Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Intellectual Property
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Plaintiff is a physically challenged athlete and motivational speaker who started the Scott Rigsby Foundation and registered the domain name “scottrigsbyfoundation.org” with GoDaddy.com. When Plaintiff and the Foundation failed to pay the annual renewal fee in 2018, a third party registered the then-available domain name. Scottrigsbyfoundation.org became a gambling information site. Plaintiff sued GoDaddy.com, LLC and its corporate relatives (collectively, “GoDaddy”), for violations of the Lanham Act and various state laws and sought declaratory and injunctive relief, including the return of the domain name. The Northern District of Georgia transferred the case to the District of Arizona, which dismissed all claims.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal and dismissed Plaintiff’s and the Foundation’s appeal of an order transferring venue. The panel held that it lacked jurisdiction to review the District Court for the Northern District of Georgia’s order transferring the case to the District of Arizona because transfer orders are reviewable only in the circuit of the transferor district court. The panel held that Plaintiff could not satisfy the “use in commerce” requirement of the Lanham Act vis-à-vis GoDaddy because the “use” in question was being carried out by a third-party gambling site, not GoDaddy. As to the Lanham Act claim, the panel further held that Plaintiff could not overcome GoDaddy’s immunity under the Anti-cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.  The panel held that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act shielded GoDaddy from liability for Plaintiff’s state-law claims for invasion of privacy, publicity, trade libel, libel, and violations of Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act. View "SCOTT RIGSBY, ET AL V. GODADDY INC., ET AL" on Justia Law

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Punchbowl is an online party and event planning service. AJ Press owns and operates Punchbowl News, a subscription-based online news publication that provides articles, podcasts, and videos about American politics, from a Washington, D.C. insider’s perspective. Punchbowl claimed that Punchbowl News is misusing its “Punchbowl” trademark (the Mark).   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of AJ Press, LLC, in an action brought by Punchbowl, Inc. (Punchbowl), alleging violations of the Lanham Act for trademark infringement and unfair competition and related state law claims. The panel wrote that no reasonable buyer would believe that a company that operates a D.C. insider news publication is related to a “technology company” with a “focus on celebrations, holidays, events, and memory-making.” The panel wrote that this resolves not only the Lanham Act claims, but the state law claims as well. The panel explained that survey evidence of consumer confusion is not relevant to the question of whether AJ Press’s use of the Mark is explicitly misleading, which is a legal test for assessing whether the Lanham Act applies. The panel held that the district court’s denial of Punchbowl’s request for a continuance under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d) to permit further discovery was not an abuse of discretion. View "PUNCHBOWL, INC. V. AJ PRESS, LLC" on Justia Law

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San Antonio Winery, Inc.’s filed a proof of service in which it stated that it had served Jiaxing Jiaxing Micarose Trade Co., Ltd., through the Director of the PTO. When Jiaxing did not appear to defend itself in the action, the district court clerk granted San Antonio’s request for entry of default, after which San Antonio filed the motion for default judgment in which it asked the district court to issue a permanent injunction. Noting the lack of circuit-level precedent on whether the procedures of Section 1051(e) provide a means of serving defendants in court proceedings, the district court denied the motion on the ground that Jiaxing had not been properly served.   The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court’s order denying San Antonio’s motion for a default judgment against in an action in which San Antonio asserts claims under the Lanham Act and related state-law claims. The panel held that the service procedures of Section 1051(e) apply not only in administrative proceedings before the PTO but also in court proceedings. Because the district court erred in concluding otherwise, the panel vacated the district court’s order and remanded for further proceedings. View "SAN ANTONIO WINERY, INC. V. JIAXING MICAROSE TRADE CO." on Justia Law

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Unicolors, which creates designs for use on textiles and garments, alleged that a design it created in 2011 (the EH101 design) is remarkably similar to a design printed on garments that H&M began selling in 2015 (the Xue Xu design). The Supreme Court held that lack of either factual or legal knowledge on the part of a copyright holder can excuse an inaccuracy in a copyright registration under the Copyright Act's safe-harbor provision, 17 U.S.C. Section 411(b)(1). Accordingly, the panel reviewed anew the threshold issue whether Unicolors holds a valid copyright in registration No. VA-1-770-400 (the '400 Registration), and concluded that under the correct standard, the '400 Registration is valid because the factual inaccuracies in the application are excused by the cited safe-harbor provision.   On remand, from the Supreme Court in this copyright-infringement action the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in general, save that it vacated and remanded with instructions to grant a new trial, limited only to damages, if Unicolors rejects the remittitur amount of $116,975.23. The panel held that a party seeking to invalidate a copyright registration under Section 411(b) must demonstrate that (1) the registrant submitted a resignation application containing inaccuracies, (2) the registrant knew that the application failed to comply with the requisite legal requirements, and (3) the inaccuracies in question were material to the registration decision by the Register of Copyrights. View "UNICOLORS, INC. V. H&M HENNES & MAURITZ, LP" on Justia Law

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Will Co. Ltd., a Japanese adult entertainment producer, brought a copyright infringement action against the owners and operators of ThisAV.com, a video-hosting site based in Hong Kong, alleging that the site was displaying without authorization several of its copyrighted works. The district court found that it lacked specific personal jurisdiction over ThisAV.com’s owners and operators because Will Co. could not establish that they “expressly aimed” ThisAV.com’s content at the United States market, or that it was foreseeable that operating the site would cause jurisdictionally significant harm in the United States. Defendants were Youhaha Marketing and Promotion Limited (“YMP”) and Ka Yeung Lee.The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal of a copyright suit for lack of specific personal jurisdiction and remanded for further proceedings. The panel concluded that both YMP and Lee committed at least one intentional act by operating ThisAV.com and purchasing its domain name and domain privacy services. As to the second element, both Defendants did “something more” than mere passive operation of the website. As to the third element, Defendants’ conduct caused harm in the United States because there were almost 1.3 million visits to their website in the United States during the relevant period, and that harm was foreseeable. View "WILL CO., LTD. V. KA LEE" on Justia Law

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The district court appointed the receiver and authorized him to sell Defendants’ property—three radio stations—to generate the funds needed to satisfy the judgment. Contending that they had satisfied the judgment by depositing certain sums with the district court, Defendants moved to discharge the receiver, terminate the receivership, and enjoin the sale of the radio stations. The district court denied the motion, holding that it was within its discretion to prolong the receivership in order to protect other creditors and ensure that the receiver would be paid for his services.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order denying Defendants’ motion to discharge a receiver who had been appointed to aid in the execution of a judgment for violations of the Copyright Act. Agreeing with the First Circuit, the panel held that, even assuming Defendants satisfied the judgment, it was within the district court’s discretion to prolong the receivership. The panel further held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendants’ motion to terminate the receivership.   The district court offered valid reasons for not terminating the receivership—protecting creditors, permitting the receiver to prepare a final accounting, ensuring that the receiver would be compensated for his time, and seeing to it that obligations incurred during the receivership would be paid. View "WB MUSIC CORP. V. ROYCE INTL. BROADCASTING CORP." on Justia Law

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Relator alleged that Defendants prevented generic drug competitors from entering the market. Relator alleged that this permitted defendants to charge Medicare inflated prices for the two drugs, in violation of the False Claims Act. The district court denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss based on the False Claims Act’s public disclosure bar, which prevents a relator from merely repackaging publicly disclosed information for personal profit by asserting a claim under the Act.The Ninth Circuit held that an ex parte patent prosecution is an “other 4 UNITED STATES EX REL. SILBERSHER V. ALLERGAN Federal . . . hearing” under 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3730(e)(4)(A)(ii). Thus, the public disclosure bar was triggered. The Ninth Circuit expressed no opinion on whether Relator still could bring his qui tam action because he was an “original source” of the information in his complaint. The court remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "ZACHARY SILBERSHER V. ALLERGAN, INC." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff alleged copyright infringement in the posting by Pub Ocean Ltd. of an article about an ephemeral lake that formed on the desert floor in Death Valley, using twelve of Plaintiff’s photos of the lake without seeking or receiving a license.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of Defendant, based on a fair use defense in an action under the Copyright Act, and remanded for further proceedings. The court held that Pub Ocean could not invoke a fair use defense to Plaintiff’s copyright infringement claim. Under 17 U.S.C. Section 107, in determining whether fair use applies, a court must analyze the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, and the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.The court explained that because all four statutory factors pointed unambiguously in the same direction, the court held that the district court erred in failing to grant partial summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff on the fair use issue. View "ELLIOT MCGUCKEN V. PUB OCEAN LIMITED" on Justia Law

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After Bacardi began an advertising campaign in November 2013 using the phrase “Bacardi Untameable” to promote its rum products, Lodestar filed suit for trademark infringement and unfair competition under the Lanham Act.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment ruling in favor of Bacardi, and held that Plaintiff failed to meet the elements of a trademark infringement action. Plaintiff alleged “reverse confusion”, which occurs when a person who knows of a well-known junior user comes into contact with a lesser-known senior user, and the similarity of the marks causes the individual to believe that the senior user is affiliated or the same as the junior user.   The court found that Plaintiff’s Untamed Revolutionary Rum product should be excluded from the likelihood-of-confusion analysis because it did not reflect a bona fide use of the mark. In applying the Sleekcraft factors, the court found that Plaintiff failed to carry its burden to show a likelihood of confusion. Further, while the district court erred in certain aspects in its consideration, the errors did not alter the ultimate conclusion. View "LODESTAR ANSTALT V. BACARDI & COMPANY LTD." on Justia Law

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Bluetooth SIG, Inc. (“SIG”) is a non-profit organization that owns the commonly-recognized “Bluetooth” marks. Before a product manufacturer is permitted to use any Bluetooth marks, they must join SIG, execute a licensing agreement, submit declarations of compliance, and pay certain fees.FCA US, LLC (“FCA”) makes cars containing Bluetooth head units manufactured by third-party suppliers that have been qualified by the SIG. SIG brought trademark claims against FCA under the Lanham Act.The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court’s order that found the first sale doctrine did not apply. The first sale doctrine provides that a producer’s rights to control the distribution of a trademarked product do not extend beyond the first sale of the product. The panel held that the first sale doctrine also applies when a mark is used to refer to a component part incorporated into a new end product, provided the seller discloses how the trademarked product was incorporated into the new end product. View "BLUETOOTH SIG INC. V. FCA US LLC" on Justia Law