Rosenthal Collins Group, LLC v. Trading Techs. Int’l, Inc., No. 05 C 4088, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Feb. 23, 2011) (Coleman, J.).*
Judge Coleman granted defendant/counter-plaintiff Trading Technologies’ ("TT") motion for evidentiary sanctions and default judgment. Judge Moran previously dismissed plaintiff/counter-defendant Rosenthal Collins Group’s ("RCG") motion for summary judgment regarding the alleged prior art Buist trading program for discovery abuse, ordered RCG to produce additional documents and things related to the Buist program, and ordered RCG to pay certain of TT’s attorney’s — click here for the Blog’s post on that decision. Initially, the Court the severity of a default judgment as a sanction, calling it "extreme," and noted that the Seventh Circuit required a showing of willfulness, bad faith or fault by a preponderance of the evidence in order to justify dismissing a case.
The Court held that the high standard was met in this case, for at least the following reasons:
- During his deposition, Buist admitted modifying and overwriting source code in 2006 that he and by extension RCG held out as having been created in 1998 or 1999. And in the face of clear evidence of these facts, RCG continued to deny them, even calling the claims "libelous," "audacious," and "Oliver Stone-esque."
- Buist later admitted "wiping" or erasing six of seven zip disks that originally contained the relevant source code and that were later produced by RCG because they allegedly contained the code. The seventh was also wiped, although there was a dispute regarding whether Buist or others had access to it when it was wiped. But the Court held that it was "impossible to believe that it is merely coincidence that the seventh disk happened to be wiped on May 2, 2006, which just happened to be the same day that TT was scheduled to inspect it."
- There was evidence that "virtually every piece of media ordered produced by the Court in May 2007 and July 2008 was wiped, altered, or destroyed after those orders were entered . . . ." (emphasis in original).
- Even if RCG and its counsel had no knowledge of the destruction of the evidence, the destruction might have been avoided if RCG had timely complied with the Court’s orders to produce the materials. And regardless, RCG and its counsel should have preserved the evidence by taking custody of it.
- Buist was RCG’s agent and, therefore, RCG was bound by Buist’s behavior and actions.
Based upon these determinations, the Court found clear and convincing evidence that "RCG, and its counsel, acted in bad faith and with willful disregard for the rules of discovery and this Court’s orders." And because a monetary sanction alone was not sufficient, the Court entered a default judgment in favor of TT and dismissed RCG’s complaint and struck its defenses to TT’s counterclaim. The Court also fined RCG $1,000,000 for "egregious conduct before the Court" and ordered RCG’s counsel to pay TT the attorney’s fees and costs related to TT’s motion for default judgment.
* I have a few earlier opinions from the Trading Technologies cases, but this one was significant enough that I moved it up. Click here for more on the case in the Blog’s archives.
Be2, LLC v. Be2.net, No. 10 C 1650, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jul. 12, 2010) (Shadur, Sen., J.).
Judge Shadur denied the individual defendant’s letter request to alter the Court’s default judgment. The Court attached the letter to the opinion to avoid any concerns that the defendant’s communications were ex parte. And the Court left the judgment intact because the defendant’s explanation did not warrant alteration or vacatur of the judgment.
Flava Works, Inc. v. Wyche d/b/a DGSource.com, No. 10 C 748, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jun. 28, 2010) (Gottschall, J.).
Judge Gottschall denied plaintiff Flava Works’ motion for default judgment based upon Flava Works’ proof of damages. Flava Works accused defendants (collectively "DGSource") of copyright infringement and Lanham Act false designation of origin based upon a series of websites that allegedly used and sold Flava Works’ copyrighted content. DGSource never answered the complaint, and the Court entered a default order. In response, Flava Works submitted a proof of damages seeking approximately $1.3M. As an initial matter, the Court held that because both claims stem from the same operative facts, Flava Works was required to choose either copyright or Lanham Act damages. Flava Works also had to choose actual or statutory damages to the extent it chose copyright damages.
With respect to actual damages, the difference between the copyright and Lanham Act claims was that the Lanham Act provided for trebling damages. Regardless of the calculation, Flava Works’ estimates of its losses and DGSource’s profits were "conclusory" and provided without context. For example, Flava Works did not set out how much of DGSource’s website content was infringing and, therefore, would be relevant to a damages calculation.
Flava Works was not required to present evidence if it chose statutory damages, but without evidence the Court was required to adjust the award down, and the Court noted that it would benefit from additional evidence. The Court also noted that Flava Works was only entitled to statutory damages as to the two registered copyrights.
Finally, Flava Works did not prove the elements necessary for a permanent injunction. And Flava Works offered no authority for its requested remedy of transferring DGSource’s domain names to Flava Works.