Intellectual Property Litigation

Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc. has petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States for certiorari following an unfavorable ruling from the Ninth Circuit in the matter of VIP Products LLC v. Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc. In that case, VIP Products sued Jack Daniel’s after receiving a cease-and-desist letter concerning its Bad Spaniels Silly Squeaker dog toy. The toy is intentionally similar to the famous Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 whiskey bottle, but is clearly intended to be a joke.

Instead of saying Jack Daniels, the bottle says Bad Spaniels and includes a cartoonish cocker spaniel. Below that, where the Jack Daniel’s bottle usually says “Old No. 7,” the toy says “The Old No. 2” above “on your Tennessee Carpet” where the real bottle says Tennessee Whiskey. The squeaky toy is clearly intended as joke for dog owners, and I don’t believe it would confuse consumers into believing the product is actually associated with Jack Daniel’s. Jack Daniel’s apparently felt differently.

The district court agreed with Jack Daniel’s. While ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the district court held that the Rogers test, which is used to balance the interests between trademark law and the First Amendment, was inapplicable because the toy is not an expressive work. Later, after a four-day bench trial, the District Court ruled against VIP Products and found it had infringed Jack Daniel’s IP.
Continue Reading Dogs, Whiskey, and Intellectual Property: Need I Say More?

In Guardant Health, Inc. v. Foundation Medicine, Inc., 1-17-cv-01616 (DDE 2020-01-07, Order), the Court rejected the Plaintiff’s argument that an inequitable conduct claim must be related only to the prosecution of the patent-at-issue in ruling on plaintiff’s motion to dismiss defendants’ infectious unenforceability counterclaims.  In the case, the Defendants’ theory as to the unenforceability of U.S. Patent No. 9,902,992 (the ’992 patent) was not based on inequitable conduct said to have occurred during the ’992 patent’s prosecution.  Instead, it rested on the relationship between the ’992 patent and the prosecution of other related patents.

As some background, inequitable conduct regarding any single claim in the prosecution of a patent renders the entire patent unenforceable, not just that specific claim. Moreover, a finding of inequitable conduct can affect not just the improperly-prosecuted patent, but can also render unenforceable any other related patents and applications in the same patent family. This concept is what courts have referred to as the doctrine of “infectious unenforceability.”
Continue Reading Inequitable Conduct Can Render all Patents in a Patent Family Unenforceable through Infectious Unenforceability

One of the most common forms of relief sought in trade secret litigation is an injunction preventing the defendants from using or disclosing the plaintiff’s trade secret information.  Although temporary restraining orders and/or preliminary injunctions may be obtained that are in place during the lawsuit, a permanent injunction is entered after trial and typically has no set time period for expiration.  There are various statutes that allow a defendant to seek to modify or dissolve a trade secret injunction at a later date, including a showing that the information that is the subject of the injunction is no longer entitled to trade secret protection.  The recent decision in Global Protein Products, Inc. v. Le (Cal. 6th App. Dist.) helps illustrate the high hurdle a defendant must clear in order to obtain such relief.
Continue Reading Challenging a Trade Secret Injunction? Better Come Loaded For Bear

A few years ago, when the concessionaire for Yosemite National Park (the “Park”), Delaware North, was informed that the Park planned to consider other concessionaires, such as Aramark, Delaware North responded in shocking fashion. Delaware North responded that if it was going to be replaced as the concessionaire, it intended to take the Park’s intellectual property (the “IP”), such as the Ahwahnee Hotel and Curry Village, with it unless it was paid $51 million for the IP. Although the Park disputed Delaware’s claim to the IP, it changed the names of certain venues such as the Ahwahnee Hotel, Curry Village, Badger Pass Skin Run, and the Wawona Hotel. The sites were renamed the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, Half Dome Village, Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area, and Big Trees Lodge.
Continue Reading Goodbye Majestic Yosemite Hotel, Welcome Back Ahwahnee Hotel

The Supreme Court has agreed to resolve a circuit split over when a court can order the payment of an infringer’s profits to a successful plaintiff as a measure of damages.  The matter comes to the Supreme Court as an appeal from the Second Circuit decision in Romag Fasteners Inc. v. Fossil Inc. et al.  In that case, the jury at the lower court found that Fossil had infringed Romag’s patent and trademark rights in a magnetic snap closure and made an advisory award that included an award of $6.7 million of Fossil’s profits for trademark infringement.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Decision Will Have Huge Economic Impact on Trademark Infringement Damages