Anova sued a number of different Chinese businesses for trademark and trade dress infringement related to its Sous Vide Precision Cooker, a constant temperature immersion circulator that cooks food in a sealed bag at a constant temperature in a water bath.
Anova designed its product in 2014 using funds generated via a Kickstarter campaign. Anova registered the mark PRECISION, and asserts that the distinctive design of the product constitutes highly distinctive trade dress. The product enjoyed considerable success, leading to Anova being purchased by Electrolux for $250 million in February of this year. Anova asserts that the defendants make nearly-identical replicas and sell them through internet websites such as GlobalSources.com and Alibaba.com, as well as through U.S. distributors. In addition to infringement, Anova asserts claims for trademark dilution, unfair competition, and false designation of origin.
School Family Media (“SFM”) sued School Tool Box (“STB”) under the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act and the Lanham Act. SFM runs a website, www.teacherlists.com, that allows teachers to list materials their students will need and allows parents to order the materials online by providing connections to school supply vendors. SFM asserts that, as of November 2017, close to one and a half million supply lists were posted to the site and that the site had attracted nearly six million page views in 2017 alone. Based on this, and on several awards that the site has received, SFM asserts that the (as-yet unregistered) TeacherLists™ mark is famous. SFM obtained many similar sounding domain names to prevent others from selecting a domain name too close to its own, but mistakenly allowed its registration of “teacherlist.com” to lapse. STB, a business that sells school supplies to PTO and PTA organizations, is alleged to have registered “teacherlist.com” and to have that site redirect traffic to its www.schooltoolbox/teacherlist/ site that is alleged to be substantially identical to SFM’s site. SFM further alleges that the computer source code for the STB site was literally copied from SFM’s site. Finally, SFM alleges that, after notifying STB of its concerns with the new website, SFM’s Facebook page was merged into a TeacherList Facebook page, believed to have been caused by STB.
Global Licensing filed suit against New Bedford’s Club Déjà vu and its owner, Kelvin Ortiz, for infringing on Global’s DÉJÀ VU family of trademarks and service marks in connection with strip clubs. Global licenses the DÉJÀ VU marks to companies throughout America, and apply variants of the mark to goods and electronic magazines. Global asserts federal service mark infringement, unfair competition, false designation of origin, trademark dilution, and common law trademark infringement.
Banertek sued ecobee, a Canadian company, for infringing U.S. Patent 6,839,731, “System and Method for Providing Data Communication in a Network Device. Ecobee makes smart wi-fi thermostats and room sensors that, according to the complaint, communicate through a central communication device (e.g., a server) with sensors, heating/air conditioning equipment, and smartphones or tablets in a way that infringes the ‘731 patent. Direct, contributory and induced infringement are alleged. The case has been assigned to Judge Saris.
Photographer Richard Sobol sued filmmakers Sheila Canavan and Michael Chandler for copyright infringement. Sobol alleges that the defendants, operating as Pack Creek Productions, used a number of Sobol’s photographs of ex-Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank in their 2015 documentary film Compared to What? The Improbable Journey of Barney Frank. Sobol seeks destruction of all copies of the film and actual and/or statutory damages. Judge Stearns was assigned to the case.
A class action complaint was filed against Eversource Energy and Avangrid, Inc., accusing the companies of manipulating the flow, and thus price, of natural gas into New England, with a resulting increase in the price of electricity. Both companies are accused of systematically over-ordering natural gas from the Algonquin gas pipeline, the biggest supply line into the region, and then cancelling a portion of the order at the last minute, making it unavailable for other electricity generators. Eversource and Avidgrid own companies that operate as Local Distribution Companies that allow them, through legacy contracts, to adjust orders of natural gas throughout the day without penalty; it is this possibility that enables them to order more gas than they expect to use and cancel portions of the order when the gas cannot be purchased and put to use elsewhere. The two companies are alleged to be the only two companies to operate large-scale natural gas and electric companies in the area, giving them unique capabilities for this type of behavior. The complaint alleges that this practice resulted in customers paying a minimum of 20% more for electricity than they should have, costing consumers $3.6 billion over a three-year period from 2013-2016. Plaintiffs bring antitrust claims as well as unjust enrichment and unfair competition under New England states’ consumer protection laws.
Micron Technology was sued in 2016 by Harvard College, prior to the issuance of the Supreme Court’s TC Heartland decision on venue in a patent infringement lawsuit. Following the TC Heartland decision, Micron moved to dismiss for improper venue. Judge Young denied the motion as waived, finding that TC Heartland had not changed the venue laws, but had merely reaffirmed prior Supreme Court case law on the subject. Micron petitioned the Federal Circuit for a writ of mandamus to set aside this ruling, noting the disagreement among many district courts on the subject of whether the venue laws were changed by TC Heartland. Today the Federal Circuit held that TC Heartland did change the controlling venue law, in that it made available and interpretation of the venue statute that was not previously available. The Court found that the rarely-applied remedy of mandamus relief was appropriate here to resolve the split in district courts over the issue, and was important to proper judicial administration. Looking to Rule 12, the Court noted that, for waiver to apply, a defense under that rule must have been “available to the [defendant] when the defendant made the initial Rule 12(b) motion. As a matter of law, the venue defense made possible by TC Heartland was not “available” prior to that decision’s issuance, given the controlling precedent at the time. The Court interpreted “available” to mean available at the district court, not available after going through one or more levels of appeal, and under Federal Circuit precedent, the venue defense at issue was not something that could be granted by the district court. Accordingly, the venue defense was not waived.
This was not, however, a clean win for Micron. The Court remanded the case for consideration of whether Micron’s subsequent venue motion was filed sufficiently soon after the TC Heartland decision so as to preserve the issue, indicating that the district court has discretion under its inherent powers to deem the venue challenge nonetheless waived. To that end, the Court noted that it had denied mandamus in cases where a post-TC Heartland challenge was brought close to trial.