Maryland photographer William Cobb accuses TripAdvisor of misusing one of his photographs on its website. The complaint asserts that TripAdvisor stripped copyright management information from a Cobb photograph and then placed the photograph on TripAdvisor’s website in several places. The photograph, an aerial view of St. Petersburg, Florida, appeared on a “things to do” page, identified as https://www.thingstodo.avis.com, that appears to belong to Avis rather than TripAdvisor. No explanation is given as to why TripAdvisor is responsible for the placement of the photograph on this web page.
Australian companies Big Beings and LB Online & Export Pty. Ltd., which does business as Love to Dream, accuse Massachusetts business Nested Bean of infringing U.S. 9,179,711, directed to infant swaddling suits. Big Beings asserts that Nested Bean’s “Zen One Convertible Swaddle” product infringes at least one claim of the ‘711 patent. Big Beings is the assignee of the ‘711 patent, while Love to Dream is the exclusive licensee of Big Beings “Swaddle” technology, which includes the ‘711 patent, in the United States. In addition to claiming infringement, Big Beings asserts unjust enrichment. Judge Talwani has the case.
Comerica Bank, on behalf of the estate of musician Prince, filed suit against Kian Andrew Habib after Habib posted footage he had filmed of two Prince concerts to Habib’s “PersianCeltic” YouTube page. Comerica operates an official Prince YouTube channel, and utilizes MarkMonitor to actively monitors the internet for potential infringements. When Comerica discovered the Habib videos, which included portions of five different Prince-written songs, it sent takedown notices to YouTube, which removed the videos. Habib filed counter-notifications, asserting that his videos constituted “fair use,” and Comerica filed suit, asserting copyright infringement and violation of the civil anti-bootlegging statute, 17 U.S.C. §1101. Habib in turn asserted that the takedown notices were “knowingly, material misprepresent[ations]” in violation of 17 U.S.C. § 512(f). The parties each moved for summary judgment.
Judge Sorokin granted Comerica summary judgment on the copyright claim, rejecting Habib’s argument that Prince’s copyright did not extend to live performances. Judge Sorokin disagreed, noting that in addition to the copyright in the sound recording, which covers the studio recordings, Prince had copyright in the musical compositions themselves. He further noted that courts have consistently held that live performances that differ somewhat in lyrics, temp, or arrangement are still protected by the copyright in the musical composition. Judge Sorokin rejected Habib’s fair use defense, finding that Habib’s videos had no educational or historic, and were essentially verbatim copying that was not transformative. He further noted that, while Habib had not monetized his YouTube account, lack of monetization does not affect liability, and that Habib’s use of the videos to drive traffic to his channel provides sufficient benefit to weigh against a finding of fair use. Judge Sorokin agreed that Comerica would lose revenue when someone viewed the Prince videos on Habib’s site, as well as lose control over the ability to preserve the reputation for excellence that Prince himself had established in strictly controlling his output. Judge Sorokin further granted Comerica summary judgment that the infringement was willful, finding that Habib’s continued posting of concert videos (of Prince and others) despite receiving multiple takedown notices demonstrated an unreasonable disregard for the rights of the performers, and his custom of filing counter-notifications parroting the statutory fair use factors without factual basis likewise is unreasonable.
Judge Sorokin further found in Comerica’s favor on the elements of the anti-bootlegging statute. This statute protects performances that are not themselves “fixed” in a tangible medium and thus entitled to copyright protection. He rejected Habib’s sole defense of implied license, which Habib asserted from a 2014 BBC interview in which Prince stated “[n]obody sues their fans… fans sharing music with each other, that’s cool.” Judge Sorokin agreed with Comerica that such a broad statement to the general public does not set out any license terms, does not demonstrate an intent to contract with Habib and has no relation to Habib himself, and thus did not create an implied license. While Judge Sorokin agreed that the elements of the statute were met, he withheld summary judgment to allow further briefing on whether the protections under the statute are inheritable such that Comerica has standing, an issue not yet addressed by the courts.
Judge Sorokin denied Habib’s request for summary judgment on his assertion that the takedown notices contained material misrepresentations, noting that MarkMonitor had, on Comerica’s behalf, had established at least a good faith belief that the Habib videos were infringing, including performing a fair use analysis, before the notices were sent. Finally, Judge Sorokin granted Comerica’s request for a permanent injunction prohibiting the posting of any videos of Prince performances.
Congratulations to Craig Smith and Eric Carnevale of my firm, Lando &Anastasi, who represent Comerica in this case!
In December, home theater maker Sound United sued Amazon sellers Amazing Deals Online, and a third, unknown seller identified as “Amazon.com seller audio video sales guy” (“AVSG”), accusing each of infringing Sound United trademarks for such products, including DENON, POLK AUDIO, MARANTZ, DEFINITIVE TECHNOLOGY, HEOS, BOSTON ACOUSTICS, and CLASSE while not being authorized resellers of such products. The resellers are further accused of suggesting that a manufacturer’s warranty. Sound United does not assert that the marks are being placed on non-Sound United products; instead, Sound United asserts that the defendants obtained Sound United product from authorized resellers in knowing violation of the resellers’ agreements with Sound United. Sound United asserted trademark infringement, tortious interference with contractual relations, and violation of Ch. 93A.
Sound United, having been unable to find a physical mailing address or business location for the unknown seller AVSG, sought permission to serve that entity using its Amazon.com electronic mail service. Magistrate Judge Cabell granted the motion, noting that under Massachusetts law, when a process servers reports back that after a diligent search he or she cannot find the defendant, the defendant’s last and usual address, or an agent upon whom process may be served, the court may issue an order of notice. He determined that, under the circumstances, service via Amazon was reasonably calculated to prove requisite notice.
Welch Foods, a cooperative corporation owned by more than 750 farmer families, filed suit against its former licensee Healthy Food Brands (“HFB”), accusing it of violating its contract with Welch and of trademark infringement in connection with HFB’s continued marketing and sale of licensed products post-termination. Welch owns a number of federal trademark registrations to marks that include the term “WELCH’S” for a variety of food products and services. In 2014, Welch and HFB entered into a license agreement under which HFB would develop, manufacture and sell products such as dried and freeze-dried fruits and trail mixes under the WELCH’S BRAND. The license granted exclusivity in this area. The agreement provided for the payment of royalties based on sales, with certain minimum royalties established, and also sets forth reporting requirements on HFB sales. Welch asserts that HFB has missed a number of royalty payments and has never provided the required sales information, with the purpose of hiding the actual level of sales. After providing written notice of these breaches and allowing the passage of the required time to cure, Welch terminated the agreement in June, 2019. While the agreement requires the return or destruction of all WELCH’S-branded products upon termination, Welch asserts that HFB has instead continued to sell these products. Welch asserts breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing that is inherently applied to Massachusetts contracts, quantum meruit, unjust enrichment, trademark infringement, false association, unfair competition and dilution under the Lanham Act, and violation of Mass. G.L. c. 93A. Judge Stearns has been assigned the case.
Singular Computing, founded by Dr. Joseph Bates, designs and develops computers having new architectures that permit greater usage of the computing potential of a given system. This system utilizes “massively parallel processing” to achieve the improved results. After filing a provisional patent application on this technology, Dr. Bates met with Google representatives under a non-disclosure agreement to discuss Google utilizing such a system to support its developments in AI-related applications. Singular asserts that Google nevertheless copied Dr. Bates’ architecture and utilized it in Google’s Cloud Tensor Processing Unit Versions 2 and 3, and that the Google system infringes Singular’s 8,407,273, 9,218,156 and 10,416,961 patents. Singular suggests that, absent the infringement, Google would have been required to at least double the number of data centers it constructed, at an additional cost of at least $10 billion. Singular further asserts that the infringement was willful, at least with respect to the earlier two patents. The case is with Judge Saylor.
Sensitech, a maker of monitoring devices for monitoring and maintaining manufacturing and storage conditions, sued its former Mexican distributor Grupo, accusing Grupo OFAS of trademark infringement and breach of contract. The agreement by which OFAS would distribute certain Sensitech products in Mexico terminated on November 30, 2015; at that point, OFAS was obliged to return all Sensitech IP and make all payments due. Sensitech asserts that OFAS never made the required payments and continues to use Sensitech trademarks and hold itself out as a licensed Sensitech distributor, and was using shell companies to try to obtain additional Sensitech products. Sensitech alleges a 93A violation in addition to the Lanham Act and contract causes of action. The case is before Judge Burroughs.