IPWatchdog.com is in the process of transitioning to a newer version of our website. Please be patient with us while we work out all the kinks.

Posts Tagged: "Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals"

Ninth Circuit Affirms Permanent Injunction Preventing Guest-Tek From Petitioning PTAB for Validity Challenges to Nomadix Patents

On September 3, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a pair of decisions in Nomadix, Inc. v. Guest-Tek Interactive Entertainment Ltd. on appeal from a grant of permanent injunction entered by the Central District of California. In one decision, the Ninth Circuit affirmed injunctive relief preventing Guest-Tek from filing petitions for patent validity trials at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) in violation of a forum selection clause in Guest-Tek’s licensing agreement with Nomadix. In the other decision, the Ninth Circuit vacated portions of an attorneys’ fees award to Nomadix that covered the legal costs incurred by Nomadix during Guest-Tek’s PTAB petitions.

Will SCOTUS Tell Bad Spaniels to Roll Over?

Sometimes a dog toy is just a dog toy. Maybe that’s how Sigmund Freud would have put it; certainly, that’s the message from our client, the International Trademark Association (INTA), to the U.S. Supreme Court. At issue is a Ninth Circuit decision that extends First Amendment protection to ordinary commercial goods like dog toys, at the expense of trademark rights. INTA, Jack Daniel’s competitors, alcohol beverage industry associations, and other trademark advocates this week asked SCOTUS to step in and reverse.

Ninth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Copyright Infringement Claim Against Disney’s Inside Out Movie

On August 3, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in Masterson v. Walt Disney Company, affirmed a district court’s dismissal of Carla Masterson’s copyright infringement claims against The Walt Disney Co. The infringement claim was based on Masterson’s allegation that Disney’s Inside Out (the Movie) violated her copyrights in her book of poetry, What’s On the Other Side of the Rainbow? (A Book of Feelings) (the Book) and her movie script, The Secret of the Golden Mirror (the Script). Masterson’s Book was a collection of poems featuring a cloud-like character, Mr. Positivity, and anthropomorphic doors representing different feelings. The Script is about Mr. Positivity and the anthropomorphic doors helping a child cope with a difficult situation. In contrast, Disney’s Inside Out is about an eleven-year-old girl and the anthropomorphized emotions that control her brain from her brain’s “Headquarters.” The district court held that the literary works were not substantially similar and granted Walt Disney’s motion to dismiss.

Ninth Circuit Reverses Functionality and Fame Findings in Office Chair Trademark Case

On June 25, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision in Blumenthal Distributing v. Herman Miller, Inc. in which the appellate court reversed some parts of a Central District of California ruling on trade dress and trademark infringement claims related to office chairs sold by Herman Miller, and affirmed others. The Ninth Circuit’s decision discusses at length the issue of functionality, an area of trademark law which is undefined by statute and is notable for overturning parts of the district court decision because of an erroneous jury instruction based upon the Ninth Circuit’s own model rules. The decision also includes a partial dissent by Circuit Judge Michelle Friedland on the issue of dilution, with Judge Friedland arguing that Herman Miller hadn’t proven the requisite fame to prevail on its trademark dilution claims.

Bad Spaniels Make Bad Law: Ninth Circuit Says Dog Toy is an Expressive Work Entitled to First Amendment Protection

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that a squeaking dog toy resembling a bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey is an expressive work entitled to First Amendment protection.  VIP Prods. LLC v. Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc., No. 18-16012 (9th Cir. Mar. 31, 2020).  The court  reversed a bench trial verdict that the toy infringed and diluted the JACK DANIEL’S trade dress and remanded for further reconsideration by the district court.  Before the district court may find that the toy infringed Jack Daniel’s famous trade dress, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court must first apply the Second Circuit’s Rogers test, which will require it to consider whether VIP’s use of the trade dress was artistically relevant to the toy’s expressive character, and whether VIP’s use of the trade dress explicitly misleads consumers as to the source of the toy.  The Rogerstest, though, has only been applied to expressive works such as books, songs, video games and movies; it has never been applied to consumer products like handbags and perfume, even if those products were intended as parodies.  The Ninth Circuit’s decision expands the scope of First Amendment protection far beyond traditionally expressive works, and risks exposing a wide variety of brand owners to infringements based on alleged parody.

Ninth Circuit Set to Clarify Aesthetic Functionality Doctrine

A case now pending before the Ninth Circuit, LTTB LLC v. Redbubble, Inc., Docket No. 19-16464, has the potential to clarify the controversial doctrine of aesthetic functionality. Aesthetic functionality has puzzled courts for decades. Particularly before the U.S. Supreme Court issued its modern guidance on functionality in Inwood Labs., Inc. v. Ives Labs., Inc., 456 U.S. 844 (1982); TrafFix Devices v. Mktg. Displays, Inc., 532 U.S. 26 (2001), and Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Prods. Co., 514 U.S. 159 (2d Cir. 2009), courts struggled with how to apply the aesthetic functionality doctrine and issued opinions that, in some instances, muddied the already murky aesthetic functionality waters. Perhaps the most notorious aesthetic functionality case is International Order of Job’s Daughters v. Lindeburg & Co., 633 F.2d 912 (9th Cir. 1980), a case that many observers believed to be abrogated by subsequent Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit opinions but that has recently continued to wreak havoc on trademark law.

Monster Energy Appeals to Ninth Circuit Following District Court Denial of Injunction Against ISN

In the most recent development in a case between energy drink brand Monster Energy Company and maker of automotive tools Integrated Supply Network, LLC (ISN), the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on July 2 denied Monster’s request for a permanent injunction against ISN. Monster appealed on July 3 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and ISN cross-appealed on July 12. The district court found that Monster did not offer evidence demonstrating that ISN’s infringement had actually caused a loss of control over its business reputation leading to irreparable harm and loss of prospective customers. Additionally, the court reasoned that evidence regarding consumer confusion does not necessarily demonstrate irreparable harm. Even where ISN had not ceased infringing activity, Monster still had not proven irreparable harm as required to justify a permanent injunction, said the court.

No License No Cry: Ninth Circuit Nixes Jammin Java Appeal in Bob Marley Trademark Case

Early last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a memorandum affirming the district court’s grant of partial summary judgment in Hope Road Merchandising v. Jammin Java Corporation. The Ninth Circuit’s decision upholds a nearly $2.5 million damages award for trademark infringement in favor of Hope Road, the licensing and merchandising arm for the family of the late reggae icon Bob Marley, against coffee distributor Jammin Java.

Smells Like Trademark Infringement: Nirvana Sues Over Smiley Face Logo

On December 28, 2018, the limited liability company representing famed Seattle-area grunge rock band Nirvana sued clothing designer Marc Jacobs and fashion retailers Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue in the U.S. Federal District Court for the Central District of California. At the center of the lawsuit are copyright and trademark infringement allegations regarding the use of Nirvana’s “smiley face” logo on a line of designer clothing made by Marc Jacobs. Nirvana alleges that Marc Jacobs has used the band’s common law trademarks and infringed the band’s copyright in the smiley face logo in a misleading way in order to make it appear that Marc Jacobs’ “Bootleg Redux Grunge” clothing line is endorsed by or somehow associated with Nirvana. Nirvana first licensed the use of the smiley face logo, designed by deceased Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain in 1992, and it has been continuously used to identify Nirvana’s music and licensed merchandise since.

Supreme Court Asked to Decide Copyrightable Elements of Iconic Michael Jordan Photograph

Rentmeester is asking the nation’s highest court to answer the question of whether copyright protection for a photograph is limited solely to the photographer’s selection and arrangement of unprotected elements or rather that such protection also covers elements of the photograph that express original creative judgments of the photographer. At issue in this case is an iconic image of basketball superstar Michael Jordan captured by Rentmeester in a 1984 photograph shot for LIFE Magazine. The image, which features Jordan mid-air and flying towards a basketball hoop with his left arm and both legs outstretched, was ranked by TIME Magazine as one of the most influential images of all time.

‘Honey Badger Don’t Care’ But the Ninth Circuit Does, Finds Triable Issue of Fact in Gordon v. Drape Creative

Christopher Gordon, under the pseudonym “Randall,” released the Honey Badger movie in 2011 and the 3:20-long video has been viewed more than 89 million times. Gordon filed trademark applications to cover the use of the video’s well-known phrase Honey Badger Don’t Care in various classes including audio books, greeting cards, mugs and clothing. In 2012, Gordon hired a licensing agent who contacted American Greetings, the parent company of co-defendant Papyrus-Recycled Greetings, to discuss a potential licensing deal but those parties never agreed to a deal. Beginning in June 2012, the defendants released a series of seven greeting cards, including birthday, Halloween and election cards, which made use of the trademarked phrase Honey Badger Don’t Care and another well-known phrase from the video, Honey Badger Don’t Give A S—.

Proprietary Techniques vs. Employee Rights: The struggle to balance competing interests

It’s football season, so of course we should be talking about beer. Specifically, beer secrets. For fourteen years James Clark had an enviable job at Anheuser-Busch, where he had access to the brewer’s confidential recipes. For unexplained reasons he resigned. Instead of joining a competitor, he went to see a lawyer about planning a class action against his former employer for “intentionally overstating the alcohol content” of the company’s “malt beverages.”… Anheuser-Busch sued him for misappropriation of its secrets for making beer.

Koh rules Qualcomm is Obligated to License SEPs to Competitors

Qualcomm was not refusing to abide by its agreed to promises to license SEPs as required by the SSOs, as alleged by the FTC. Instead, Qualcomm wasn’t interested in licensing competing chip makers who wanted to used Qualcomm’s technology so they could make their own chips incorporating Qualcomm’s patented technology. Licensing competing manufacturers of chips is not what the IP policies of the SSOs require. What is required is that patent owners of SEPs not discriminate against applicants desiring to utilize the license for the purpose of implementing the technology. But that isn’t what a competing manufacture would be doing. A competing manufacturer would be creating the chip that enables, not implementing the technology into an end product. In fact, as Qualcomm pointed out, industry practice of SSOs is to require licensing only fully compliant end-user devices, and not components.

Supreme Court to Hear Rimini Street v. Oracle to Decide if Copyright Act Authorizes Non-Taxable Costs

The U.S. Supreme Court has granted a petition for writ of certiorari to take up Rimini Street v. Oracle on appeal from the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The case will ask the nation’s highest court to solve a split among the Circuit Courts of appeal by determining whether the Copyright Act’s allowance of full costs to a prevailing party under 17 U.S.C. § 505 is limited to taxable costs under 28 U.S.C. § 1920 and 28 U.S.C. § 1821, as has been held in the Eighth and Eleventh Circuits, or whether the Copyright Act also authorizes non-taxable costs as the Ninth Circuit held in its ruling of this case.

Ninth Circuit Vacates and Remands ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Copyright Case Over Erroneous and Prejudicial Jury Instructions

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently issued an opinion in Skidmore v. Led Zeppelin, which vacated-in-part a judgment out of the Central District of California that Led Zeppelin’s hit classic rock song “Stairway to Heaven” was not substantially similar to “Taurus,” a song written by the late songwriter Randy Wolfe, a member of the band Spirit. The case was remanded back to the district court after the appellate court found that certain instructions given by the district court to the jury were erroneous and prejudicial.