Deetz Family, LLC v. Rust-Oleum Corp. (16-cv-10790).

Dayton Deetz, the sole inventor on a pair of patents relating to magnetic additives for paint, ranted a non-exclusive license to Rust-Oleum in 2005. Deetz asserts that Rust-Oleum failed to make the minimum payments under the license in 2006-2010, and stopped making payments altogether on 2010, leading Deetz to terminate the license. Deetz then filed suit, asserting in addition to breach of contract that Rust-Oleum was continuing to use the patented technology and associated know-how that was transferred as a part of the 2005 license. Deetz then moved to disqualify Rust-Oleum’s litigation counsel, saying that his role in negotiating the 2005 license renders him a likely necessary witness, which would leave him unable to serve as counsel at trial. Judge Hillman denied the motion, noting that Deetz had not put forth any evidence beyond conclusory statements that the attorney was actually involved in the negotiations. Further, as it appeared that the negotiations were primarily (if not entirely) between Deetz and a Rust-Oleum employee, both of whom who would be available to testify. Absent some argument (not presented by Deetz) that the attorney held some unique knowledge that the other two could not provide, the attorney’s testimony would not be “necessary,” but would rather likely be cumulative. Accordingly, Deetz did not satisfy the burden of demonstrating that the attorney was likely to be a necessary witness.

ecobee, Inc. v. Filter Pro et al. (18-cv-12235), Hatzlacha LLC d/b/a The Corner Store et al. (18-cv-12236), and Ultra Design (18-cv-12237).

Ecobee filed three trademark suits, accusing Filter Pro, The Corner Store, and Ultra Design of trademark infringement, unfair competition, false designation of origin, and tortious interference. Ecobee makes smart home control products, including light switches and thermostats, that it sells through authorized resellers who are contractually obliged to provide specific quality controls on the products sold and prevented from selling to subsequent, unauthorized resellers. Each of the defendants is an Amazon Seller Account that, despite not being ecobee authorized resellers, are alleged to have sold ecobee products.  Ecobee asserts that the defendants could only have obtained ecobee inventory through knowingly soliciting authorized resellers, intentional and knowing interference with the resellers contracts and business relationships with ecobee, or through fraudulent or illicit means. They further assert that the defendants violate the ECOBEE trademark by selling actual ecobee goods without authorization. The cases are presently before Judges Stearn, Woodlock, and Saris.

ALMO Music Corp. et al. v. Vincent Hemmeter, Inc. d/b/a/ Ralph’s Rock Diner a/k/a Ralph’s et al. (18-cv-40188).

ALMO Music, and several other music companies, sued Worcester’s Ralph’s Rock Diner, accusing the venue of allowing the performance of copyrighted, unlicensed works by visiting artists. The plaintiffs, all members of ASCAP, allege that Ralph’s has repeatedly refused ASCAP’s licensing offers, but allowed the performance of several works in early August, 2018 that plaintiffs own copyright in. Somewhat unusually, ASCAP itself is not named as a plaintiff, with the copyright owners going it alone.  Plaintiffs seek statutory damages and costs and fees as well as injunctive relief.

MedIdea, LLC v. DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc. (17-cv-11172).

Judge Sorokin construed claim terms in this suit involving patents covering total knee replacement implants having cam and post designs. He first construed “cam” to mean “a structure that makes sliding or rolling contact with the tibial post as the knee bends.” He rejected MedIdea’s argument that the term would be discussed extensively at trial in a way that would permit the jury to discern the plain and ordinary meaning of the term, finding “cam” to be a critical term with which a lay jury would be unlikely to be familiar; moreover, it is the Court’s exclusive obligation to construe patent terms. He likewise construed related terms for which MedIdea suggested not construction was needed, indicating that the court is required to construe terms on which the parties disagree. He construed “cam mechanism” to require two or more cams, because the specification criticized one-cam structures and repeatedly referenced multiple cams. Judge Sorokin further agreed with DePuy that “early after initiation of flexion” of the knee should be construed as “prior to 30 degrees of flexion” rather than MedIdea’s proposed 60 degrees of flexion, as MedIdea’s number appeared to lack intrinsic or extrinsic support, while DePuy’s corresponded to the degree of flexion in prior art that was criticized in the patent. Finally, he refused to consider the definiteness of the terms “central cam” and terms using “superior” and “inferior,” finding that determination to be more suitably made on a fuller record at summary judgment.

Pierson v. Middleboro Restaurants, Inc. d/b/a Barrett’s Fireside Grille 918-cv-12268).

Coventry, RI photographer Kristen Pierson accuses Barrett’s of infringing her copyright in a photograph of New Bedford singer Craig DeMelo (known as the “Whiskey Poet”) in promotions for a performance by DeMelo at the restaurant. Pierson asserts that her notice of copyright was included at the bottom of the photograph as reproduced by Barrett’s, and further that she provides notice via her website, Rok-Pix.com. Despite receiving notice from Pierson, Barrett’s continued displaying the photograph on at least one webpage. Pierson seeks statutory damages and attorney’s fees, as well as injunctive relief.

Realtime Data LLC d/b/a/ IXO v. Scality, Inc. (18-cv-12188).

Realtime, a data compression developer, accuses Scality of directly infringing four patents relating to data compression, as well as alleging contributory and induced infringement. Realtime seeks monetary and injunctive relief, although an injunction likely depends on a finding of infringement of one of the asserted patents, U.S. 9,667,751, as the other three have priority dates of 1998 and 1999 and will likely expire prior to resolution of litigation. Realtime identifies itself as an inventor-owned R&D company that broadly licenses its technology; it (and its subsidiary Realtime Adaptive Streaming) has repeatedly asserted its patents in litigation, and it is unclear whether it licenses outside of the litigation context.