Articles Posted in Intellectual Property

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The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment for Whole Foods in a trademark infringement action. The panel held that the district court impermissibly resolved disputed questions of material fact in favor of the moving party regarding Whole Foods' affirmative defenses of laches and acquiescence. Therefore, the panel vacated the district court's reasonableness finding and remanded for further proceedings. On remand, the district court should reevaluate the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party—i.e., as if ERF delayed filing suit because it was trying to settle its claims against Whole Foods. If the district court determined on remand that ERF delayed unreasonably in filing suit and this delay prejudiced Whole Foods, it must consider the extent and reasonableness of Whole Foods' reliance on ERF's affirmative representations before it reaches a finding on acquiescence. View "Eat Right Foods Ltd. v. Whole Foods Market, Inc." on Justia Law

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Oracle filed a copyright infringement suit against Rimini, a provider of third-party support for Oracle's enterprise software, and Rimini's CEO. The Ninth Circuit affirmed partial summary judgment and partial judgment after trial on Oracle's claims that Rimini infringed its copyright by copying under the license of one customer for work performed for other existing customers or for unknown or future customers; reversed judgment after trial in regard to Oracle's claims under the California Comprehensive Data Access and Fraud Act (CDAFA), the Nevada Computer Crimes Law (NCCL), and California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL), because taking data from a website, using a method prohibited by the applicable terms of use, when the taking itself generally was permitted, did not violate the CDAFA or the NCCL; reversed the determination that Rimini violated the UCL; reduced the award of damages based on Rimini's alleged violation of the CDAFA and NCCL; affirmed the award of prejudgment interest on the copyright claims; reversed the permanent injunction based on violations of the CDAFA; vacated the permanent injunction based on copyright infringement; reversed with respect to the CEO's liability for attorneys' fees; vacated the fee award and remanded for reconsideration; reduced the award of taxable costs; and affirmed the award of non-taxable costs. View "Oracle USA v. Rimini Street" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Fox and held that Fox's use of the name "Empire" was protected by the First Amendment and was outside the reach of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125. At issue was a Fox television show entitled Empire, which portrays a fictional hip hop music label named "Empire Enterprises" that was based in New York. The panel applied a test developed by the Second Circuit in Rogers v. Grimaldi, 875 F.2d 994 (2d Cir. 1989), to determine whether the Lanham Act applied. The panel held that Fox's expressive work sufficiently satisfied the first prong of the Rogers test where the title Empire supported the themes and geographic setting of the work and the second prong of the Rogers test where the use of the mark "Empire" did not explicitly mislead consumers. View "Twentieth Century Fox Television v. Empire Distribution" on Justia Law

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This petition for writ of mandamus arose in the context of a contested trademark action initiated by San Diego Comic Convention (SDCC) against petitioners, over the use of the mark "comic-con" or "comic con." The Ninth Circuit granted the petition and vacated the district court's orders directing petitioners to prominently post on their social medial outlets its order prohibiting comments about the litigation on social media, dubbing this posting a "disclaimer." The panel held that the orders at issue were unconstitutional prior restraints on speech because they prohibit speech that poses neither a clear and present danger nor a serious and imminent threat to SDCC's interest in a fair trial. The panel explained that the well-established doctrines on jury selection and the court's inherent management powers provide an alternative, less restrictive, means of ensuring a fair trial. View "Dan Farr Productions v. USDC-CASD" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants in a copyright infringement action. The panel held that DRK, a stock photography agency that markets and licenses images created by others to publishing entities, is a nonexclusive licensing agent for the photographs at issue and has failed to demonstrate any adequate ownership interest in the copyrights to confer standing. The panel also held that DRK lacked standing as a beneficial owner of the copyrights. Finally, the panel affirmed the district court's denial of DRK's motion to modify the scheduling order for leave to amend its complaint. View "DRK Photo v. McGraw-Hill Global Education Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law

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In order to be eligible for the safe harbor protection of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), 17 U.S.C. 512(c), the defendant must show that the photographs at issue were stored at the direction of the user. The Ninth Circuit filed an amended opinion reversing the district court's holding, on summary judgment, that defendant was protected by the safe harbor of the DMCA from liability for posting plaintiff's photographs online and vacating a discovery order. The panel held that the common law of agency applied to safe harbor defenses and that, in this case, there were genuine factual disputes regarding whether the moderators are LiveJournal's agents. The panel addressed the remaining elements of the safe harbor defense and vacated the district court's order denying discovery of the moderators' identities. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Mavrix Photographs, LLC v. LiveJournal, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision that VidAngel had likely violated both the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Copyright Act, and order preliminarily enjoining VidAngel from circumventing the technological measures controlling access to copyrighted works on DVDs and Blu-ray discs owned by the plaintiff entertainment studios, copying those works, and streaming, transmitting, or otherwise publicly performing or displaying them electronically. The Ninth Circuit held that the Family Movie Act of 2005 did not exempt VidAngel from liability for copyright infringement; VidAngel's fair use defense failed; the anti-circumvention provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act covered plaintiffs' technological protection measures, which control both access to and use of copyrighted works; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by finding irreparable harm, by balancing the equities, and by considering the public interest. View "Disney Enterprises, Inc. v. VidAngel, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this trademark infringement suit under the Lanham Act, furniture manufacturer Omnia admitted that it blatantly copied and began selling the same goods branded with the mark of its (now ex) business partner, retail furniture company Stone Creek. The district court granted judgment for Omnia. The panel reversed and held that Omnia's use of Stone Creek's mark was likely to cause confusion where placing an identical mark on identical goods creates a strong likelihood of confusion, especially when the mark was fanciful. Furthermore, Stone Creek also sells in overlapping market channels and other factors heighten the likelihood that consumers will be confused as to the origin of the furniture. The panel rejected Omnia's invocation of a common-law defense—known as the Tea Rose–Rectanus doctrine—that protects use of a mark in a remote geographic area when the use is in good faith. In this case, Omnia's knowledge of Stone Creek's prior use defeated any claim of good faith. Finally, the panel confirmed that a 1999 amendment to the trademark statutes did not sweep away the panel's precedent requiring that a plaintiff prove willfulness to justify an award of the defendant's profits. The panel remanded this issue for the district court to make such a determination. View "Stone Creek, Inc. v. Omnia Italian Design, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment for defendants in this trademark infringement suit regarding defendants' use of Marketquest's "All-in-One" and "The Write Choice" trademarks. The panel held that Marketquest's pleading was adequate to support a cause of action for trademark infringement under a reverse confusion theory of likely confusion; consideration of the intent factor in the likelihood of confusion analysis varies with the type of confusion being considered; the district court erred by granting summary judgment in favor of defendants based upon the fair use defense regarding their use of "All-in-One;" and the district court erred by applying the fair use analysis to defendants' use of "The Write Choice" after determining that Marketquest presented no evidence of likely confusion. View "Marketquest Group, Inc. v. BIC Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against various defendants in the film industry, alleging copyright and state law claims, including breach of implied-in-fact contract and declaratory relief. Plaintiff alleged that defendants used his screenplay idea to create "The Purge" films without providing him compensation or credit as a writer. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of defendants' anti-SLAPP motion to strike the state law claims. In this case, plaintiff's implied-in-fact contract claim did not arise from protected free speech activity because the claim was based on defendants' failure to pay for the use of plaintiff's idea, not the creation, production, distribution, or content of the films. The panel also held that defendants' failure to pay was not conduct in furtherance of the right to free speech. View "Jordan-Benel v. Universal City Studios, Inc." on Justia Law