The Ninth Circuit recently considered an issue of first impression: What standard of review does an appellate court apply when reviewing a district court’s grant of summary judgment in a trademark infringement case on the equitable basis of the unclean hands doctrine. The Ninth Circuit faced this issue in the case titled: Metal Jeans, Inc.

By: Audrey A. Millemann

On January 22, 2014, the United States Supreme Court decided that a patent owner has the burden of proving infringement in an action filed by a licensee for a declaratory judgment of noninfringement. This case, Medtronic, Inc. v. Mirowski Family Ventures, LLC, 2014 U.S. LEXIS 788 (2014), reversed a Federal Circuit Court of Appeals decision holding that in such a case, the burden of proof shifts to the licensee to prove it did not infringe.

In 1991, Medtronic and Mirowski entered into a license. Medtronic made medical devices, including cardiac devices, and Mirowski owned patents covering heart simulator implants. The license provided that if Mirowski believed that a new product of Medtronic was covered by the patents, Mirowski would give notice to Medtronic. Medtronic could then choose one of three options: agree to pay royalties for the new product, pay royalties and also challenge Mirowski’s finding of infringement, or not pay royalties, when which would allow Mirowski to terminate the license and sue Medtronic for patent infringement. The parties later modified the license to allow Medtronic to pay royalties into an escrow account if it decided to challenge Mirowski’s finding of infringement, with the winner receiving those royalties.


Continue Reading Patent Owners have Burden of Proof in Declaratory Judgment Actions

By: James Kachmar

A recent decision in the case Jobscience, Inc. v. CVPartners, Inc. (N.D. Cal. Jan. 9, 2014) shows the interplay between the various theories of intellectual property claims. There, the plaintiff asserted claims for both copyright infringement and trade secret misappropriation arising out of the alleged theft of its software code. The court was required to deal with the issue of whether plaintiff’s trade secret claim was preempted by its claim for copyright infringement.

Jobscience develops and licenses recruiting software applications, including its JS 2 Jobscience Recruiting Package. In 2010, Jobscience entered into a master agreement with defendant CVPartners that contained an End User License and Agreement, which provided the defendant with a license to use plaintiff’s job recruiting software application. The license was renewed in 2011.


Continue Reading Copyright Preemption and Its Interplay with Trade Secret Misappropriation

By James Kachmar

The great reggae musician Bob Marley passed away more than 30 years ago. Nevertheless, litigation surrounding his music legacy continues on. The Ninth Circuit recently issued an opinion in Rock River Communications, Inc. v. Universal Music Group, Inc. that dealt again with the issue of who owns the rights to Mr. Marley’s music. 

Rock River is a producer and distributor of music records. In 2006, it entered into a licensing agreement with San Juan Music Group that granted it a non-exclusive license to “sample” 16 musical recordings performed by Bob Marley and the Wailers. San Juan has been licensing Mr. Marley’s music since 1980 through an agreement with a producer of Mr. Marley’s early recordings, Lee Perry. 

Rock River made a series of remixes based on the recordings it had licensed from San Juan and created an album titled, “Roots, Rock, Remixed.” Rock River intended to sell the album on iTunes, distribute it in record stores, and also had plans to allow the use of one of its recordings in the film “Dear John”.   Rock River was unaware that any entity had disputed San Juan’s right to license Mr. Marley’s early recordings.


Continue Reading Roots, Reggae, Remixes – and Litigation