Justia Patents Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Trademark
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BDI is the owner a design patent and the manufacturer of slippers known as SNOOZIES®. High Point manufactures and distributes the accused FUZZY BABBA® slippers, which are sold through various retailers, including Meijer, Sears, and WalMart. BDI sent High Point a cease and desist letter, asserting patent infringement. High Point sought a declaratory judgment. The district court held BDI’s asserted design patent invalid on summary judgment and dismissed BDI’s trade dress claims with prejudice. The Federal Circuit reversed. The district court applied the incorrect standard; a reasonable jury could, under the correct standard, find the patent not invalid based on functionality. On remand, the district court should weigh High Point’s notice of BDI’s trade dress claim and initial belief that its original complaint encompassed such a claim and the absence of apparent prejudice to High Point against the fact that BDI had always been in possession of the information added in the proposed amendments and could have asked to clarify its pleading sooner. View "High Point Design LLC v. Buyer's Direct, Inc." on Justia Law

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Under 35 U.S.C. 292(a) it is unlawful to engage in specified acts of false patent marking, such as affixing a mark that falsely asserts that the item is patented, with intent to deceive the public. Prior to 2011, the statute authorized private parties (relators) to bring a qui tam or informer’s suit for violations, but did not specify procedures or authorize the government to file its own suit to collect the penalty. The 2011 AIA eliminated the qui tam provision, but authorized actions for damages by any person “who has suffered a competitive injury as a result of a violation.” The AIA provides that marking products with expired patents is not a violation and that it applies to all pending cases. In 2010, Brooks sued, alleging that Dunlop marked a guitar string winder with the number of a patent that was both expired and invalidated. The AIA was enacted while the case was stayed, pending the outcome in another case. The district court held that the application of the AIA to pending actions did not violate the Due Process Clause and that the legislation rationally furthered a legitimate legislative purpose. The Federal Circuit affirmed. View "Brooks v. Dunlop Mfg., Inc." on Justia Law

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Superior owns three patents, which claim priority to a 2006 application and cover a “Braced Telescoping Support Strut and System” that supports a portable conveyor assembly to transport and stockpile rock, sand, grain, and other aggregate material. Superior alleges its patents claim an improved undercarriage that enables portable conveyors to safely and stably operate at heights above previous conveyors by using cross bracing between the upper and lower support beams that does not interfere with the extension or retraction of upper support beams. Superior claims to have coined the term “fully braced” and owns the registered trademark “FB.” Thor competes in the portable conveyor market and, in 2007, filed a U.S. patent application for an “Undercarriage for a Telescopic Frame,” disclosing a telescoping frame similar to that claimed in the Superior patents. Thor issued a press release describing a conveyor system with a new “PATENT-PENDING FB Undercarriage.” Superior initiated a trademark infringement action that ended in a 2010 Consent Judgment, enjoining Thor from use of the “FB” trademark. Superior then sued for patent infringement. The district court dismissed, citing claim preclusion. The Federal Circuit reversed in part. Superior’s prior trademark infringement action did not arise from the same operative facts. View "Superior Indus., L.L.C. v. Thor Global Enter., Ltd." 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

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Plaintiff claimed that several of defendant's brands of toilet paper infringed on its trademark design. The district court entered summary judgment, holding that toilet paper embossed patterns are functional and cannot be protected as a registered trademark under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1115(b)(8). The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Plaintiff patented the design, claiming it to be functional and can only claim the protection of a patent, not that of a trademark. The "central advance" claimed in the utility patents is embossing a quilt-like diamond lattice filled with signature designs that improves perceived softness and bulk, and reduces nesting and ridging. This is the same essential feature claimed in the trademarks. View "Georgia-Pacific Consumer Prods. v. Kimberly-Clark Corp." on Justia Law