California company EcoFactor, a provider of smart home energy products and services, brought several suits in Massachusetts, accusing a number of businesses of infringing patents relating to evaluating and improving efficiency in HVAC systems and to smart thermostats. These suits follow an October ITC complaint seeking to block importation of products accused of infringing these same patents. The cases are presently spread between Judges Saylor, Sorokin, and Bowler.
In a case before Judge Mastroianni, Ronald Satish Emrit filed a pro se complaint against rapper Rick Ross, his record label Def Jam Group, Universal Music Group (which owns Def Jam), and the estate of Shakir Stewart, the A&R agent who signed Ross to Def Jam, accusing them of copyright infringement in connection with Ross’ song “Billionaire.” Emrit, performs as “Satish Dat Beast,” asserts that the Ross song utilizes the same backing track as his song “Dilemma.” Emrit says that “Dilemma” was distributed by Tunecore and Ditto Music, music distribution services that assist independent artists in selling their music through on-line retailers like iTunes, Tik Tok, Amazon Music and the like. “Billionaire” was released in 2008; the complaint does not allege dates on which “Dilemma” was recorded or released. In addition to the copyright claim, Emrit brings counts for conversion, which seems unlikely as the complaint does not allege that anything physical was taken, and tortious interference with business relations and with contracts, which also seem questionable as no particular business relations or contracts are identified as having been impaired. Further, it is entirely unclear why the complaint was filed in Massachusetts or why personal jurisdiction exists over the defendants – Emrit suggests that he might move to Massachusetts in the near future, but currently resides in Florida, and none of the defendants are alleged to reside in this state. In addition to damages, Emrit seeks an order mandating that Def Jam and/or Universal sign him to a recording deal.
Emrit is well-known to the federal court system – one federal judge stated that “other courts have taken note of Plaintiff’s extensive and abusive litigation practices” and noted that Emrit has been deemed a vexatious litigant in multiple district courts. Further, Emrit has already sued the same defendants in the Middle District of Florida, the Central District of California, and the Northern District of Iowa, all within the past month. I would note, however, that while the complaint does have issues with jurisdiction, lacks an express allegation that “Dilemma” and with the non-copyright counts, the backing tracks of the two songs do strike me as remarkably similar.
Cedar Bay sued Canadian Fish Exporters, or “CFE,” for false association and false designation of origin in connection with the importation of salmon products. Cedar Bay is a Nova Scotia business that holds registrations on “CEDAR BAY” and on design marks that include “CEDAR BAY GRILLING COMPANY.”
Cedar Bay and Massachusetts business CFE had previously entered into an agreement by which CFE distributed Cedar Bay’s products in the United States and the Caribbean. Cedar Bay alleges that CFE demanded lower prices from Cedar Bay to permit sales to large retail customers such as Kroger and Walmart, but did not pass the cost savings on to these customers, and that CFE misled Cedar Bay about the mark-ups CFE was charging on Cedar Bay products. Cedar Bay further alleges that the failure to pass on the cost savings resulted in the loss of accounts, and that CFE failed to properly seek to expand the business. Cedar Bay hired a broker to assist in expanding the business, but alleges that CFE has blocked the broker from contacting existing customers and has asserted that Cedar Bay has no right to contact retail customers in the United States, which Cedar Bay denies. Cedar Bay asserts that CFE uses Cedar bay’s trademarks in a manner that falsely suggests that the products and trademarks are owned by CFE. In addition to false designation of origin, Cedar Bay alleges tortious interference with economic advantage and violation of 93A. Apparently, the contract with CFE remains in place, however, as there is no allegation that it terminated or was breached.
Exxon Mobile filed suit against Ayer, Massachusetts business Turbo Lube, accusing the repair shop of trademark infringement, dilution, counterfeiting, unfair competition and unjust enrichment. Exxon Mobile asserts a number of trademarks, including the “MOBILE” mark in red and blue, the red Pegasus mark, and “Mobile 1 Lube Express.” Exxon Mobile accuses Turbo Lube of misusing these marks in its on-site advertising, website, and even on the employees’ uniforms, and of ignoring Exxon Mobile’s cease and desist demand letter. Exxon Mobile seeks a finding of willful infringement, and seeks preliminary and permanent injunctive relief as well as monetary damages.
Another series of lawsuits involving models accusing strip clubs of using their likenesses in promotional materials was filed in Massachusetts, this time accusing Mojito’s Country Club of Randolph, Mario’s Showplace of Webster, and Riviera Show Club of Worcester of misappropriating the model’s names and images for promotional purposes. As with prior suits brought by the same firm, The complaints include counts for false advertising and false association, rights of privacy and publicity, statutory unauthorized use of an individual’s name, portrait or picture, conversion, unjust enrichment, quantum meruit and negligence.
iRobot accuses SharkNinja of infringing six iRobot patents relating to robotic vacuum cleaners by sales of SharkNinja’s IQ Robot line of products. iRobot asserts that these patents cover features such as robotically mapping a user’s home to permit scheduling of cleaning of different rooms at different times, automatically returning to its base to recharge when the battery runs low, and automatically emptying itself into the base, which can store multiple bins worth of debris. These features are said to be incorporated in iRobot’s Roomba i7+ vacuum. iRobot notes that SharkNinja specifically touts these patented features, claiming in advertising that the Shark IQ Robot offers the same technology at “half the price of iRobot i7+.” iRobot seeks preliminary and permanent injunctive relief and a finding of willfulness. Judge Burroughs has the case.
Judge Zobel has been assigned yet another case involving pre-emptive blocking of the sale of bootleg concert merchandise, this time involving an upcoming show by Post Malone. In addition to the POST MALONE trademark, the artist has registrations on POSTY CO, POSTY, POSTY FEST and SHABOINK. Malone is playing the TD Garden later this week, and Bravado (who is licensed to sell Malone merchandise) looks to prevent bootleggers from selling merchandise bearing the Malone marks.