After the parties to this patent litigation reached a settlement just before the scheduled Markman hearing, the parties sought to have the case dismissed. Judge Mastroianni granted the motion to dismiss with prejudice, but denied the parties’ request that the court retain jurisdiction and incorporate the settlement agreement into the dismissal order, citing the general policy of the court not to adopt or endorse settlement agreements between private parties.
Judge Mastroianni granted Shadow Box owner Brian Goldricks’ motion to dismiss the claims asserted against him in his individual capacity. To survive the motion to dismiss, Moreland was required to make factual allegations that Goldrick was the motive, active conscious force behind the alleged trademark infringement, and (with respect to the state law claims) that he was personally involved in the alleged tortious acts. Judge Mastroianni found that the complaint made only conclusory statements (such as “on information and belief” allegations), which are not, as phrased, factual allegations and are therefore not credited when determining whether the complaint meets the Iqbal/Twombly pleading standards.
John Epstein had sued Bruce Furniture for breach of contract and copyright infringement relating to an advertisement campaign that Epstein alleges he prepared for Bruce Furniture. Judge Mastroianni denied Bruce Furniture’s motion to dismiss, finding the complaint made clear that it was the specific content, arrangement, and phraseology of the advertisements, and not the ideas contained therein (such as interest-free financing), that was being asserted, and that such information is plausibly within the realm of copyright protection. He further found that the merger doctrine and the “scenes a faire” doctrine did not negate the substantial similarity alleged in the complaint.
Judge Mastroianni granted Hobbs’ request for attorney’s fees pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 285, finding the case to be exceptional. Judge Mastroianni dismissed the complaint for failing to provide sufficient factual detail or legal underpinning to state a claim on which relief could be granted. The complaint, which had already been amended once, failed to specify which products were accused of infringement, and failed to describe how any products infringed the patents, and was dismissed with prejudice. Noting that the pleading standards had been established years before the complaint was filed, and that Hobbs had notified Sanderson-MacLeod prior to filing its motion to dismiss of the legal issues it would present, but Sanderson-MacLeod failed to withdraw the complaint or move to further amend. Judge Mastroianni referred he case to Magistrate Judge Robertson to determine the fee award.
Judge Mastroianni granted individual defendant Paul Ramesh’s motion to dismiss, finding the complaint includes no factual assertions that Ramesh personally was the moving, active conscious force behind the alleged trademark infringement or was personally involved in a tortious act, but instead only contained conclusory statements. The complaint asserted that “according to publicly available records and upon information and belief,” Ramesh maintained operational control over the club. Judge Mastroianni noted that, had the complaint specified what publicly available records had been consulted and stated what those records contained, they would likely have risen to factual assertions sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss.
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” pre-dates the accused song, and with the non-copyright counts, the backing tracks of the two songs do strike me as remarkably similar.
Judge Mastroianni denied the parties’ joint motion to approve their consent judgment and permanent injunction. He noted that the court does not ordinarily adopt or endorse settlement agreements between private parties or retain jurisdiction over such agreements, and that there were no compelling public interest that would justify the court’s continued involvement. He further added that Penson & Co. had agreed to voluntarily cease using the trade dress in dispute, and that Excel would be able to enforce the injunction via a contract claim should Penson resume use.