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.
Algorithms for Success, Inc. (“AFS”) yesterday sued former employee Michael Fritz for breach of contract, breach of duty of loyalty, misappropriation of legally protected information, violation of M.G.L. 93A, inevitable disclosure, breach of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Defend Trade Secrets Act, and unfair competition. AFS is a business and career coaching and event management company for whom Fritz was a vice president with access to AFS’ customers and confidential information. Fritz signed non-compete, non-solicitation, non-disclosure and assignment agreements with AFS. AFS’ allegations are that a forensic analysis of Fritz’s work computer revealed that he accessed thousands of confidential records and attached external storage devices such as thumb drives and external hard drives to the computer in the days immediately before his last day of work. AFS seeks the return of its confidential and proprietary information, forensic access to Fritz’s personal computers and other devices, temporary, preliminary and permanent injunctions preventing further use or dissemination of AFS’ confidential and proprietary information and preventing Fritz from working for any employer who performs services for AFS customers with whom he worked or had access to confidential information, and compensatory and punitive dames and attorneys’ fees.
Matthew Chatham sued building company Canterbury Ventures, its owner Daniel Lewis, and real estate agent Patricia Bergevine for infringing his copyright in a house design. Mr. Chatham developed a set of custom plans for the design of a house, and has since registered his “architectural work” with the U.S. Copyright Office. He gave Canterbury permission to use the custom plans for the sole purpose of building the house for him on a lot that Canterbury was to purchase. Canterbury did not complete the house by the contracted closing date, and seven months later still had not completed the house. Mr. Chatham and his wife had earlier sued for breach of contract in state court. He filed this copyright case after learning that Canterbury was showing the partially-constructed house through defendant Bergevine, a real estate agent. The Chathams also obtained a lis pendens order, which in Massachusetts is recorded at the registry of deeds and puts prospective buyers on notice of the lawsuit, effectively clouding title on the real estate. Chatham seeks an order preventing sale of the house, that the house be placed in a constructive trust, and monetary damages and attorneys’ fees. (Full disclosure – Mr. Chatham is represented by Nathan Harris and John Anastasi of my firm, Lando & Anastasi LLP).