Justia U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Intellectual Property
United States v. Bowers
Defendant Donald Bowers was previously involved in a civil trade secret misappropriation case that was litigated in the United States Federal District Court. During the course of that litigation, Bowers willfully and repeatedly violated a permanent injunction, and refused to purge himself of civil contempt. His actions resulted in findings of civil contempt against him, judgments against him for the plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees, and, ultimately, a criminal referral to the United States Attorney for the District of Utah. A federal grand jury subsequently indicted Bowers on two counts of contempt. The case proceeded to trial, where a jury found Bowers guilty of both counts. Bowers was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of fifteen months, to be followed by a thirty-six month term of supervised release. He was also directed, as a condition of supervised release, to make monthly payments on the outstanding amount owed by him to the plaintiff in the underlying civil case. Bowers appealed, arguing that the district court erred in: (1) imposing a special condition of supervised release requiring him to make monthly payments on the outstanding judgments owed to the plaintiff in the civil case; (2) denying his motion for disclosure of the criminal referral; and (3) sentencing him to a term of imprisonment that exceeded six months. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Bowers" on Justia Law
Diversey v. Schmidly, et al
Plaintiff-Appellant Andrew Diversey sued several administrators and members of the Board of Regents of the University of New Mexico (UNM) for infringing his copyright to an unpublished dissertation. The district court dismissed plaintiff's complaint as untimely. The issue before the Tenth Circuit centered on the determination of when claims of copyright infringement accrue, and, in particular, whether accrual is delayed until a continuing course of infringement ceases. Barring the application of an appropriate tolling principle, a copyright infringement claim must be brought within three years of the date on which the plaintiff becomes aware of an act of infringement or becomes chargeable with knowledge of it. Applying this rule, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "Diversey v. Schmidly, et al" on Justia Law
Klein-Becker USA v. Englert
Klein-Becker USA and Klein-Becker IP Holdings sued Patrick Englert and Mr. Finest, Inc., for trademark infringement, copyright infringement, false advertising, and unfair competition under the Lanham Act; false advertising under the Utah Truth in Advertising Act; unfair competition under the Utah Unfair Practices Act; fraud; civil conspiracy; and intentional interference with existing and prospective business relations. The action arose from Englert's unauthorized selling of "StriVectin" skin care products: he posed as a General Nutrition Center (GNC) store to purchase the products at below wholesale rates. Englert then sold the products through eBay and other commercial web platforms, including his own, "mrfinest.com." Englert was sanctioned several times for failing to comply with court orders and discovery schedules. The third and final sanction resulted in the entry of default judgment for Klein-Becker on all remaining claims. Englert appealed the district court's entry of default judgment against him, determination of his personal liability and the amount of damages owed, grant of a permanent injunction, denial of a jury trial, and refusal to allow him to call a certain witness. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit found no fault in the district court's analysis or judgment and affirmed. View "Klein-Becker USA v. Englert" on Justia Law
Lenox MacLaren Surgical Corp. v. Medtronic, Inc.
In this interlocutory appeal, Defendants Medtronic, Inc. (and several of its subsidiaries) appealed a district court's denial of their motion to compel Plaintiff Lenox MacLaren Surgical Corporation (LM) to arbitrate its antitrust claims against them even though none of the Defendants signed the distribution and licensing agreement containing the arbitration provision. Upon review of the district court record, the Tenth Circuit concluded that even if LM's antitrust claims either expressly or implicitly alleged collusion between subsidiary Medatronic Danek USA and one or more of the other Medtronic subsidiaries, they were not "intimately founded in or intertwined with" the obligations in the agreement at issue in this case. "In sum, equity does not demand that LM be compelled to arbitrate its antitrust claims against the Medtronic Defendants. The district court therefore did not err in denying the Medtronic Defendants’ motion to compel arbitration."
Syrus v. Bennett
Plaintiff-Appellant Charles Syrus appealed a district court's dismissal with prejudice his pro se copyright infringement action for failing to state a claim under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In 2007, Plaintiff wrote a song for Defendant Oklahoma City Thunder, the city's professional basketball team in the National Basketball Association. He gave copies of his song (for which he had copyright registration) to the Oklahoma City Mayor's office, and unnamed coaches and cheerleaders for the team. Plaintiff claimed that various uses of phrases taken from his song's lyrics were chanted during games by the cheerleaders, mascot and crowd. He also claimed that Defendants used the phrases in advertising and on banners displayed at the team's home arena. The district court found that Plaintiff had not established a plausible claim, finding that the short phrases at the heart of his claim were not subject to copyright protection. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that Plaintiff's claims failed as a matter of law against both Defendants.
Dish Network Corp. v. Arch Specialty Insurance Co.
Plaintiffs DISH Network Corporation and DISH Network LLC (Dish) filed a diversity action in the District of Colorado seeking a judgment declaring that Dish's insurers had a duty under Colorado law to defend Dish in a patent infringement suit. The district court held that the underlying complaint did not allege an "advertising injury" under the policies issued to Dish by the five defendant Insurers. The court granted Insurers' motion for summary judgment, and Dish appealed. In its amended complaint, Ronald A. Katz Tech. Licensing (RAKTL, the Plaintiff in the underlying suit) alleged that Dish had infringed one or more claims in each of twenty three patents. Applying Colorado law, the district court concluded that a claim for patent infringement could "properly give rise to coverage, or even the specter of coverage, such that an insurer will have a duty to defend." For purposes of the summary judgment motion, the court ruled that RAKTL's reference to "customer service functions" in its complaint was sufficient to allege that Dish engaged in "advertising." The court granted summary judgment for Insurers without addressing the third element of its test-- causation --or the additional arguments certain insurers had raised under their individual policies. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that the RATKL complaint potentially alleged advertising injury arising from the misappropriation of advertising ideas. The Court therefore reversed and remanded for further proceedings: "the scope of advertising injury coverage in this case is at least ambiguous with regard to patent infringement allegations. Although the cases are rare in which an allegedly infringed patent is itself an advertising idea rather than merely an advertised product, ... we hold that '[d]epending on 'the context of the facts and circumstances of th[e] case,' patent infringement can qualify as an advertising injury if the patent 'involve[s] any process or invention which could reasonably be considered an 'advertising idea.'"
ClearOne Communications, Inc., v. Biamp Systems, et al
Plaintiff ClearOne Communications, Inc. (ClearOne) filed suit against Defendant Biamp Systems (Biamp) alleging that Biamp misappropriated ClearOne's trade secrets by licensing a product from another company that incorporated those trade secrets. A jury found in ClearOne's favor on all of its claims against Biamp. The district court assessed damages for lost profits and unjust enrichment, and awarded ClearOne exemplary damages, attorneys' fees and nontaxable expenses. Biamp raised multiple issues on appeal pertaining to the trial court's application of the applicable statutory authority and in its award of damages. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed all aspects of the district court's judgment except for the lost profits and exemplary damages awards. The Court reversed and remanded the case for reconsideration of damages owed to ClearOne Communications.
ClearOne Communications, Inc. v. Bowers
Plaintiff ClearOne Communications, Inc. (ClearOne) filed suit against Defendants Andrew Chiang, Jun Yan, Lonny Bowers, WideBand Solutions, Inc. and Versatile DSP, Inc. (collectively the WideBand Defendants), alleging misappropriation of trade secrets. Mssrs. Chiang, Yan and Bowers are all former engineers of ClearOne who had a hand in developing "acoustic echo cancelling" technology. The court ordered an injunction against the former engineers for their part in transferring the assets of WideBand to a "new, sham company" under the control of Donald Bowers. In this case, Donald Bowers as an Interested Nonparty appealed from an order of contempt issued against him by the district court for violation of the injunction. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit found that Mr. Bowers made no attempt to explain how the court abused its discretion in issuing the contempt order. Accordingly, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court.
ClearOne Communications, Inc. v. Yang
Plaintiff ClearOne Communications, Inc. (ClearOne) filed suit against Defendants Andrew Chiang, Jun Yan, Lonny Bowers, WideBand Solutions, Inc. and Versatile DSP, Inc. (collectively the WideBand Defendants), alleging misappropriation of trade secrets. Mssrs. Chiang, Yan and Bowers are all former engineers of ClearOne who had a hand in developing "acoustic echo cancelling" technology. Prior to their departure, the technology had been licensed from ClearOne by WideBand. When WideBand ended its licensing agreement with ClearOne, ClearOne became suspicious and conducted an internal investigation to find that its former engineers were now associated with WideBand. Furthermore, WideBand was using the proprietary technology it had once licensed. The case proceeded to trial, and ClearOne prevailed on all of its claims. The district court entered a final judgment, as well as a permanent injunction in favor of ClearOne. The court later learned that the Defendants along with several interested parties violated the terms of the injunction. The WideBand Defendants and the interested parties filed a number of appeals. The Tenth Circuit consolidated twelve cases into its holding, taking each Defendant-Appellant's arguments in turn. After careful consideration of the parties' arguments, the Court found no abuse of discretion by the trial court. The Court affirmed the trial court's decision in favor of ClearOne.