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.
Channing Bete filed suit against Dr. Mark Greenberg for trademark infringement, tortious interference with business relations, and violations of non-compete and non-disclosure agreements. Dr. Greenberg jointly developed a curriculum for the social and emotional development of children, known as the “PATHS® Program,” in 1993. This curriculum was exclusively licensed to Channing Bete predecessor Developmental Research Programs, Inc., who registered the PATHS® trademark in 1995. Dr. Greenberg continued to develop the program, resulting in a “PATHS® Preschool/Kindergarten Program,” and jointly registered copyright in these developments. Channing Bete obtained exclusive rights to this program as well, and has since worked with Dr. Greenberg and the other authors to develop additional program-based materials to cover elementary-school children. Channing Bete partnered with a training organization run by Dr. Greenberg, “PATHS® Education Worldwide (PEW), to train purchasers of the PATHS® programs, and licensed PEW certain rights in the programs.
In the summer of 2014, Channing Bete decided to sell its rights in the PATHS® programs. They allege that Dr. Greenberg immediately began to interfere with its efforts to sell. According to the complaint, this interference led to the major large publishers refusing to consider a purchase. Channing Bete subsequently put the program out for bid, requiring non-disclosure agreements from any bidder. PEW placed a bid and executed an NDA, as did Dr. Greenberg personally. Channing Bete subsequently notified Dr. Greenberg that they had selected a different buyer, who would need to coordinate with Dr. Greenberg and the other authors. Dr. Greenberg was reminded of his non-disclosure obligations in this communication. The complaint alleges that Dr. Greenberg threatened to withhold assent to the transfer of the curriculum unless he received concessions for himself and PEW. It further alleges that Dr. Greenberg directly contacted the buyer on multiple occasions, indicating again that he intended to block the sale unless he received concessions and revealing the contents of his communications with Channing Bete, in violation of the NDA he had signed. Channing Bete then received an offer from a different party, seeking to buy the curriculum at the same terms offered by PEW. Channing Bete subsequently received communications from other authors of curriculum materials, each threatening to withhold consent to the sale, that Channing Bete alleges to have been orchestrated by Dr. Greenberg. Finally, Dr. Greenberg has published books laying out “PATHS Plus” that he has marketed as an alternative to the PATHS® program, allegedly in violation of non-compete language contained in his original exclusive license to Channing Bete.
Having previously granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants and having determined that the case was exceptional and that Defendants were entitled to their reasonable attorney’s fees under 25 U.S.C. § 1117(a), Judge Casper ordered Plaintiffs to pay $153,820.35 in fees. Relying on the opinion of lead counsel, a 2013 Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly article on average rates in Boston, and the approval (over no objection) of the rates sought in earlier discovery proceedings between the parties before Magistrate Judge Kelley, Judge Casper approved of rates of $590-$600 for partners, $290-$465 for associates, and $100-$250 for paralegals. She did reduce the total fees sought by 10% due to some block billing that did not divide out time spent on particular tasks, but otherwise rejected Plaintiffs’ objections to the amount sought.
Judge Saylor granted in part SiOnyx’s renewed motion to compel in this patent infringement, correction of inventorship, and breach of contract case. SiOnyx had entered into an agreement with Hamamatsu to explore a possible business relationship surrounding laser-textured infrared-sensing silicon photonic devices. The business relationship never came to fruition, and Hamamatsu subsequently applied for patents directed to similar technology. A discovery dispute arose over whether SiOnyx could obtain information on products that were textured by some means other than a laser, with Hamamatsu taking the position that the infringement contentions did not accuse such products and the former SiOnyx founder now working for Hamamatsu did not contribute to the invention of non-laser-textured devices. SiOnyx’s initial motion to compel was denied without prejudice, because at the time there was insufficient evidence to support a charge of infringement; since then, SiOnyx was able to develop sufficient information that the products infringe, and that an offer for sale of the accused products has been made that, if accepted, would generate significant sales. Judge Saylor found that SiOnyx’s evidence related to the breach of contract and use of confidential information claims (that the Hamamatsu engineers who were exposed to this information developed the non-laser-textured products) was insufficient to overcome the significant differences in the resulting textures that negate an inference that they were developed using SiOnyx’s confidential information. Because the motion was granted only with respect to the patent claims, Hamamatsu was compelled to produce information relating only to U.S. sales or imports.
The patent claims of this multi-claim lawsuit surrounding 3-D metal printing were bifurcated, and a jury trial on the patent claims was held in late July. The jury returned a verdict finding the two asserted patents valid but not infringed. The remaining trade secret, breach of contract, and unfair competition claims will be tried at a later date.
BMW sued Brockton’s Dunbar Euro-Sports for infringing BMW’s registered “roundel” trademark, which BMW has used since 1955 on automobiles and motorcycles. BMW licenses the mark to authorized dealerships for use in connection with the sale and service of BMW products. Dunbar was on such licensee, having been authorized in 1987 to sell and service BMW motorcycles. BMW asserts that Dunbar is using the roundel outside of the direction of BMW, apparently through the use of outdated and/or unauthorized signage, which hinders BMW’s ability to control the nature and quality of products and services provided under the mark. The complaint asserts breach of contract as well as trademark infringement, and seeks an order that Dunbar remove and destroy any BMW signage containing BMW marks, including the roundel. Oddly, the complaint does not specifically indicate how Dunbar’s use of the roundel is improper, and appears to assert that Dunbar’s dealership agreement remains in force.
In a case that has some potentially interesting legal questions, Hallmark sued waste management and recycling company Northstar and co-defendant Square Peg Logistics, LLC, for trademark infringement and dilution for the unauthorized sale of actual Hallmark products. Hallmark owns uncontestable registrations for the HALLMARK mark and the HALLMARK mark & crown design mark. In 2012, Hallmark entered into an Enterprise Agreement with Northstar by which Northstar would pick up for destruction by recycling Hallmark products that were deemed unfit for sale. When Hallmark decided to close its Enfield, Connecticut distribution center, it had Northstar pick up millions of cards and other goods bearing the HALLMARK marks for recycling. Hallmark alleges that, instead of destructively recycling the products as required, Northstar secretly sold 73 truckloads of HALLMARK-branded products to Square Peg, for a fraction of the fair market price, and that Square Peg subsequently sold about a third of the products to third-party distributors. Hallmark initially discovered the resale of these products by Dickens, Inc., of Long Island, NY. In litigation against Dickens, Hallmark discovered that the products had come from Square Peg, who, it subsequently sued. The parties entered into a consent decree in June 2017, enjoining Square Peg from further sales of Hallmark products pending the outcome of the Dickens litigation, and gave Hallmark the right to periodically inspect Square Peg’s warehouse. After a January inspection revealed further product movement, Hallmark filed the instant suit seeking immediate destruction of the remaining 50 or so truckloads of products in Square Peg’s possession. In addition to the Lanham Act charges, Hallmark asserts breach of contract against Northstar. Hallmark seeks destruction of the infringing products, as well as injunctive and monetary relief and attorney’s fees. The case is in the Springfield division, and is before Springfield native Judge Mastroianni.