Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Copyright
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A 2019 Arizona statute prohibits auto dealer management system (DMS) providers from “tak[ing] any action by contract, technical means or otherwise to prohibit or limit a dealer’s ability to protect, store, copy, share or use” data the dealer has stored in its DMS. DMS providers may not impose charges “beyond any direct costs incurred” for database access. DMS providers may not prohibit the third parties contracted by the dealers “from integrating into the dealer’s data system,” nor may they otherwise “plac[e] an unreasonable restriction on integration.” DMS providers must “[a]dopt and make available a standardized framework for the exchange, integration, and sharing of data” with authorized integrators.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction against the statute’s enforcement. There is no conflict preemption; the statute and the federal Copyright Act are not irreconcilable. The statute does not conflict with 17 U.S.C. 106(1), which grants the owner of a copyrighted work the exclusive right “to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies.” The plaintiffs forfeited their claim that the statute impaired their contracts with third-party vendors and did not show that the statute impaired their ability to discharge their contractual duty to keep dealer data confidential. The statute was reasonably drawn to serve important public purposes of promoting consumer data privacy and competition and amounted to neither a per se physical taking nor a regulatory taking. View "CDK Global LLC v. Brnovich" on Justia Law

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Since 2007, EC Design, LLC, sold its popular personal organizer, the LifePlanner. In 2015, Craft Smith, Inc., wanting to enter the personal-organizer market, reached out to EC Design about a possible collaboration. EC Design and Craft Smith couldn't agree to a collaboration. Craft Smith, with input from Michaels Stores, Inc., designed and developed a personal organizer to sell in Michaels stores, leading to this action in Utah federal district court. EC Design claims the Craft Smith and Michaels product infringed on the LifePlanner’s registered compilation copyright and unregistered trade dress. The district court disagreed, granting summary judgment in favor of Craft Smith and Michaels (collectively, the Appellees) on both issues. On the copyright issue, the district court concluded that EC Design did not own a valid copyright in its asserted LifePlanner compilation. On trade dress, the district court held that EC Design had failed to create a genuine issue of material fact over whether the LifePlanner’s trade dress had acquired secondary meaning. Though the Tenth Circuit disagreed with how the district court framed the copyright issue, the Tenth Circuit affirmed because no reasonable juror could conclude that the allegedly infringing aspects of Appellees’ organizer were substantially similar to the protected expression in the LifePlanner compilation. With respect to the trade dress issue, the Tenth Circuit agreed with the district court: EC Design had failed to create a genuine issue of material fact over whether the LifePlanner’s trade dress had acquired secondary meaning. Summary judgment as to both claims was affirmed. View "Craft Smith v. EC Design" on Justia Law

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Lexmark sells the only type of toner cartridges that work with its laser printers; remanufacturers acquire and refurbish used Lexmark cartridges to sell in competition with Lexmark’s new and refurbished cartridges. Lexmark’s “Prebate” program gives customers a discount on new cartridges if they agree to return empty cartridges to the company. Every Prebate cartridge has a microchip that disables the empty cartridge unless Lexmark replaces the chip. Static Control makes and sells components for cartridge remanufacture and developed a microchip that mimicked Lexmark’s. Lexmark sued for copyright infringement. Static Control counterclaimed that Lexmark engaged in false or misleading advertising under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a), and caused Static Control lost sales and damage to its business reputation. The district court held that Static Control lacked “prudential standing,” applying a multifactor balancing test. The Sixth Circuit reversed, applying a “reasonable interest” test. A unanimous Supreme Court affirmed. The Court stated that the issue was not “prudential standing.” Whether a plaintiff comes within a statute’s zone of interests requires traditional statutory interpretation. The Lanham Act includes in its statement of purposes, “protect[ing] persons engaged in [commerce within the control of Congress] against unfair competition.” “Unfair competition” is concerned with injuries to business reputation and sales. A section 1125(a) plaintiff must show that its injury flows directly from the deception caused by the defendant’s advertising; that occurs when deception causes consumers to withhold trade from the plaintiff. The zone-of-interests test and the proximate-cause requirement identify who may sue under section 1125(a) and provide better guidance than the multi-factor balancing test, the direct-competitor test, or the reasonable-interest test. Static Control comes within the class of plaintiffs authorized to sue under section 1125(a). Its alleged injuries fall within the zone of interests protected by the Act, and it sufficiently alleged that its injuries were proximately caused by Lexmark’s misrepresentations. View "Lexmark Int’l, Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc." on Justia Law

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Lexmark sells the only type of toner cartridges that work with its laser printers; remanufacturers acquire and refurbish used Lexmark cartridges to sell in competition with Lexmark’s new and refurbished cartridges. Lexmark’s “Prebate” program gives customers a discount on new cartridges if they agree to return empty cartridges to the company. Every Prebate cartridge has a microchip that disables the empty cartridge unless Lexmark replaces the chip. Static Control makes and sells components for cartridge remanufacture and developed a microchip that mimicked Lexmark’s. Lexmark sued for copyright infringement. Static Control counterclaimed that Lexmark engaged in false or misleading advertising under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a), and caused Static Control lost sales and damage to its business reputation. The district court held that Static Control lacked “prudential standing,” applying a multifactor balancing test. The Sixth Circuit reversed, applying a “reasonable interest” test. A unanimous Supreme Court affirmed. The Court stated that the issue was not “prudential standing.” Whether a plaintiff comes within a statute’s zone of interests requires traditional statutory interpretation. The Lanham Act includes in its statement of purposes, “protect[ing] persons engaged in [commerce within the control of Congress] against unfair competition.” “Unfair competition” is concerned with injuries to business reputation and sales. A section 1125(a) plaintiff must show that its injury flows directly from the deception caused by the defendant’s advertising; that occurs when deception causes consumers to withhold trade from the plaintiff. The zone-of-interests test and the proximate-cause requirement identify who may sue under section 1125(a) and provide better guidance than the multi-factor balancing test, the direct-competitor test, or the reasonable-interest test. Static Control comes within the class of plaintiffs authorized to sue under section 1125(a). Its alleged injuries fall within the zone of interests protected by the Act, and it sufficiently alleged that its injuries were proximately caused by Lexmark’s misrepresentations. View "Lexmark Int'l, Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc." on Justia Law

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Lexmark manufactures printers and toner cartridges. Remanufacturers acquire used Lexmark cartridges, refill them, and sell them at a lower cost. Lexmark developed microchips for the cartridges and the printers so that Lexmark printers will reject cartridges not containing a matching microchip and patented certain aspects of the cartridges. SC began replicating the microchips and selling them to remanufacturers along with other parts for repair and resale of Lexmark toner cartridges. Lexmark sued SC for copyright violations related to its source code in making the duplicate microchips and obtained a preliminary injunction. SC counterclaimed under federal and state antitrust and false-advertising laws. While that suit was pending, SC redesigned its microchips and sued Lexmark for declaratory judgment to establish that the redesigned microchips did not infringe any copyright. Lexmark counterclaimed again for copyright violations and added patent counterclaims. The suits were consolidated. The Sixth Circuit vacated the injunction and rejected Lexmark’s copyright theories. On remand, the court dismissed all SC counterclaims. A jury held that SC did not induce patent infringement and advised that Lexmark misused its patents. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of federal antitrust claims, but reversed dismissal of SC’s claims under the Lanham Act and certain state law claims. View "Static Control Components, Inc v. Lexmark Int'l, Inc." on Justia Law

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In these parallel cases, separate petitions were filed requesting the district court to set a "reasonable" rate after ASCAP and BMI were unable to agree on licensing fees with DMX, a provider of background/foreground music. In both cases, the district court adopted DMX's proposals. The court held the Second Amended Final Judgment (AFJ2) permitted blanket licenses subject to carve-outs to account for direct licensing and the court rejected ASCAP's claim that a blanket license with an adjustable carve-out conflicted with the AJF2. The court concluded that the district court in both cases found that ASCAP and BMI did not sustain their burdens of proving that their proposals were reasonable; no legal error contributed to these findings and the findings supported by the record were not clearly erroneous; and in both instances, the district court had the authority to set a reasonable rate for DMX's licenses. Accordingly, the court held that the district court did not err in setting DMX's licensing rates with ASCAP and BMI and that the rates set by the district court were reasonable. View "Broadcast Music, Inc. v. DMX Inc.; American Society of Computers, Authors and Publishers v. THP Capstar Acquisition Corp." on Justia Law

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Apple brought this action against Psystar for copyright infringement because Psystar was using Apple's software on Psystar computers. The district court held that Psystar was infringing Apple's federally registered copyrights in its operating software, Mac OS X, because Psystar was copying the software for use in Psystar's computers. Psystar subsequently appealed the district court's rejection of Psystar's copyright misuse defense, the district court's order enjoining Psystar's continuing infringement, and the district court's grant of Apple's motions to seal documents on grounds of maintaining confidentiality. The court held that Psystar's misuse defense failed because it was an attempt to apply the first sale doctrine to a valid licensing agreement. The court affirmed the district court's order enjoining Psystar's continuing infringement and Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), 17 U.S.C. 1203(b)(1), violations and held that the district court properly applied the Supreme Court's four eBay Inc. v MercExchange, L.L.C. factors. The court held, however, that there was no adequate basis on the record to support the sealing of any Apple records on grounds of confidentiality and applied the presumption in favor of access, vacating the district court's sealing orders. View "Apple Inc. v. Psystar Corp." on Justia Law