Fantastic Sams accuses former Georgia franchisee Talukders of continuing to use Fantastic Sams’ trademarks following termination of the franchise agreement. Talukders became a franchisee in 2017, when it purchased the salon of a Sams franchisee. As part of the franchise agreement, Talkuders would be permitted to only offer, use and sell products and services that were prescribed or approved by Sams. According to the complaint, Fantastic Sams terminated the franchise agreement for cause when it discovered that Talukders was operating “unlicensed medical spas” in the franchised salons. Rather than cease using the registered marks, Sams asserts that Talukders transferred ownership of the salons to co-defendants Paula Gomez and Michelle Scott, who continue to use the “Fantastic Sams” marks or a “Fantastic Salon and Spa” mark that is asserted to be confusingly similar. Fantastic Sams asserts trademark infringement, unfair competition and breach of contract, and seeks specific performance on the contract claim.
Elvan, a Turkish candy maker, utilized Turkana Food to import and distribute its products in the United States. In 2017, Elvan formed a U.S. entity, based in Massachusetts, to import and distribute its products through grocery stores, which Turkana did not do. Turkana in response terminated their agreement, claiming that Elvan’s actions were in violation of “exclusive rights” of Turkana under the agreement. Elvan accuses that Turkana, its affiliate Spirit Food Group, and their agent Cengiz Yalim of breaching their distribution agreement and selling Elvan products without authorization. Elvan further asserts that the defendants fraudulently attempted to register Elvan’s trademarks, including JELAXY, COFFEX, TOFFEX and TODAY, with the PTO and asserted the marks against customers who were buying directly from Elvan. Finally, Elvan asserts that the Defendants are obtaining and selling counterfeit Elvan products bearing Elvan’s trademarks. In addition to this complaint, Elvan and Turkana have several cancellation proceedings before the USPTO as each tries to register the same marks.
The jury returned a verdict in this long-running saga over black silicon technology that SiOnyx disclosed to Hamamtsu under a nondisclosure agreement, finding that Hamamatsu breached the NDA and was unjustly enriched and awarding $1,377,109 in damages for these claims. They rejected Hamamatsu’s statute of limitations and equitable estoppel defenses. They further determined that SiOnyx employee Dr. Carey should be named as a co-inventor on the Hamamatsu patents-in-suit under 35 U.S.C. § 256. Finally, they determined that Hamamatsu willfully infringed SiOnyx’s patent and that the patent is valid, but awarded no damages for the infringement.
John Epstein, who engages in advertising for retail furniture stores as Direct Results, sued Miller Furniture Brothers, a Pennsylvania company with a store in Punxsutawney (home of Punxsutawney Phil from Groundhog Day!), accusing them of breach of contract and copyright infringement. Epstein alleges that Miller Brothers contracted with him to create promotional material in 2010, which Miller Brothers could not use without his permission. He says that Miller Brothers used this material without authorization in 2011 and 2012; Epstein objected, and Miller Brothers ultimately compensated him for this use. Epstein alleges that Miller Brothers again improperly utilized this copyrighted promotional material last year. Oddly, the complaint alleges subject matter jurisdiction solely under 28 U.S.C. 1331 and 1338 (federal question and patents/plant variety protection/copyrights/mask works/designs/trademarks/unfair competition) and then seeks joinder of the copyright and breach of contract claims, rather than asserting diversity or supplemental jurisdiction.
As this case goes to trail, the Court is dealing with the parties’ motions in limine. Hamamatsu moved to preclude testimony from one co-inventor, Dr. Mazur, to corroborate the testimony of a different coinventor. The Court had already found that Dr. Mazur could not prove that he was a coinventor due to a lack of corroborating evidence. Citing the lack of documentary corroboration and the fact that Dr. Mazur is an interested party, Hamamatsu asserted that he could not corroborate the alleged contribution of the other coinventor to the invention, and thus sought to preclude his testimony. Judge Saylor denied the motion, finding that the motion was effectively an untimely motion for summary judgment, and indicated that he (or the jury) would determine whether the evidence at trial, including Dr. Mazur’s testimony, was sufficient to establish inventorship.
He granted Hamamatsu’s motion to preclude SiOnyx from referring to the PTAB’s decision not to institute an inter partes review at trial. Hamamatsu’s request for inter partes review was declined entirely with respect to one of the asserted patents and was partially declined with respect to another patent. Judge Saylor determined that the decision on whether to institute an IPR was not a decision on the merits (and that the decision to partially decline may be a statutory violation under recent case law) and would thus have little probative value, would take considerable time to explain to the jury, and would carry substantial risk of misinterpretation and unfair prejudice.
Judge Saylor further, in response to a request made by SiOnyx at the April 16th status conference, precluded Hamamatsu from arguing that it was excused from meeting its obligations under the NDA at issue due to a prior material breach of the agreement by SiOnyx, finding that Hamamatsu had waived such an argument by failing to raise it in the joint pretrial memorandum. He denied SiOnyx’s motion to preclude Hamamatsu form raising a defense of equitable estoppel. He also overruled Hamamatsu’s objection to deposition testimony from a senior corporate officer regarding the contract, finding that it did not impermissible call for a legal conclusion. Trial on this matter began yesterday.
As this patent and breach of contract case nears trial, Judge Saylor granted SiOnyx’ motion to amend its complaint to remove assertions of the ‘591 patent. SiOnyx asserts that, through late-produced discovery, the products accused of infringing this patent were still under development, and that a final configuration of these products was not likely to be set prior to trial. Hamamatsu had not filed counterclaims relating to the ‘591 patent, and would suffer no legal prejudice from the withdrawal of the claim. The dismissal of the ‘591 claims is with prejudice as to any products that had been accused during the proceeding, but not as against products developed in the future.
Judge Saylor also dealt with the parties’ competing motions to exclude testimony from an opposing expert. SiOnyx has accused Hamamatsu of violating a nondisclosure agreement, obtaining patents on SiOnyx’s technology without naming SiOnyx personnel as inventors, and infringing SiOnyx patents. SiOnyx sought to preclude testimony from a technical expert of Hamamatsu for failing to consider objective indicia of non-obviousness, which would render the report unreliable as applying an incorrect legal standard. Judge Saylor determined, however, that the expert’s statement that he had “not seen any evidence of secondary consideration” did not mean that he had not considered secondary factors. Accordingly, he denied SiOnyx’s motion. Hamamatsu, for its part, sought to entirely preclude SiOnyx’s damages expert, who is intended to testify as to damages for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and patent damages. On the breach of contract claim, the expert relied on a non-binding memorandum of understanding between SiOnyx and Nikon to determine the damages from the loss of that opportunity, which Hamamatsu asserted to be too speculative. Judge Saylor found that, for the most part, the expert had relied not just on the memorandum but also on correspondence between SiOnyx and Nikon and other evidence in coming to her conclusions. Judge Saylor did exclude testimony on damages resulting from a proposed extension of the contract contemplated by the memorandum of understanding, because there was no discussion of pricing terms or the length of any potential extension in the memorandum, making the opinion on the loss of the extension too speculative. He also excluded testimony on SiOnyx’s theory that, had it entered into the Nikon agreement and developed a chip for Nikon, it would have been able to leverage that development in reducing the cost of development of the next generation chip by nearly $1 million. The Judge accepted that such a reduction on R&D costs could be the basis for damages, but felt that the steps used to determine the dollar figure were too attenuated and speculative. He denied Hamamatsu’s request with respect to breach of contract damages that Hamamatsu itself would have paid had it not breached the agreement and instead have licensed the technology, finding that the other SiOnyx agreements relied upon were not so different from the structure that Hamamatsu had discussed as to form an insufficient basis. With respect to the unjust enrichment claim, Mamamatsu objected to testimony on profits it incurred beyond the expiration of the nondisclosure agreement; Judge Saylor found that Hamamatsu had failed to support the notion that damages must end upon expiration of the NDA, and refused to exclude this testimony. Finally, he refused to preclude testimony on patent damages, finding that the expert’s opinions were adequately supported and that any disputes as to the calculations could be dealt with on cross-examination.
DogWatch, a Natick company that makes electronic pet restraint systems such as the “invisible fence,” accuses its former Florida dealer DogWatch of Sarasota (“DoS”) of trademark and trade dress infringement, trade secret misappropriation, breach of contract, passing off, unfair competition, tortious interference with contractual relationships, and unjust enrichment in connection with DoS’ continued use of DogWatch’s name and proprietary information following termination of their business relationship. DogWatch has had a federal registration to its name since 1993, and asserts (with no real evidentiary support) that the name is famous. DogWatch further asserts trade dress protection in some combination of its order forms, yard flags, letterhead, stationary, internet web pages, URL’s van graphics and other unspecified materials. DogWatch further asserts trade secret protection in pricing information, draft marketing and promotional material, and business strategy and plans, and it asserts that the exclusive dealer agreement with DoS included an implied covenant not to use or disclose these purported secrets. Late last year, DogWatch notified DoS that they were terminating the exclusive dealer agreement, for reasons not specified in the complaint. Despite this, they assert that DoS continues to hold itself out as a DogWatch dealer and to use the trademark, trade dress, and trade secrets of DogWatch. The breach of contract count cites acts of DoS that occurred following termination of the agreement – there is no suggestion that DoS did anything wrong prior to termination. Judge Saris has this case.