secrets Act. The defendants responded that Zhuhai owns GeLab and that it cannot steal trade secrets from itself. The district court stayed the federal case, citing the doctrine of Colorado River Water Conservation District v. United States, reasoning that judicial economy favors waiting for the New Jersey court to determine who owns the company. GeLab appealed the stay.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to stay the proceedings. The court found that the federal and state cases were parallel as they involved substantially the same parties litigating substantially the same issues. The court also found that exceptional circumstances warranted abstention, with at least seven factors supporting the district court's decision. These factors included the inconvenience of the federal forum, the desirability of avoiding piecemeal litigation, the order in which jurisdiction was obtained by the concurrent fora, the source of governing law, the adequacy of state-court action to protect the federal plaintiff's rights, the relative progress of state and federal proceedings, and the availability of concurrent jurisdiction. View "GeLab Cosmetics LLC v. Zhuhai Aobo Cosmetics Co., Ltd." on Justia Law

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This action represents Metabyte’s fourth attempt to hold Technicolor liable for Technicolor’s allegedly improper auction of a patent portfolio in 2009. After the French courts ruled they lacked jurisdiction in the criminal action, Metabyte brought an action in district court alleging a federal RICO claim and several state law causes of action. After the district court ruled that equitable tolling did not apply to its RICO claim as a matter of federal law, Metabyte dismissed the federal action and brought its state law claims in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The trial court granted Technicolor’s demurrer without leave to amend. Metabyte contends the trial court erred in finding equitable estoppel applies only where a plaintiff invokes remedies designed to lessen the extent of a plaintiff’s injuries or damages, with the result that Article 145 proceeding in France could not support equitable tolling because it did not provide such a remedy. Technicolor defends the trial court’s ruling but devotes more of its energies to its contentions that even if equitable tolling did apply, the order should be affirmed by applying the doctrines of issue preclusion and judicial estoppel.   The Second Appellate District affirmed the trial court’s ruling sustaining the demurrer on the alternate ground that Metabyte failed to adequately plead facts showing that its decision to proceed in France was objectively reasonable and subjectively in good faith. However, the court granted Metabyte leave to amend. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Metabyte v. Technicolor S.A." on Justia Law

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Menasha licensed Nulogy’s software, Nulogy Solution. Years later, Deloitte reviewed Menasha’s systems in hopes of better integrating Nulogy Solution into Menasha’s other software. Deloitte and Menasha asked Nulogy to share proprietary information. Nulogy alleges that the two used this information to reverse engineer an alternative to Nulogy Solution. In 2020, Nulogy filed suit in Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice, alleging breach of contract by Menasha and violations of trade secrets by Menasha and Deloitte. Deloitte objected to jurisdiction in Canada.Nulogy voluntarily dismissed its trade secret claims against both companies and refiled those claims in the Northern District of Illinois under the Defend Trade Secrets Act, 18 U.S.C. 1836(b). The breach of contract claims against Menasha remained pending in Canada. Menasha moved to dismiss the U.S. trade secrets litigation. Menasha’s contract with Nulogy contained a forum selection clause, identifying Ontario, Canada. Deloitte did not join that motion but filed its own motion to dismiss arguing failure to state a claim. The district court dismissed the claims against Menasha but reasoned that the forum non-conveniens doctrine required the dismissal of the entire complaint, including the claims against Deloitte.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Nulogy’s claims against Menasha but reversed the Deloitte dismissal. Deloitte has no contractual agreement with Nulogy identifying Canada as the proper forum and continues to insist that Canadian courts do not have jurisdiction. View "Nulogy Corp. v. Menasha Packaging Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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NBA Properties owns the trademarks of the NBA and NBA teams. In 2020, a Properties investigator accessed HANWJH’s online Amazon store and purchased an item, designating an address in Illinois as the delivery destination. The product was delivered to the Illinois address. Properties sued, alleging trademark infringement and counterfeiting, 15 U.S.C. 1114 and false designation of origin, section 1125(a). Properties obtained a TRO and a temporary asset restraint on HANWJH’s bank account, then moved for default; despite having been served, HANWJH had not answered or otherwise defended the suit. HANWJH moved to dismiss, arguing that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over it because it did not expressly aim any conduct at Illinois. HANWJH maintained that it had never sold any other product to any consumer in Illinois nor had it any “offices, employees,” “real or personal property,” “bank accounts,” or any other commercial dealings with Illinois.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion to dismiss and the entry of judgment in favor of Properties. HANWJH shipped a product to Illinois after it structured its sales activity in such a manner as to invite orders from Illinois and developed the capacity to fill them. HANWJH’s listing of its product on Amazon.com and its sale of the product to counsel are related sufficiently to the harm of likelihood of confusion. Illinois has an interest in protecting its consumers from purchasing fraudulent merchandise. HANWJH alleges no unusual burden in defending the suit in Illinois. View "NBA Properties, Inc. v. HANWJH" on Justia Law

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The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) established many global standards for 3G, 4G, and 5G cellular communications technology. ETSI members that own standard-essential patents must provide “an irrevocable undertaking in writing that [they are] prepared to grant irrevocable licenses on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND)” terms. Ericsson holds patents that are considered essential to the ETSI standards and agreed to grant licenses to other companies to use its standard-essential patents on FRAND terms. HTC produces mobile devices that implement those standards; to manufacture standard-compliant mobile devices, HTC has to obtain a license to use Ericsson’s patents. Ericsson and HTC have previously entered into three cross-license agreements for their respective patents. Negotiations to renew one of those agreements failed.HTC filed suit, alleging that Ericsson had breached its commitment to provide a license on FRAND terms and had failed to negotiate in good faith. The jury found in favor of the defendants. The district court entered a separate declaratory judgment that the defendants had affirmatively complied with their contractual obligations. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the district court’s exclusion of HTC’s requested jury instructions, its declaratory judgment that Ericsson had complied with its obligation to provide HTC a license on FRAND terms, and the exclusion of certain expert testimonial evidence as hearsay. View "HTC Corp. v. Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson" on Justia Law

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Ayla, a San Francisco-based brand, is the registered owner of trademarks for use of the “AYLA” word mark in connection with on-site beauty services, online retail beauty products, cosmetics services, and cosmetics. Alya Skin, an Australian company, sells and ships skincare products worldwide. Ayla sued in the Northern District of California, asserting trademark infringement and false designation of origin under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1114, 1125(a).Alya Skin asserted that it has no retail stores, offices, officers, directors, employees, bank accounts, or real property in the U.S., does not sell products in U.S. retail stores, solicit business from Americans, nor direct advertising toward California; less than 10% of its sales have been to the U.S. and less than 2% of its sales have been to California. Alya Skin uses an Idaho company to fulfill shipments outside of Australia and New Zealand. Alya Skin filed a U.S. trademark registration application in 2018, and represented to potential customers that its products are FDA-approved; it ships from, and allows returns to, Idaho Alya Skin’s website listed U.S. dollars as the default currency and advertises four-day delivery to the U.S.The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit. Jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(2) comports with due process. Alya Skin had minimum contacts with the U.S., and subjecting it to an action in that forum would not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. The company purposefully directed its activities toward the U.S. The Lanham Act and unfair competition claims arose out of or resulted from Alya Skin’s intentional forum-related activities. View "Ayla, LLC v. Alya Skin Pty. Ltd." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the Welsh Government's motion to dismiss claims of copyright infringement brought by Pablo Star over two photographs of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and his wife, Caitlin Macnamara, on the ground of sovereign immunity. The Welsh Government argued that the commercial-activity exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) does not apply to its conduct promoting Welsh culture and tourism in New York.The court held, however, that the Welsh Government engaged in commercial activity in publicizing Wales-themed events in New York, and that the Welsh Government's activity had substantial contact with the United States. Therefore, Pablo Star's lawsuit falls within an exception to the immunity recognized in the FSIA. View "Pablo Star Ltd. v. The Welsh Government" on Justia Law

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The International Trade Commission (ITC) investigated a complaint under Tariff Act Section 337, alleging that Comcast’s customers directly infringe patents by using Comcast’s X1 system. The patents claim an interactive television program guide system for remote access to television programs. An ALJ found a violation, concluding that the X1 set-top boxes are imported by ARRIS and Technicolor and that Comcast is sufficiently involved with the design, manufacture, and importation of the products, such that it is an importer under Section 337. The ITC affirmed, stating that Comcast induced infringement and that Comcast "instructs, directs, or advises its customers on how to carry out direct infringement.” The ITC affirmed that ARRIS and Technicolor do not directly infringe because they do not provide a “remote access device” as required by the claims and do not contributorily infringe because the set-top boxes have substantial non-infringing uses. The ITC issued a limited exclusion order and cease and desist orders directed to Comcast. The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting Comcast’s arguments that its conduct is not actionable under Section 337 because Comcast’s inducing conduct “takes place entirely domestically, well after, and unrelated to," the importation and that Comcast does not itself import the articles. The ITC has authority (19 U.S.C. 1337(d)(1)) to issue an exclusion order that blocks the importation of articles manufactured and imported by ARRIS and Technicolor, despite its determination that they did not violate Section 337 and did not infringe the patents. View "Comcast Corp. v. International Trade Commission" on Justia Law

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The University, an agent or instrumentality of the Swiss Confederation, having a place of business in Bern, Switzerland, granted an exclusive license of its 114 patent to the German company LABOKLIN, whose principal place of business is in Bad Kissingen, Germany. Under the License Agreement, LABOKLIN was required to commercialize the invention in North America. LABOKLIN entered into sublicenses in the U.S. PPG, a corporation headquartered in Washington State, offers laboratory services. After obtaining the University’s consent, LABOKLIN sent a cease-and-desist letter to PPG in Spokane, Washington. PPG sued LABOKLIN and the University, requesting a declaratory judgment that the Asserted Claims of the 114 patent are ineligible under 35 U.S.C. 101 for failing to claim patent-eligible subject matter. The Federal Circuit affirmed that the district court had jurisdiction over both LABOKLIN and the University. LABOKLIN had sufficient minimum contacts with the U.S. to comport with due process; the University, a foreign sovereign in the U.S., had engaged in “commercial activity” sufficient to trigger an exception to jurisdictional immunity under 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(2) by “obtain[ing] a patent and then threaten[ing] PPG by proxy with litigation.” PPG had stipulated to infringement of the Asserted Claims; the courts found those Claims patent-ineligible as directed to patent-ineligible subject matter, namely the discovery of the genetic mutation that is linked to HNPK. View "Genetic Veterinary Sciences, Inc. v. LABOKLIN GMBH & Co. KG" on Justia Law