In an interesting trademark infringement lawsuit, a manufacturer seeks to prevent a reseller from using its trademarks to identify products the manufacturer actually made, but made for use and sale only outside of the United States. GN Netcom is a headset manufacturer based in Lowell, MA. It sells headsets under the brand names “Jabra,” “VXi,” and “GN Netcom.” GN alleges that the Defendant is a reseller of phone systems and headsets, both through its own website and through Amazon, eBay, and other online platforms. Defendants are said to sell, without authorization, GN headsets that it purchased from international resellers, and to use GN’s trademarks (and some GN copyrighted images) in the process. These products were designed and manufactured differently than GN products intended for sale in the U.S., are said to contain “material differences” (such as language differences in the interface, battery and voltage differences) from the U.S. products, and are not subject to GN’s U.S. warranty. GN further alleges that Defendant advertise U.S. versions of the GN products it sells, but then ships the international versions. GN brings counts for trademark infringement, unfair competition and false designation of origin. The case has been assigned to Judge Sorokin.
Altova GmbH and Massachusetts-based Altova, Inc., accused Romanian partnership Syncro Soft SRL of infringing U.S. Patent No. 9,501,456, titled “Automatic Fix for Extensible Markup Language Errors.” Altova asserts that Syncro Soft’s Oxygen XML Editor’s “Quick Fix” functionality infringes the patent. Altova alleges that venue in Massachusetts is proper because Syncro Soft is not a resident of the United States (and thus may be sued in any judicial district pursuant to TC Heartland) and that Syncro Soft is subject to jurisdiction because it conducts “substantial business” in the state, including at least part of its infringing activity.
Stellar Records, LLC sued David Pantano for copyright infringement related to the manufacture and sale of music and karaoke recordings. According to the complaint, Stellar Records obtains the rights to a large number of songs, which it then re-records without lead vocals and connects to video files containing the lyrics. Stellar then compiles these karaoke versions of songs into packages, which it sells to karaoke disc jockeys. Stellar alleges that Pantano copied several of these packages and sold them via Craigslist. Both direct and contributory copyright infringement are alleged.
Bravado International Group Merchandising Services, Inc., the marketing company holding rights to trademark registrations and applications owned by singer Lady Gaga, filed a preemptive infringement suit seeking to prevent various as-yet unidentified companies from selling merchandise (t-shirts, program books, hats, buttons, posters and the like) incorporating the marks at or in the vicinity of concerts given by Lady Gaga in North America. The complaint alleges that the defendants have sold similar merchandise at past shows, and includes charges for trademark infringement and false designation of origin. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief to prevent counterfeit merchandise from being sold at or near Lady Gaga’s upcoming Fenway shows in September, as well as at her subsequent U.S. shows. The case is before Judge Zobel.
A large number of Boston cab companies filed a second amended complaint against Uber, adding ten new companies as plaintiffs to bring the total number of plaintiffs to one hundred and ninety-six. The cab companies allege that Uber controls 80% of the ride-hail market, which is defined as the “low-cost, on-demand, Ride Hail ground transportation services that originate in Boston and that seat 3-4 passengers.” The complaint is specifically addressed to “UberX,” one of Uber’s lower cost options. There are counts for unfair competition under MGL c. 93A, Section 11 and common law unfair competition for operating a transportation service without complying with the laws of Boston and Massachusetts, thus obtaining customers who would otherwise use cab services and devaluing taxi medallions; attempted monopolization, under the Sherman Antitrust Act and under M.G.L. 93A, Section 5, of the Boston “ride-hail” market (somewhat ironically alleging that the purpose of the Act is to “preserve and advance our system of free and open competition and to secure to everyone an equal opportunity to engage in business, trade and commerce for the purpose of ensuring that the consuming public may receive better goods and services at lower cost”). The original complaint followed three other complaints brought by multiple cab companies from Malden, Braintree and Cambridge, each with similar allegations.
The lawsuit follows legislative action, under which the state will impose a 5-cent fee on every trip taken with Uber and Lyft, and funnel that money as “financial assistance” to their taxi competitors. Prior to the introduction of companies like Uber and Lyft, taxi medallions in Boston were capped at 1,825, and sold for as much as $700,000 as late as 2014. In 2014, taxi medallion sold for as much as $700,000. Since the introduction of ride-hail companies, however, taxi ridership dropped about 25%, and the average price for a Boston taxi medallion dropped about 40 percent.
Venus Locations LLC sued FitnessKeeper, Inc., alleging infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,442,485, titled “Method and apparatus for an automatic vehicle location, collision notification, and synthetic voice.” The plaintiff appears to be a non-practicing entity residing in Plano, Texas, and has sued at least two other companies (Inrix Inc. and Nextraq, Inc.) on the same patent in the Eastern District of Texas. The plaintiff is represented by Ferraiuoli LLC, a Puerto Rican law firm with attorneys admitted in Massachusetts.
WorldCare Limited Corp. sued NOW Health International (Holdings) Ltd. for breaching a trademark license and co-existence agreement and for trademark infringement. WorldCare and NOW had previously had a dispute over the use of the “WorldCare” name. The parties resolved the dispute by entering into an agreement by which NOW was granted the right to use the mark to sell health insurance, but was prohibited form offering “second opinion” medical advice services in connection with its “WorldCare” policies, as that was the nature of WorldCare’s business. Jurisdiction and venue over NOW, a Bermuda company with no physical presence in the United States, is based on a clause of the 2013 agreement.