Yogasleep sells white noise sound machines under a variety of registered trademarks, including Yogasleep®, Dohm®, Dohm Elite®, Hushh®, Rohm® and Whish® accuses 1st Avenue of trademark infringement, unfair competition and false designation of origin in connection with 1st Avenue’s sales of Yogasleep products through online commerce sites such as Amazon. The complaint characterizes the accused products as being “non-genuine, potentially stolen or counterfeit,” and asserts that advertising such products as “new” deceives customers. Because 1st Avenue is not a licensed retailer and it is unclear how it obtains Yogasleep products, Yogasleep’s warranty may not apply to 1st Avenue-sold products. Yogasleep further points to a negative review on Amazon that cited 1st Avenue’s lack of customer service as evidence of harm to Yogasleep’s good will. Judge Wolf has the case.
Bosch makes fuel injectors and related car parts and sells them through a network of authorized distributers and authorized internet dealers. The distributers are permitted to sell only to the authorized Internet dealers, who can only sell to end-users through designated websites. The authorized resellers are further authorized to provide aftermarket service and warranties for Bosch products, such as maintenance, diagnostic and repair services. Bosch asserts that Lincoln Diesel sells both new and remanufactured parts that it identifies as OEM Bosch Parts, but that Lincoln Diesel is not an authorized reseller of Bosch. The complaint asserts that Lincoln Diesel obtains Bosch products as used products that have already been sold, at liquidation, or through importation from other regions of the world, and obtained or attempted to obtain products from authorized Bosch distributors or resellers in violation of the authorized parties’ agreements with Bosch. Bosch asserts trademark infringement, tortious interference with contractual relations, and unfair competition under the laws of multiple states. The case is before Judge Zobel.
Endobiotics accuses Design Standards Corporation (DSC) and Medrobotics Corporation of infringing U.S. Patent No. 7,147,650, as well as trade secret misappropriation, violation of the Defend Trade Secrets Act, unfair competition, breach of contract, tortious interference, unjust enrichment and conversion. Endobotics’ predecessor in interest, Cambridge Endoscopic Devices, developed and patented a surgical instrument that improved the manipulative ability of tools affixed to the end of the instrument. Cambridge Endoscopy contracted with DSC to validate the design and manufacture of the instrument. Endobotics alleges that this agreement provided that Cambridge Endoscopy would exclusively own all products, inventions and designs arising from this work, and that the agreement included confidentiality and non-disclosure clauses that protected Cambridge Endoscopy’s trade secrets, although Endobotics acknowledges that it does not have a copy of the agreement. When Cambridge Endoscopy declared bankruptcy, Endobotics acquired the patent as well as Cambridge Endoscopy’s trade secret and know-how related to the instrument. In 2010, Endobotics executed an NDA with Medrobotics to explore producing the instrument for Medrobotics. According to the complaint, Medrobotics ultimately declined to enter into an agreement with Endobotics, and instead approached DSC directly to manufacture a competing system that improperly utilized Cambridge Endoscopy’s trade secret information. Endobotics discovered the Medrobotics system at a 2017 trade show, and further investigation resulted in this lawsuit. The case is before Judge Saylor.
Tile, which sells Bluetooth devices that can be attached to phones, car keys and the like and can be used to find the item to which it has been attached, sued S&W Dealz and Trend Goods, accusing them of infringing its federally-registered “TILE” trademark through their sale of Tile products through on-line commerce sites including Amazon.com. Tile sells its products through authorized resellers, who are limited in the locations and websites that they can offer the products. Authorized resellers are also prohibited from selling or otherwise diverting Tile products to any other party for subsequent resale. While the defendants sell Tile products (apparently liquidated or used), their sale outside of the authorized network are non-genuine in that they are not new (despite being so listed) and do not come with Tile’s warranty. Tile asserted trademark infringement unfair competition and false advertising under the Lanham Act, as well as state law unfair competition.
Tile’s complaint acknowledged that Tile did not know the name and address of either defendant, but did know the Amazon seller identification number for each. Accordingly, the same day that Tile filed the complaint, it filed a motion for alternative service of process, seeking leave to serve them through Amazon’s electronic mail service that the defendants use to communicate with customers. Under Massachusetts state law, which the Federal Rules refer to as an allowable means of service, service by alternative means can be used when a plaintiff cannot find the defendant, the last and usual abode of the defendant, or an agent on whom service can be made. So long as the alternative means of service is reasonably calculated, under the circumstances, to give notice of the pendency of the action and afford them an opportunity to respond, due process is met. Judge Burroughs, who is assigned to the case, agreed and granted the motion for alternative service.
Judge Talwani denied Defendants Jeffrey A. Cohen and Cohen Business Law Group’s motion for reconsideration of her previous finding that the claims against them could not be dismissed at the pleading stage. She rejected Cohen’s argument that her prior decision was based on case law that was not controlling; while she agreed that the particular case was not “controlling” but instead was, as a decision of a district judge presiding over a diversity action, merely persuasive authority. She instead pointed to the controlling decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which provides for litigation privilege where the communications at issue are made prior to the onset of litigation only where the communications relate to a legal proceeding which is contemplated in good faith and which is under serious consideration. Judge Talwani also rejected Cohen’s argument that Larson had failed to sufficiently allege bad faith as required under the controlling SJC decision, finding that the issue had not been raised in the Motion to Dismiss and thus could not be brought for the first time in a motion for reconsideration.
God’s Era brought claims of false designation of origin and unfair competition under the Lanham Act as well as common law trademark infringement and unfair competition in connection with New Era’s 2016 collaboration with Jerry Lorenzo, owner of fashion brand Fear of God that resulted in a hat with a New Era design directly above the FEAR OF GOD mark. God’s Era, which formed in 2015, sought in October 2016 to register GOD’S ERA as a trademark, which New Era opposed. New Era first used the combined mark in commerce at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in July 2017. God’s Era was only able to produce receipts totaling $235 in sales of t-shirts, hoodies and sweatshirts prior to that time, and none in interstate commerce. Judge Talwani granted New Era’s motion for summary judgment on the trademark claims, finding that the God’s Era mark was not entitled to common law trademark protection outside of the Boston area as of mid-2017. All of God’s Era’s sales prior to then had been made in person by God’s Era’s founder and sole employee to people in the greater Boston area. Any common law rights that had arisen as a result of these sales would not extend to Miami, the site of the All-Star Game and the sales of New Era’s products. Judge Talwani specifically noted that the website that God’s Era ran did not establish trademark rights because as of mid-2017 no actual sales had been made through the website. As no common law trademark rights were established, the false designation of origin and unfair competition claims likewise failed.
99 Ranch, an Asian supermarket, operates 53 stores in the United States, including their most recent store in Massachusetts (which just opened in January). The store has utilized a red “99” surrounded by green laurel leaves as a mark, as well as the name “99 RANCH MARKET” for thirty years, and has registrations on both. 99 Ranch asserts that 99 Asian Supermarket opened a store in Malden that utilizes a red 99 surrounded by green laurel leaves in an attempt to capture 99 Ranch customers, and that “99 Asian Supermarket” infringes the 99 RANCH MARKET mark. 99Ranch asserts trademark counterfeiting under 15 U.S.C. 1114(a), state and federal trademark infringement, state and federal unfair competition, and state federal trademark dilution.
Sonya Larson sued Dawn Dorland Perry, seeking a declaratory judgment that a story written by Larson did not infringe Perry’s copyright in a similar story, and sued Perry, her attorney and his law firm for defamation and tortious interference with contractual relationships when Larson’s publisher was threatened with a lawsuit if they continued to publish Larson’s story. Perry’s lawyer, Jeffrey Cohen, and his California firm, Cohen Business Law Group, moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, which Judge Talwani denied. She noted that Cohen Law had sent letters to BFF in Cambridge, MA, alleging that Larson’s story plagiarized Perry’s letter and that publication would infringe on Perry’s rights, and threatened statutory damages of up to $150,000 should BFF publish. Larson alleges that this letter knowingly misrepresented both the facts and the law such that it constituted an unfair or deceptive trade practice under Massachusetts law and was designed to interfere with her agreement with BFF. As this behavior was targeted to a Massachusetts company for the purpose of affecting BFF’s business decision. This therefore is sufficient to establish specific personal jurisdiction.
Cohen and his firm also moved for dismissal on the grounds that, as a matter of law, their alleged conduct is shielded by Massachusetts’ litigation privilege. An attorney’s statements in the Commonwealth are absolutely privileged where such statements are made by an attorney engaged in his function as an attorney whether in the institution or conduct of litigation or in conferences and other communications preliminary to litigation. Where the communication is to a prospective defendant, however, the anticipated litigation must be contemplated in good faith, and does not allow a lawyer the freedom to act with impunity. While lawyers cannot be held liable for the contents of their speech, that speech can be used as evidence of misconduct, with the line between the two determined on a case by case basis. In this case, the complaint asserts that the Cohen letter was used to effectuate unlawful ends, rather than looking to establish liability based on the content standing alone, and Judge Talwani determined that the good faith of the Cohen firm could not be determined on the pleadings. Accordingly, she refused to dismiss based on litigation privilege.
Judge Talwani denied Perry’s moved to dismiss on the grounds that defamation was not properly pled and that Larson failed to plead actual malice, a requirement under Massachusetts defamation law when the plaintiff is a limited purpose public figure. The complaint identified instances in which Perry is alleged to have told several writing organizations, Larson’s employer, and a writing organization where Larson sought a fellowship that Larson plagarized her work, providing Perry with enough specificity to mount a defense. Regarding the “limited public figure” issue, Judge Talwani noted that while the issue is one of law, it is inherently fact-specific such that it cannot be determined on the pleadings.
Judge Talwani granted Perry’s motion to dismiss the tortious interference counts. The complaint alleged that, as a result of Perry’s conduct, two publishers decided to pull Larson’s story from their website earlier than call for by the contracts between Larson and the two. Ordinarily, this would be sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. Here, however, the two contracts were included as exhibits to the complaint and could thus be fairly considered in determining the motion. In reviewing the contracts, neither included the promises alleged in the complaint that the story actually be published or remain on available for any particular length of time.
As a note, Judge Talwani denied Perry’s request for a hearing on her motion, finding that the coronavirus crisis combined with the Court’s determination that it could properly adjudicate the issue on the papers weighed against a hearing.
FabriClear, LLC developed a spray for treating bed bug infestations, and reached an agreement with Harvest Direct by which Harvest would advertise and sell the product, which was known as “FabriClear.” FabriClear asserts that, after several years of complying with the agreements with FabriClear, Harvest began re-labelling the product as “X-Out” and failing to pay FabriClear on sales of the same. FabriClear identifies several examples in which the “X-Out” label was simply superimposed directly over the “FabriClear” label. The complaint further alleges that Harvest essentially copied FabriClear’s label, packaging, website and advertisements for X-Out, including an advertisement in which the FabriClear bottle remained in several segments. FabriClear asserts breach of contract, trade secret misappropriation, and false designation of origin, as well as unfair competition. Magistrate Judge Hillman has the case.
(Note – I filed this complaint on behalf of FabriClear. As I always do when reporting on cases in which I and my firm are involved, I blog about the issues presented in the pleadings or orders, and avoid adding any “insider information.”)
Ethic, an investment advisor that specializes in socially aware investing, filed suit against Admirals Bancorp and Ethic Wealth Advisors, LLC, accusing the two of rebranding to the “ETHIC” mark for the provision of similar services. Ethic asserts federal and common law trademark infringement, false designation of origin and unfair competition and unfair trade practices. Ethic further asserts that the infringement was willful, because Admiral’s intent-to-use applications for registration of ETHIC and ETHIC A WEALTH BANK were each refused in light of Ethic’s prior registration. Ethic asserts that, in response to the latter rejection, Admiral misled the PTO as to the differences between the respective services, banking services versus investment advisory services, that rendered confusion unlikely. According to Ethic, at the time of this representation, Admiral had already taken steps to offer investment services under the “Ethic” mark, as evidenced by Admiral’s SEC filings. The case is before Judge Sorokin.