Sanderson-MacLeod, Inc. v. Hobbs Medical, Inc. (19-cv-30013).

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.

Canon, Inc. v. Avigilon USA Corporation, Inc. et al. (19-cv-10931).

Canon sued Avigilon earlier this year, accusing Avigilon of willfully infringing and inducing infringement of a Cannon patent covering transmission of video data. Judge Gorton has now granted Avigilon’s motion to dismiss the induced infringement and willful infringement allegations, finding that Canon’s complaint failed to plead facts sufficient to support an inference of actual pre-suit knowledge of the asserted patent by Avigilon, instead only making conclusory statements to that effect. Judge Gorton noted that there is a conflict between district courts as to whether an alleged inducer must be shown to have had knowledge of the patent prior to the filing of the lawsuit, with a minority of courts holding that post-suit knowledge (as through the complaint itself) of the asserted patent improperly bootstraps the knowledge to pre-suit acts, and more to the point, that the District of Massachusetts has limited the acceptability of knowledge through the filing of a complaint to later-amended complaints that expressly limit the inducement claims to post-filing conduct. He further found the same issues applied to the willfulness allegations, which also require proof of knowledge of the asserted patent. He therefore dismissed the inducement and willfulness claims without prejudice to allow Canon to appropriately amend the complaint, should circumstances permit.

Moreland a/k/a Ana Cheri et al. v. Black Budda Associates, LLC d/b/a The Zone d/b/a Club Zone et al. (19-cv-30091).

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.

Adler v. Her Campus Media, LLC (19-cv-10087).

Judge Saylor denied Her Campus Media’s motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, finding it premature to determine whether the use of Adler’s photograph constituted fair use or that Her Campus Media was shielded by the safe harbor provisions. Judge Saylor noted that the complaint alleges that Her Campus Media, which accepts and posts content from non-employees, utilizes an editorial staff to review proposed publications, including the submission that included the Adler photograph, and that a review of fair use and safe harbor would turn on facts such as the nature of the relationship between the website and its student contributors that preclude a finding at this early stage of the proceeding, much as it did in a different case involving Her Campus Media with a very similar fact pattern. Judge Saylor also denied the motion with respect to Mass. G.L. c. 214, § 3A, which provides a civil cause of action for any person whose name, portrait or picture is used in Massachusetts for advertising or trade without their consent. Her Campus Media asserted that, because the subject of the photographs had an independent right to their likenesses that Adler had not secured, an award of money damages to Adler would not be proper. Judge Saylor found this to be legally incorrect, because (a) Her Campus Media lacked the right to enforce the subjects’ rights under the Massachusetts law; (b) court-awarded monetary damages for copyright infringement would not qualify as a “use for advertising purposes or for the purposes of trade” within the meaning of the Massachusetts law; and (c) to the extent the Massachusetts law did somehow prevent an award for copyright infringement, it would likely be preempted by copyright law.

Getty Images (US), Inc. v. Her Campus Media, LLC (19-cv-11084).

Judge Sorokin denied Her Campus Media’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. Getty asserts that Her Campus Media has republished without authorization hundreds of Getty-owned photographs, and continued to do so after Getty notified Her Campus Media of their infringements. Her Campus Media asserted that it was entitled to the safe harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and that its use of Getty-owned photographs constituted fair use under the copyright laws. Judge Sorokin denied dismissal because Getty, in its complaint, did not admit to all of the components of the safe harbor defense that would permit dismissal on the pleadings, and because the facts as alleged in the complaint were insufficient to analyze the fair use issue. Her Campus Media submitted affidavits in support of summary judgment, but failed to include a statement of material facts as required by Local Rule 56.1, which alone is sufficient to deny the motion. Judge Sorokin further noted, however, that much of the information necessary to evaluate the affirmative defenses on which the motion was based (for example, the relationship between Her Campus Media and its student contributors) was entirely within the control of Her Campus Media but were either absent from the record or disputed by the parties and would require. He therefore denied summary judgment as premature.

Ohio State Innovation Foundation v. Akamai Technologies, Inc. (19-cv-11528).

Ohio State Innovation Foundation, which holds title to intellectual property developed by and for The Ohio State University, brought suit against Akamai, accusing the company of infringing U.S. Patent No. 9,531,522, which covers systems and methods for proactive resource allocation by which an algorithm monitors mobile user device history to automatically provide information that any particular user repeatedly requests during off-peak hours. Dr. El Gamal, the lead inventor and OSU professor, approached Akamai in 2013 about licensing the patent. Dr. El Gamal’s company, Inmobly, Inc., executed an NDA with Akamai and provided demonstration software. Akamai ultimately turned down the license, and subsequently filed its own patent application on similar technology. OSU filed suit when Akamai released its version.

Akamai moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), asserting that OSU did not (and could not) make a plausible assertion that Akamai’s software involves the machine learning required by the claims of the ‘522 patent. Judge Burroughs disagreed, however, finding Akamai’s own publications describing its software map out to the ‘522 specification and identify “machine-learning-based algorithms,” and that therefore the complaint states a legally sufficient claim of patent infringement. Accordingly, she denied Akamai’s motion.

Foss v. Spencer Brewery et al. (18-cv-40125).

In 2018, Cynthia Foss, who does graphic design work as Hunter Foss Design filed a pro se complaint in state court against Spencer Brewery, St. Joseph Abbey, Ruggles Media, Northeastern University, Cup of Julie Show, and Big Eastern Exposition (known as the “Big E”), accusing each of copyright infringement, tortious interference with business relations, defamation and violation of 93A. Foss contends that she owns the copyright in graphic compositions that were commissioned by Spencer Brewery, located within St. Joseph’s Abbey, of a stained-glass wall found in the Abbey, with the composition to be displayed at Spencer Brewery’s exhibit room at the 2016 Big E. Foss asserted that Spencer modified the composition, displayed it in places not contemplated by the agreement between Foss and Spencer, and by using the composition in an electronic display continuously since 2016. Cup of Julie, a marketing business, and Ruggles Media, which is associated with Northeastern University. After the case was removed to federal court, Judge Hillman dismissed the state law claims with prejudice as against the Big E and Cup of Julie, and Foss filed an amended complaint alleging claims only for copyright infringement against the two. Subsequently, he granted motions to dismiss and for judgment on the pleadings, which Foss did not oppose – while the dismissal motion was pending, she instead filed a motion for default, apparently (and incorrectly) thinking that the motion to dismiss did not abrogate the need to answer the complaint. Following dismissal, the Big E filed a Bill of Costs under Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(d) and 28 U.S.C. §1920, seeking $1835 in costs. Noting that he had discretion to refuse to award costs despite the presumption that costs be awarded, Judge Hillman denied request despite Foss having not filed a motion for disallowance, because four of the six categories of costs sought were plainly not recoverable under the statute. He found that the Bill of Costs was thus not filed in good faith, but instead evidenced punitive intent, and denied the bill in total.

Foss has filed two other pro se copyright cases in Massachusetts, one of which was dismissed for failure to timely serve or to timely seek an extension to serve (and which asserted claims that were time-barred, implausible and/or preempted); the second was dismissed for failure to state a claim when Foss failed to oppose the motion to dismiss, but Foss was successful in having the case reopened and is presently seeking a preliminary injunction.