Justia Antitrust & Trade Regulation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Intellectual Property
Organik Kimya v. International Trade Commission
Organik and Dow both manufacture opaque polymers, hollow spheres used as additives to increase paint’s opacity. Dow has maintained its worldwide market-leader position through a combination of patent and trade-secret protections. Dow filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission requesting an investigation into whether Organik’s opaque polymer products infringed four Dow patents. The Commission granted Dow’s request, and the parties began discovery. During the proceedings, Dow amended its complaint to add allegations of trade secret misappropriation when it discovered that Organik may have coordinated the production of its opaque polymers with the assistance of former Dow employees. As Dow attempted to obtain discovery relating to the activities of those employees, Dow discovered spoliation of evidence “on a staggering scale.” The Federal Circuit affirmed the Commission’s imposition of default judgment and entry of a limited exclusion order against Organik as sanctions for the spoliation of evidence. Organik’s “willful, bad faith misconduct” deprived Dow of its ability to pursue its trade secret misappropriation claim effectively. The record supports the limited exclusion order of 25 years with the opportunity for Organik to bypass that order at any time if it can show that it has developed its opaque polymers without using Dow’s misappropriated trade secrets. View "Organik Kimya v. International Trade Commission" on Justia Law
Retractable Technologies, Inc. v. Becton Dickinson & Co.
BD and RTI are competitors in the market for syringes of various types and IV catheters. This appeal arises from a $340 million jury verdict (after trebling) entered against BD for its alleged attempt to monopolize the United States safety syringe market in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. 2. BD was also found liable for false advertising under Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a)(1)(B). The district court, relying on principles of equity, held that the treble damage award subsumed BD’s liability to disgorge profits from the false advertising, but the district court enjoined BD to stop using those ads and notify customers, employees, distributors, and others about the false claims. The court concluded that the Section 2 claim for attempt to monopolize is infirm as a matter of law where patent infringement, which operates to increase competition, is not anticompetitive conduct; false advertising is a slim, and here nonexistent, reed for a Section 2 claim; and the allegation that BD “tainted” the market for retractable syringes while surreptitiously plotting to offer its own retractable a few years later is unsupported and incoherent. The court affirmed the Lanham Act judgment of liability for false advertising but reversed and remanded for a redetermination of disgorgement damages, if any. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded the injunctive relief for reconsideration. View "Retractable Technologies, Inc. v. Becton Dickinson & Co." on Justia Law
Allied Erecting & Dismantling Co. Inc. v. Genesis Equip. & Mfg., Inc.
Allied, founded in 1973 by Ramun, competes with Genesis in the field of industrial dismantling and scrap processing, including the design, development, and manufacture of related specialized equipment. From 1992-2001, Ramun’s son Mark worked at Allied. By 1999, Allied developed innovative multi-use demolition machine attachments, called MT. Various sizes and types of jawsets, including a steel beam cutter and a concrete crusher, were available, allowing the MT operator to perform different tasks with just one tool. The jawset could be changed without removing the main pin, saving time and enhancing productivity. Mark had detailed information regarding the design and function of the attachment, which was highly confidential. In 2001 Mark left Allied, taking a laptop containing 15,000 pages of Allied documents, including detailed technical information about the MT. Mark joined Genesis in 2003. Genesis later released its own multiuse tool. Genesis brought trade secret claims, based on similarity to the MT. A jury rendered a verdict in favor of Allied. The court awarded damages but refused to enter an injunction. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of a subsequent suit under the Ohio Uniform Trade Secrets Act, alleging misappropriation after that verdict, citing issue preclusion. View "Allied Erecting & Dismantling Co. Inc. v. Genesis Equip. & Mfg., Inc." on Justia Law
Kehoe Component Sales Inc. v. Best Lighting Prods., Inc.
Best designs and markets exit signs and emergency lighting. Pace manufactured products to Best’s specifications. Best’s founder taught Pace how to manufacture the necessary tooling. There was no contract prohibiting Pace from competing with Best. By 2004, Best was aware that Pace was selling products identical to those it made for Best to Best’s established customers. Several other problems arose between the companies. When they ended the relationship, Pace was in possession of all of the tooling used to manufacture Best’s products and the cloned products, and Best owed Pace almost $900,000 for products delivered. Pace filed a breach of contract suit. Best requested a setoff of damages for breach of warranty and counterclaimed for breach of contract, tortious interference, misappropriation of trade secrets, conversion, and fraud. Pace claimed that Best had misappropriated Pace’s trade secrets and had tortiously interfered with Pace’s contracts. The district court found that Best had breached its contractual obligations by failing to pay, but that Pace was liable for breach of warranties, breach of contract, tortious interference, misappropriation of trade secrets, conversion, and false designation of origin and false advertising under the Lanham Act. The Sixth Circuit affirmed that Pace is liable for breach of contract and tortious interference, but reversed or vacated as to the trade secrets, Lanham Act, conversion, and warranties claims. View "Kehoe Component Sales Inc. v. Best Lighting Prods., Inc." on Justia Law
M. Arthur Gensler, Jr. & Assocs., Inc. v. Strabala
After leaving Gensler, an architectural firm with projects throughout the world, where he had been a Design Director, Strabala opened his own firm, 2Define Architecture. Strabala stated online that he had designed five projects for which Gensler is the architect of record. Gensler contends that Strabala’s statements, a form of “reverse passing off,” violated section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C.1125(a). The district court dismissed, ruling that, because Strabala did not say that he built or sold these structures, he could not have violated section 43(a), reading the Supreme Court decision Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox (2003), to limit section 43(a) to false designations of goods’ origin. The Seventh Circuit vacated, reasoning that Gensler maintains that Strabala falsely claims to have been the creator of intellectual property. View "M. Arthur Gensler, Jr. & Assocs., Inc. v. Strabala" on Justia Law
DSM Desotech Inc. v. 3D Sys. Corp.
Rapid-prototyping “additive technology” creates parts by building layer upon layer of plastics, metals, or ceramics. Subtractive technology starts with a block and cuts away layers. Additive technology include SL, fused deposition modeling, laser sintering, 3D printing, direct metal laser sintering, and digital light processing. 3DS is the sole U.S. supplier of SL machines, which use an ultraviolet laser to trace a cross section of an object on a vat of liquid polymer resin. The laser solidifies the resin it touches, while untouched, areas remain liquid. After one cross-section has solidified, the newly formed layer is lowered below the surface of the resin. The process is repeated until the object is completed. Users of SL machines often own many machines with varying sizes, speeds, and accuracy levels. 3DS began equipping some of its SL machines with wireless technology that allows a receiver to communicate with a transmitter on the cap of a resin bottle. A software-based lockout feature shuts the machine off upon detection of a resin not approved by 3DD. 3DS has approved two of Desotech’s resins and entered into negotiations for approval of additional resins. After negotiations broke down, Desotech sued, alleging tying, unreasonable restraint of trade, and attempted monopolization under the Sherman Act; tying under the Clayton Act; patent infringement; and violations of the Illinois Antitrust and Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Acts. The district court granted 3DS summary judgment on the antitrust claims and certain state-law claims. The parties stipulated to dismissal of the remaining claims. The Federal Circuit affirmed. View "DSM Desotech Inc. v. 3D Sys. Corp." on Justia Law
Groeneveld Transp. Efficiency, Inc. v. Lubecore Int’l, Inc.
Groeneveld sued Lubecore, claiming that Lubecore’s automotive grease pump is a “virtually identical” copy of Groeneveld’s automotive grease pump. The complaint asserted tradedress infringement in violation of section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a), and violation of related federal and Ohio laws. The trade-dress claim went to the jury, which found for Groeneveld and awarded it $1,225,000 in damages. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that a company cannot use trade-dress law to protect its functional product design from competition with a “copycat” design made by another company where there is no reasonable likelihood that consumers would confuse the two companies’ products as emanating from a single source. Trademark law is designed to promote brand recognition, not to insulate product manufacturers from lawful competition. View "Groeneveld Transp. Efficiency, Inc. v. Lubecore Int'l, Inc." on Justia Law
Petroplast Petrofisa Plasticos S.A. v. Ameron Int’l Corp.
This action arose from a technology-sharing relationship between companies engaged in the manufacture of industrial "sand-core" pipe for water and sewer applications. In 2002, the parties entered into an agreement whereby Plaintiffs agreed to provide Defendant with their technology for more efficient manufacturing sand-core pipe in exchange for data, reports, software, and other information developed by Defendant through use of Plaintiffs' process. Over time, the relationship between the parties disintegrated. As a result, in 2009, Plaintiffs brought this action asserting breach of contract and other causes of action related to Defendant's alleged nonperformance under their agreement. The Chancery Court dismissed Plaintiffs' claims for breach of contract, as well as claims under California Uniform Trade Secrets Act and for common law misappropriation, finding the claims were barred by laches.View "Petroplast Petrofisa Plasticos S.A. v. Ameron Int'l Corp." on Justia Law
Prime Home Care, LLC v. Pathways to Compassion, LLC
Prime Home Care, LLC sought a permanent injunction pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 87-217, part of the statutes governing the protection of trade names, and Neb. Rev. Stat. 87-303, part of the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act, to prevent Pathways to Compassion, LLC from using the name "Compassionate Care Hospice." The district court granted Prime Home Care a permanent injunction and attorney fees. Pathways appealed, arguing that "Compassionate Care Hospice" was merely descriptive and had not acquired secondary meaning. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the name had acquired secondary meaning as it concerned Prime Home Care's hospice services; (2) the district court did not err when it granted Prime Home Care's request for a permanent injunction where confusion existed as a result of Pathways' use of Prime Home Care's protected trade name; and (3) the trial court did not err in granting Prime Home Care's request for attorney fees under either section 87-217 or section 87-303, and Prime Home Care was not entitled to additional attorney fees.View "Prime Home Care, LLC v. Pathways to Compassion, LLC" on Justia Law
Lexmark Int’l, Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc.
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