SiOnyx, LLC v. Hamamatsu Photonics K.K. et al. (15-cv-13488).

SiOnyx alleged that Hamamatsu, following an aborted attempt to form a business partnership involving devices that improve the detection of near-infrared light, had violated a non-disclosure agreement and obtained patents on SiOnyx technology without naming SiOnyx personnel as inventors. Hamamatsu filed twelve motions for partial summary judgment. Judge Saylor granted three of these, denied three, and deferred judgment on the remaining six.

Hamamatsu’s bid to prevail on breach of contract and unjust enrichment claims on statute of limitations grounds was denied. While the relevant events occurred longer ago than the six-year time period provided by the statute of limitations on these types of claims, Massachusetts law follows the discovery rule, by which the cause of action arises not when the events occurred, but when the plaintiff discovers or should reasonably have discovered. Here, there were issues of fact as to when SiOnyx should reasonably have become aware of these claims, brought about by Hamamatsu’s repeated assurances that it had developed the relevant technology on its own, independent from any knowledge acquired under the NDA. Judge Saylor denied summary judgment of breach of contract, finding issues of fact as to the scope of use of confidential information, while granting Hamamatsu’s motion with respect to the unjust enrichment claims of both SiOnyx and co-plaintiff Harvard, because under Massachusetts law, unjust enrichment cannot be found where there is a valid contract defining the rights of the parties. Applying First Circuit law, Judge Saylor denied Hamamatsu’s motion with respect to consequential damages on the grounds that the testimony offered in support of this theory, SiOnyx’s recollection of statements as to why a third-party agreement was terminated made by an executive of the third party, constituted an exception to hearsay under Rule 803(3) as a statement of intent or motive. Finally, he granted Hamamatsu’s motion that a SiOnyx employee was not a co-inventor on Hamamatsu’s patents, as the testimony of the employee was not sufficiently corroborated by documentary evidence.

Emseal Joint Systems, Ltd. v. MM Systems Corp. (14-cv-14706).

Judge Zobel, having issued a claim construction that rendered Emseal’s infringement position unfeasible, issued a final judgment of non-infringement pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b).  MM Systems had opposed Emseal’s motion for entry of final judgment of non-infringement on the grounds that, absent a tolling of the statute of limitations on its counterclaims, it would most likely lose the ability to pursue those claims.  Emseal had sought to have the counterclaims dismissed with or without prejudice, or in the alternative to enter final judgment under Rule 54(b) and stay the counterclaims.  MM Systems was concerned that, with the litigation having been filed in 2014, a dismissal of its counterclaims would result in their not being capable of being refiled, as a dismissed complaint is treated as though it never existed for Federal statute of limitations purposes, and provides for refiling within one year for state statute of limitations purposes.  MM Systems also asserted that the Federal Circuit would not accept jurisdiction if the counterclaims were stayed rather than dismissed (although I note that the principal case cited for this proposition, Pause Technology v. TiVo, notes that the Federal Circuit lacks jurisdiction in such circumstances “short of meeting the conditions specified in Rule 54(b)…”).  Judge Zobel stayed any activity relating to the counterclaims pending the outcome of the appeal.

Monsarrat v. Zaiger (17-10356).

Judge Saris denied Jonathan Monsarrat’s motion for reconsideration of her grant of Zaiger’s motion to dismiss.  Monsarrat became aware of Zaiger’s publication of an alteration of a copyrighted photograph of Monsarrat, dressed in an MIT mascot costume, at least as early as 2013, yet did not file suit until 2017, beyond the three-year statute of limitaitons.  Monsarrat argued that the “discovery rule,” whereby the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the plaintiff knows or should reasonably know of the claim, keeps the statute of limitations from starting until after the identity of the infringer is known.  Judge Saris rejected this proposition, noting that First Circuit law clearly states that a copyright claim accrues when the plaintiff knows or should reasonably know about the conduct on which the claim is based.  She also noted that complaints are often filed against unknown defendants.  In a separate ruling, Judge Saris rejected Zaiger’s motion for attorney’s fees, finding that Monsarrat had objectively reasonable infringement and timeliness arguments and that Zaiger’s motion was untimely, coming beyond the two-week period of time laid out in FRCP 54.  Finally, Judge Saris noted that Zaiger’s conduct had been “unduly nasty.”  Zaiger, who was accused of altering the photograph to associate Monsarrat with pedophilia, indicated his intention to repost the offensive photograph, and had filed the photograph to the public record before the Court could rule on Monsarrat’s known objections.

Monsarrat v. Brian Zaiger dba Encyclopediadramatica.se (17-cv-10356).

Jonathan Monsarrat had sued Brian Zaiger, alleged to be the owner and administrator of the website Encyclopedia Dramatica, for copyright infringement relating to a June 2000 MIT graduation photograph published on Encyclopedia Dramatica. Encyclopedia Dramatica, which Monsarrat characterizes as similar to Wikipedia but hosting offensive and unsourced articles catering to internet “trolling” culture, is accused of altering a photograph of Monsarrat in an MIT mascot costume to associate the mascot, and thus Monsarrat, with an internet meme “pedobear,” a mascot for pedophiles.  Monsarrat initially served a take-down notice relating to the altered photo in January 2011; the website was then taken down in its entirety, only to resurface under a different country domain.  Over the course of the next several years, Monsarrat sent several take-down notices to domain registrars and agents, but could not identify Zaiger as the owner of the site due to Zaiger’s use of anonymous acronyms to disguise his identity.

When Monsarrat ultimately filed suit on March 2, 2017, Zaiger moved to dismiss the complaint as time-barred, which Judge Saris has granted. The complaint made clear that Monsarrat knew of the alleged copyright infringement since at least 2012, well earlier than the three-year statute of limitations permits. Judge Saris rejected Monsarrat’s argument that the limitations period does not begin until the identity of the infringer is known to the accuser, noting that suits against unnamed parties are common.  Zaiger’s counterclaim under 17 U.S.C. 512(f), alleging knowing misrepresentation that the photograph is infringing, remain in effect.

Hybrid Audio, LLC v. Texas Instruments, Inc. (17-cv-12561).

Hybrid Audio is the assignee of U.S. Reissue Patent RE40,281, which claims a priority date of September 12, 1992. The patent is alleged to cover certain elements of MP3 technology.   As a result of a prior lawsuit involving other defendants, the patent was put into reexamination in 2012.  It emerged in December 2015 with all reexamined claims confirmed.  Texas Instruments was notified in January 2011 by a prior assignee, Hybrid Audio-Texas, that certain Texas Instruments products were believed to infringe the patent.  Hybrid Audio acknowledges that the patent lapsed on September 21, 2012, but states that it was constrained from filing suit or seeking damages during the pendency of the reexamination.  Hybrid Audio seeks damages for the period from the January 2011 notice letter to the expiration, all of which it asserts to be with the six-year statute of limitations on damages.  It is unclear how this could be, given that the January 2011 letter was sent nearly seven years ago, and Hybrid Audio itself seems to acknowledge that there is a statute of limitations issue – it asserts that it sent a letter in December 2016 to Texas Instruments proposing to toll by agreement the statute of limitations so that settlement could be discussed without necessitating the time and expense of actually filing suit, and that Texas Instruments never responded.