Fast Food Gourmet, Inc. v. Little Lady Foods, Inc., No. 05 C 6022, 2007 WL 2156665 (N.D. Ill. Jul. 26, 2007) (Cole, M.J.)
Judge Cole granted in part defendant Little Lady Foods’ (“LLF”) Fed. R. Civ. P. 37 motion to bar evidence of allegedly late–identified trade secrets. Plaintiff Fast Food Gourmet (“FFG”) originally identified four trade secret elements of its process for making thin crust frozen pizza (you can read more about this case in the Blog’s archives). FFG’s Vice President of Operations Crause identified four additional elements during his deposition. And FFG later identified two additional elements. LLF argued that FFG should be limited to the first four elements because FFG never updated its interrogatory responses to include the six additional elements. The Court held that the four additional elements disclosed during the deposition had “otherwise been made known” pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(e) and, therefore, were not required to be added to FFG’s interrogatory responses. The Court excluded the other two elements. FFG argued that it had identified the elements by identifying documents containing the elements in its interrogatory responses pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(d). But the Court held that the documents FFG identified only identified the two elements sporadically, and in connection with elements that were not trade secrets. This, combined with Crause’s testimony that he had identified all of the trade secret elements, made FFG’s Rule 33(d) statements insufficient.
Practice Tip: Rule 33(d) is often seen as a simple escape from answering cumbersome or difficult interrogatories. Of course, it is also often warranted. But when you use Rule 33(d), make sure to identify the correct documents, and make sure the identified documents fully support your position.
Lorillard Tobacco Co. v. Montrose Wholesale Candies & Sundries, Inc., No. 03 C 5311 & 03 C 4844, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jul. 27, 2007) (Cole, J.).*
Judge Cole recommended granting plaintiff Lorillard Tobacco’s (“Lorillard”) petition for attorneys fees, but reduced the requested fees by about $80,000. Lorillard received a default judgment against defendants in 2006 and, as a result, brought this petition seeking its fees and costs. The Court’s opinion is an excellent guide for anyone preparing a fee petition. The Court refused to consider Lorillard’s costs because although Lorillard submitted a list of costs, it did not total the costs or discuss them in its petition and supporting declaration. Next, the Court accepted most of the costs for the four attorneys whose billing rates were explained in the supporting declaration, but denies any fees for the other nineteen people whose fees were not explained in the declaration. The Court notes that these nineteen people could be partners, associates or paralegals, but the Court cannot assess the reasonableness of their rates or billed activities without knowing their roles. And even for the four, the Court notes that it would have preferred some explanation of each attorney’s experience in past Lanham Act cases, in order to judge whether the attorneys’ billing rates were commensurate with their experience.
Coilcraft, Inc. v. Inductor Warehouse, Inc., No. 98 C 0140, 2007 WL 2071991 (N.D. Ill. Jul. 18, 2007) (Cole, J.).
Judge Cole recommended that the Court grant plaintiff’s motion for contempt. The parties previously settled this trademark case and agreed to a consent judgment which required, among other things, that defendants include “prominent” disclaimers on any advertisements, including webpages, offering plaintiff’s products for sale from the secondary market. Plaintiff filed a motion for contempt arguing that defendant’s website did not include prominent disclaimers. The Court agreed, explaining that prominence could be achieved in several ways, but that “fine print” was not one of them:
Being a relational and contextual concept, “prominence” may be achieved in any number of ways: placement of words, type size, typeface, text color, etc. Prominence, however, is not achieved by the use of fine print disclaimers that are substantially smaller than any other print on a page.
Practice tip: When drafting settlement agreements, or other contracts, watch out for subjective words like “prominence.” If you expect that you may need to enforce the agreement* later, try to define subjective terms in more objective ways. For example, plaintiff in this case could have required that the disclaimer be at the top of each page in bolded font at least four points larger than the largest print on the page.
* If you expect that the agreement might be enforced against you, subjective terms may be beneficial.