Cedar Bay Grilling Co. Ltd. V. Canadian Fish Exporters Inc. (19-cv-12264).

Judge Gorton denied Canadian Fish’s motion to set aside Cedar Bay’s voluntary dismissal of the complaint.  Canadian Fish was a distributor for Cedar Bay in the United States.  The relationship lasted for nine years, when a dispute arose as to Cedar Bay’s pending trademark registrations, leading Cedar Bay to accuse Canadian Fish of false association and false designation of origin for Canadian Fish’s alleged misuse of Cedar Bay’s marks.  Canadian Fish promptly countersued for breach of contract and declaratory judgment in Nova Scotia/  The parties mediated the disputes and came to a settlement in January, memorialized in a document titled “Settlement Agreement.”  When, days later, Cedar Bay asserted that this document was merely a memorialization of potential points of agreement and not an actual agreement, Canadian Fish moved to enforce the agreement and separately moved to dismiss the complaint in the Massachusetts case.  Cedar Bay initially opposed the motion, but shortly thereafter filed a notice of voluntary dismissal, leading to termination of the case by the Court.  Canadian Fish, apparently angered by Cedar Bay’s attempted reneging of the agreement, sought to vacate the dismissal so that it could seek a better outcome than the compromise of the settlement agreement.  Judge Gorton noted that if a plaintiff voluntarily dismisses a complaint pursuant to Rule 41(a)(1), where no answer or motion for summary judgment has been filed, the Court has no power to condition the dismissal – the plaintiff has an absolute right to dismiss.  He rejected Canadian Fish’s assertion that the motion to enforce the settlement agreement was functionally equivalent to a motion for summary judgment; while the summary judgment standard is generally applied to motions to enforce settlement agreements, application of the same standard does not mean that a motion to enforce a settlement agreement is the equivalent to a motion for summary judgment, as this is clearly not contemplated by the plain language of the Rule.

Night and Day Furniture, LLC v. Atlantic Furniture, Inc. (18-cv-30104).

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.

Sobol v. Canavan et al. (17-cv-12275).

Photographer Richard Sobol, faced with counterclaims that he repeatedly lied to the Copyright Office to obtain his registrations, opted to settle his infringement suit against the makers of a Barney Frank documentary. Sobol had asserted that filmmakers Sheila Canavan and Michael Chandler had used ten of his photographs without license. Canavan and Chandler asserted that Sobol had lied to the Copyright Office about the initial publication date of the photographs and that he was the photographer on three of them, and that some of his submissions were actually screenshots from the documentary. Sobol’s settlement seems to validate the defendants’ positions – he agreed to dismiss all claims with prejudice, and admitted that the film did not infringe his copyright, that he did not take three of the photographs covered by one of the registrations, that six of the photographs covered by the registration were published more than five years prior to registration, and that two registrations were invalid and must be cancelled. Sobol agreed to cancel the registrations. Sobol further acknowledged that the defendants expected to recover more than $480,000 in damages should the case proceed, and agreed to pay an undisclosed amount as a part of the settlement.