Juan Pablo Chavez filed suit against American Idol Productions along with a host of other companies and individuals, accusing them of copyright infringement, violating the No Electronic Theft Act of 1997, which permits criminal prosecution of copyright infringement even where the infringer receives no financial benefit, violation of the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005, trademark infringement, and violation of the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (which provides for moral rights in copyrighted works such as proper attribution). Mr. Chavez also seeks a criminal complaint for willful copyright infringement under the Artist Rights and Theft Prevention Act of 2015. While difficult to discern from the complaint, appears to relate to a violinist, Johnny Arco, who auditioned for American Idol in 2015, although Mr. Chavez’s relation to Johnny Arco is not clear and there appears to be no basis for jurisdiction in Massachusetts. Mr. Chavez, who is representing himself, appears to have filed virtually the same suit against the same defendants in at least Iowa, Tennessee, California, New York, and Georgia, all at roughly the same time and all pro se. The case is before Judge Stearns.
The Plum Island Soap Company sued 1818 Farms sued Alabama’s 1818 Farms and its sole operator, Natasha McCrary for trademark and trade dress infringement relating to men’s grooming products sold in combination and packaged in a paint can. The background of the lawsuit is interesting. Plum Island Soap Co. has an incontestable registration on “THE MAN CAN” mark. It alleges it has been using the paint can trade dress for more than five years, establishing a prima facie case of secondary meaning, and successfully obtained injunctive relief relating to the mark in 2013.
After discovering 1818 Farms’ “The Man of the Farm Grooming Can” product in the fall, counsel for Plum Island Soap Co. contacted 1818 Farms.
According to the complaint, they negotiated and agreed upon terms to resolve the dispute in which 1818 Farms acknowledged the validity of the trade dress and agreed to be enjoined, needing only to memorialize the agreement into a formal settlement document, and in reliance upon this, Plum Island Soap Co. did not file suit; yet in January, while in daily communication with Plum Island’s attorneys , 1818 Farms filed suit in Alabama seeking declarations of non-infringement, challenging the validity of the trade dress , and seeking to cancel the trademark registration. Six days later, 1818 Farms then contacted Plum Island’s lawyers and reneged on the agreed-upon terms of the settlement and informed Plum Island of the Alabama complaint. Plum Island asserts that, but for the false indication that 1818 Farms was settling the dispute, it would have filed suit in Massachusetts, and that Massachusetts should thus be the forum for the litigation. Plum Island claims trademark and trade dress infringement, as well as contributory and vicarious trademark infringement in connection with third-party sales of “The Man of the Farm Grooming Can” product and the preparation of marketing materials by third parties for 1818 Farms’ benefit. Plum Island also alleges breach of contract and of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, stating that the settlement discussions had reached the point of an actual agreement, as well as fraud relating to statements made in the Alabama complaint that Plum Island made false statements to the PTO when seeking to register THE MAN CAN mark, and unfair and deceptive practices under Mass. G.L. 93A. Plum Island seeks temporary, preliminary and permanent injunctions, enforcement of the settlement agreement, monetary damages, and treble damages and attorney’s fees.
Greater Boston Authentication Solutions (GBAS) filed four separate lawsuits, alleging infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 5,982,892, 6,567,793 and 7,346,583 by Autodesk (18-cv-10215), Juniper Networks (18-cv-10217), National Instruments Corp. (18-cv-10218), and Siemens PLM Software (18-cv-10219). The patented technology covers authorization and unlocking of electronic data using cryptographic authentication, and the patents are related as a continuation and CIP of the ‘892 patent. GBAS accuses these companies of infringement via their license and authentication software, and seeks damages and attorney’s fees, but (given that the patents recently expired) not injunctive relief.
BMI sued Blue Paws, Inc., which owns and runs JJ’s Tavern and the 13th Floor Music Lounge in Florence, MA, for copyright infringement relating to live performances of a number of songs, primarily country songs. BMI alleges to have contacted Blue Paws more than thirty-five times, with no response. BMI seeks injunctive relief, statutory damages and attorney’s fees.
Crane sued Rolling Optics, asserting infringement of five patents relating to micro-optics systems that project synthetically magnified images. They accuse Rolling Optics of infringing directly and inducing infringement through sales of micro-optic foils that are formed into 3-D holographic-style labels. The patents cover planar arrays of image icons and focusing elements, with an optical spacer or substrate therebetween. Judge Sorokin ruled in Crane’s behalf on a series of summary judgment motions filed by the parties. He denied Rolling Optics’ argument that two claim terms were indefinite, finding that the claims, specification and prosecution history provided enough specificity to survive. Instead, he sua sponte granted summary judgment that the terms are definite, despite Crane not having so moved, noting that the briefing provided adequate notice to Rolling Optics, there was ample discovery on the issue, and there were no factual disputes relevant to the issue. Judge Sorokin denied summary judgment of invalidity over prior art, in part because assumptions of Rolling Optics’ expert regarding spacing of critical elements taken from figures in the prior art were disregarded because the prior art figures were not drawn to scale. While finding the patents in suit were not entitled to claim priority to a provisional application that was not specifically referenced in the patent applications, Judge Sorokin denied summary judgment of invalidity due to the on-sale bar due to the existence of fact issues relating to whether potentially prior uses were experimental or were on-sale bars. Summary judgment of infringement was granted as to certain products that Rolling Optics failed to provide evidence of non-infringement due to the low volume of potentially infringing sales, and as to other products on which Rolling Optics’ claim construction arguments did not prevail. Rolling Optics’ motion for summary judgment was denied with respect to induced infringement, because the evidence laid forth a factual dispute over whether Rolling Optics knew that labels it sold were being applied to products sold in the United States. Finally, Judge Sorokin found factual issues in dispute regarding the language of an early notice letter regarding the patents and denied Rolling Optics’ motion for summary judgment with respect to notice and damages.
Judge Sorokin denied Johnson & Johnson’s request to extend the time for amending the pleadings. Andover Healthcare accuses Johnson & Johnson of making false statements that certain products did not contain latex, when in fact they did. The Rule 16 deadline for amending the pleadings having passed, Johnson & Johnson sought additional time to consider bringing claims against some of its suppliers for including latex from products made for Johnson & Johnson in violation of contractual requirements to exclude latex from the products. Judge Sorkin denied the motion, noting that the contracts with the suppliers required potential violations to be addressed via arbitration rather than in court.
ConnectQuest accuses Swirl Networks of infringing several patents relating to proximity-based electronic communications for local marketing and informational purposes such as advertising, loyalty bonuses and discounts to customers in or near a physical store. The patented technology is said to be embodied in ConnectQuest’s “CQ™ Beacon” product and associated “CQ™ App.” ConnectQuest asserts that Swirl’s “Swirl Beacon” product and associated software development kits and apps infringe ConnectQuest’s patents. The case has been assigned to Judge O’Toole.