Malden Transportation, Inc. et al. v. Uber Technologies, Inc. et al. (16-cv-12538).

In a series of consolidated cases (discussed further here and here), a large number of Boston-area cab companies accuse Uber, as well as Uber founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, of unfair competition in violation of Massachusetts state and common law, and some of the plaintiffs further allege that Uber violated state and federal antitrust law, interfered with advantageous business relationships, engaged in civil conspiracy and aided and abetted unfair competition. Kalanick and Camp both moved to dismiss the claims against them as individuals.  Judge Gorton granted this motion, finding that the plaintiffs had failed to allege specific facts demonstrating either general or specific jurisdiction – the complaint alleged only that the two formed Uber while in California and that Uber had undertaken activities in Massachusetts, but failed to identify any activities the individuals, as opposed to the company, had directed towards this forum.

As to the claims against Uber, Massachusetts passed a law in August 2016, the “TNC Act,” that pre-empts local municipalities from regulating ride-sharing companies like Uber, and the plaintiffs agree that this precludes Uber’s post-enactment activity. With respect to the pre-enactment activity, Judge Gorton found that, absent the TNC Act, Uber’s activities fell within the Boston municipal taxi regulations.  Accordingly, allegations that Uber did not comply with the taxi regulations or incur the concomitant costs to gain an unfair advantage and cause economic injury sufficiently stated a cause of action for the statutory and common-law unfair competition claims.  The court likewise denied the motion to dismiss with respect to claims that Uber conspired with its independent contractor drivers to violate the taxi rules.  Judge Gorton allowed Uber’s motion to dismiss claims that Uber and its drivers, as an employer and employees (as opposed to independent contractors – it is not yet clear what status the drivers will ultimately be deemed to have held), conspired to violate the taxi regulations, because with the individual founders having been dismissed, this would effectively allege that Uber conspired with itself to do so, a claim that is untenable.  Judge Gorton dismissed claims for interference with advantageous business relationships because the complaint did not allege interference with any specific anticipated business relationship, and the plaintiffs’ allegations regarding interference with people seeking for-hire ride services generally was not sufficiently specific.  Finally, Judge Gorton also dismissed the antitrust claims.  Those claims were based on a predatory pricing theory whereby a company sells products or services below its costs, hoping to drive competitors out of the market, at which point the company can raise its prices due to its monopoly position.  The complaint did allege that Uber had lost “billions of dollars” (which seems to be accurate), but this was found to lack the particularity required of the antitrust laws.

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.

The Green Pet Shop Enterprises, LLC v. PetEdge, Inc. (17-cv-12583).

The Green Pet Shop Enterprises (“GPSE”) accuses PetEdge’s Slumber Pet Cool Pup Pad of infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 8,720,218 and 9,226,474, which relate to cooling platforms for use with pets. GPSE alleges that it notified PetEdge of the patents in July 2017, and additionally that GPSE has been marking its own Cool Pet Pad product with the patent numbers for some time.  GPSE alleges that a prior defendant had petitioned for inter partes review, which the Patent Office denied.  GPSE seeks a finding of willful infringement, and seeks monetary and injunctive relief.  The case is before Judge Young.

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.

Solid Holdings, LLC et al. v. Solid Logic Limited et al. (17-cv-12528).

Solid Holdings, Solid Surface Care, Inc. and Solidcare, LLC (collectively, “Solid”) sued Solid Logic, along with two of its officers, for trademark and trade dress infringement, false designation of origin, dilution and cybersquatting. Solid alleges that it is the registrant and owner of SOLID marks in connection with cleaning and maintenance of stone, metal, concrete, terrazzo, grout and wood surfaces, as well as a distinctive trade dress using red-orange and gray.  Solid  asserts that, after meeting with Solid to discuss possibly becoming a franchisee, the defendants formed Solid Logic Limited to offer the same services in a deliberate attempt to poach off of the good-will of the SOLID mark and trade dress, and that its registration of its “solidlogicltd.com” website comprises cybersquatting on Solid’s “solidcare.com” domain name.