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Tag Archives: Kennelly

Court Construes Key Term But Declines to Construe Any Others

Posted in Claim Construction

Vehicle Intelligence & Safety LLC v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC, No. 13 C 4417, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Sep. 18, 2014) (Hart, Sen. J.).

Judge Hart construed the claims of plaintiff’s patent to methods for screening equipment operators for impairments.  The parties agreed that “expert system(s)” was the key term that required construction.  The Court construed “expert system(s)” as:

[A] computer program consisting of (1) a database module that contains information a specialist would consider in an analysis of an equipment operator for impairment; (2) a decision module that applies logic for screening and testing an equipment operator for impairment and for controlling equipment, and (3) an interface module which interfaces with one or more equipment modules and the equipment operator.

Having construed the key term, the Court held that the parties’ other six disputed terms did not require construction beyond their respective ordinary meetings.


Intrinsic Evidence Controls Claim Construction

Posted in Claim Construction

Intercontinental Great Brands LLC v. Kellogg N. Am. Co., No. 13 C 321, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Sep. 22, 2014) (Kennelly, J.).

Judge Kennelly construed the terms in this patent dispute regarding repeatable food containers.  Of particular note, the Court held as follows:

  • “Sealing layer” was construed as being separate from the top of the food container because the claims required that the sealing layer be sealed to the top of the container, which would not be possible if the sealing layer was part of the top of the container as proposed by plaintiff.
  • “Frame” was construed as “a tray with a bottom and sides” as proposed by plaintiff.  The parties’ dispute boiled down to whether the frame was required to have sides.  The Court held that sides were required because the container was for holding food and holding food required sides.
  • “Overwrap” was construed as a synonym for wrapper as it was used elsewhere in the patent.
  • The Court declined, at least at this point, to construe “facing perimeter portions,” “facing Overwrap perimeter portions,” and “additional perimeter portions.”

Patent Exhaustion Applies Despite License Restrictions

Posted in Summary Judgment

Cascades Computer Innovation, LLC v. Samsung Elecs. Co., Nos. 11 C 4574 & 11 C 6235, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Sep. 14, 2014) (Kennelly, J.).

Judge Kennelly granted in part defendants Samsung’s and HTC’s motions for summary judgment of patent exhaustion based upon a prior settlement agreement that plaintiff Cascades Computer Innovation (“Cascades”) previously entered with Google, the parent of Motorola Mobility who was previously a defendant in a related suit.  This patent case involves a method for implementing software meant for one computer architecture on another computer architecture.  Defendants were accused based upon the alleged use of the Dalvik Virtual Machine.

The license covered:

“Google Products” including, among others, “all Motorola and Nexus devices, but . . . excludes mobile devices manufactured by third parties and running the Android OS except any Nexus-branded devices.

The license also provided a release and a covenant not to sue.  The release provided that:

Cascades releases and discharges Google, Motorola, Google Affiliates, Google Partners . . . from any and all claims, demands, debts, liabilities, actions, causes of actions or suits of whatever kind of nature, asserted or not asserted, known or unknown, arising out of the claims or matters that have been or could have been asserted by Cascades in the Actions relating to the same facts and circumstances therein, provided that such release and discharge shall not extend to any other defendant in the Actions. 

The covenant not to sue states that

Cascades covenants not to sue Google, Motorola, Google Affiliates and/or Google Partners for any infringement or any other violation of the Cascades Patents based upon any licensed activity, permitted pursuant to this Section, related to any Google Product; provided this covenant does not extend to any other defendant in the Patent Suit.

Google provided the Android operating system to numerous entities, including Samsung and HTC, as open source code, including the Dalvik Virtual Machine.  Looking to the Supreme Court’s Quanta decision, the Court held that because the license authorized Google to convey the Android operating system to others, including Samsung and HTC, the additional restrictions in the license grant were not allowed because they sought to “circumvent the patent exhaustion doctrine and reap multiple gains from a single sale.”

Having determined that there was an authorized sale pursuant to the Google license, the Court turned to the other patent exhaustion factors.  The Court held that there were no reasonable noninfringing uses.  While one Android version, KitKat, allied a user to switch off the Dalvik Virtual Machine in favor of Android Run Time, the Android website expressly warned users against doing so because making the switch runs the risk of malfunctions.  The Court, therefore, granted defendants’ motion for patent exhaustion from the date of the Google license forward.

The Court then turned to use before the Google license agreement was executed.  Holding that the release and covenant not to sue were personal to Google and Motorola and backward looking, the Court held that patent exhaustion did not flow from the release or covenant not to sue before the date of the Google license.  The Court did, however, note that some courts had disagreed holding that a backward looking covenant not to sue exhausted patents.

Alleged seeding of copyrighted material on BitTorrent is not Copyright Misuse

Posted in Pleading Requirements

Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe, No. 13 C 3648, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jun. 9, 2014) (Kennelly, J.).

Judge Kennelly granted in part plaintiff Malibu Media’s motion to dismiss Doe defendant’s counterclaim and certain of its nineteen affirmative defenses in this BitTorrent copyright infringement case.

Doe’s counterclaim was not appropriate because it sought no affirmative relief, just a determination that its affirmative defenses were meritorious.  The counterclaim was, therefore, dismissed.

Doe did not properly plead copyright misuse.  Doe pled that Malibu made a business out of filing copyright litigations and that plaintiff Malibu Media seeded BitTorrent with its movies to generate copyright infringement.  But those allegations are not using the limited copyright monopoly to control something outside the bounds of the monopoly.

Doe did not properly plead estoppel.  The allegations that Malibu seeded its movies to encourage infringement does not meet the requirement that Malibu did something to mislead Doe into believing that Doe’s acts were condoned or otherwise legal.

Doe sufficiently pled unclean hands.  Doe alleged that Malibu created child pornography which would not be patentable and should not be enforceable. While it was unclear from the law whether the claim could stand, the Court allowed it at the early stage of the case until it could be further developed.

Doe sufficiently pled an implied license based upon Malibu’s alleged seeding of its copyrighted material.  It was not clear that the alleged seeding met each prong of an implied license defense, but at the early stage the Court allowed the defense to remain in the case.

Doe did not sufficiently plead the single satisfaction rule.  There was no case law suggesting that Malibu could only recover a single statutory damages award for a copyrighted work.  Rather, the law suggested Malibu could recover separately from each infringer.

Doe did not sufficiently plead mitigation of damages because it was irrelevant as Malibu had elected statutory damages.

2013 PWC Patent Litigation Study: N.D. Illinois Remains a Key Patent District

Posted in Legal News

PWC has published the latest installment in its excellent yearly patent litigation survey.  This year’s survey looks at data for every year from 1995 through 2012.  One interesting aspect of this year’s study was a focus upon individual districts and judges.  Here are some of the key takeaways regarding the Northern District:

  • The Northern District (a top five patent district in terms of number of filings) is the fifteenth fastest district to trial with 35 cases going to trial during the period (1995-2012) in a median time of 3.67 years.  That is relatively slow as compared to the Eastern District of Virginia’s .97 years mediation or the Western District of Wisconsin’s 1.07 years.  But those times to trial do not take into account the number of trials — 32 for the Northern District, 22 for Virginia and 10 for Wisconsin — nor do they consider the relative complexity of those cases. 
  • In those trials, plaintiff’s have a 24.8% success rate with median damages of almost $5.9M.  That puts the Northern District 8th in terms of largest median damages awarded, and 13th in plaintiff’s success rate.
  • The Northern District is 2nd in terms of number of reported NPE decisions with 32 decisions and 133 total patent decisions.  In those decisions, the NPEs’ success rate was 12.5%.
  • The Northern District is also the 4th district in ANDA filings with twelve.

The PWC study also looks at individual judges, with Northern District judges ranking high in all categories:

  • Judge Darrah was the 11th judge nationwide in terms of patent decisions with 10 total.  Plaintiffs’ success rate was 10% on those decisions.  Seven of the ten decisions were summary judgment decisions.  Judge Darrah is ranked 8th for summary judgment decisions nationwide with seven decisions and a 0% success rates for plaintiffs.
  • Judge Kendall was 18th with nine decisions (88.9% were summary judgment decisions).  Kendall had an 11.1% success rate for plaintiffs.  Judge Kendall is ranked 6th for summary judgment decisions nationwide with eight decisions and a 12.5% success rates for plaintiffs.
  • Judge Bucklo was 21st with eight decisions (62.5% were summary judgment decisions).  Bucklo had a 50% success rate for plaintiffs.  Judge Bucklo is ranked 24th for summary judgment decisions nationwide with five decisions and a 20% success rates for plaintiffs.
  • Judge Guzman was 34th with seven decisions (71.4% were summary judgment decisions) with a 14.3% success rate for plaintiffs.  Judge Guzman is ranked 26th for summary judgment decisions nationwide with five decisions and a 20% success rates for plaintiffs.
  • Judge Zagel was 35th with six decisions (66.7% were summary judgment decisions) with a 66.7% success rate for plaintiffs.  Judge Zagel is ranked 36th for summary judgment decisions nationwide with four decisions and a 50% success rates for plaintiffs.
  • Judge St. Eve was 41st with six decisions (83.3% were summary judgment decisions) with a 16.7% success rate for plaintiffs.  Judge St. Eve is ranked 35th for summary judgment decisions nationwide with five decisions and a 0% success rates for plaintiffs.
  • Judge Kennelly is ranked 31st for summary judgment decisions nationwide with five decisions and a 0% success rates for plaintiffs.

The judge-by-judge statistics are interesting, but because of the relatively low number of decisions and the relatively simple statistics offered, they likely do not tell us much.  It is hard to draw many clear conclusions from sample sets of, in most cases, four to six summary judgment decisions spaced over years with varied parties and circumstances. It is also curious that Judge Pallmeyer did not make any of the lists, although she has been on a number of lists as one of the busiest patent judges in the nation over the almost seven years that I have been writing this blog.

Specific Jurisdiction Created by Accrued Sales to Illinois

Posted in Jurisdiction

Bobel v. U Lighting Am., Inc., No. 12 C 6064, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Feb. 12, 2013) (Kennelly, J.).

Judge Kennelly denied defendants U Lighting America and its sole officer and employee’s (collectively “ULA”) motion to dismiss this patent suit for lack of personal jurisdiction.  The Court had specific jurisdiction over ULA because ULA shipped 76,000 of the accused compact fluorescent lights in five shipments to a third party in Illinois.


Court has Jurisdiction Over Foreign Defendant But Service was Not Perfected

Posted in Jurisdiction

Bobel v. U Lighting Am., Inc., No. 12 C 6064, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Feb. 16, 2013) (Kennelly, J.).

Judge Kennelly granted in part defendant U Lighting Group’s (“ULG”) motion to dismiss plaintiff’s patent case for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper service.  The Court held that personal jurisdiction was proper:

  • ULG identifies co-defendant U Lighting America (“ULA”) as its US office; and
  • ULG frequently communicates with ULA.

But while the Court had personal jurisdiction, plaintiff did not properly serve ULG.  Plaintiff served ULG by personally serving ULA’s president.  Pursuant to Fed. R. CIv. P. 4(f)(3), plaintiff could have served ULG via its representative.  But plaintiff can only serve in that manner with leave of the Court, which ULG never sought. 




Court Construes Fecal Management System Claims

Posted in Claim Construction

Hollister Inc. v. ConvaTec Inc., No. 10 C 6431, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Aug. 18, 2012) (Kennelly, J.).

Judge Kennelly construed the terms in this patent dispute regarding fecal management systems:

  • “Passed through” was construed as “passed inside.”
  • “An enema one-way valve” was construed as “a device that enables forward fluid flow but prevents backward fluid flow.”
  • “An enema fluid one-way valve located over said internal balloon and in the colon” was construed as “the enema fluid one-way valve is located at the patient proximal end of the internal balloon.”
  • “An annular supporting plate upwardly disposed” was construed to require that the annular plate was “angled toward the patient proximal end of the multipurpose colostomy device.”
  • “For fixing the multipurpose colostomy device to the abdominal wall of the stoma” was construed as “[t]he annular supporting plate attaches the multipurpose colostomy device to the abdomen wall surrounding a surgically constructed opening connected to the colon or ileum.”
  • “A joint tube disposed under said connecting tube” was construed as “[a] tube portion disposed under the connecting tube and used to connect to a drainage hose or a collecting container.”
  • “The balloon having a proximal-most end coincident to a proximal-most first end of the first catheter section” and “the proximal-most end of the retention balloon is coincident to the proximal-most first end of the patient proximal first section of the waste catheter” were both construed as “[t]he proximal-most end of the retention balloon closest to the patient and the proximal-most end of the first catheter section closest to the patient occupy the same plane in space that is perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the waste collection catheter, and neither of the proximal-most ends extend[s] axially beyond the other.”
  • “Having an inflated size so as to be sufficiently large enough to retain the patient proximal end of the catheter into the patient’s rectum” and related terms were held not to require construction.
  • “Ease of insertion” was held not to require construction.
  • “Folding” was held not to require construction.
  • “Flush port” was held not to require construction.  The disputed language only required that the flush port allow or make possible irrigation.

Laches Claims Generally Not Grounds for Dismissal

Posted in Pleading Requirements

S&A Futures, LLC — Series 2 v. Sysco Chicago, Inc., No. 11 C 7629, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Mar. 13, 2012) (Kennelly, J.).

 Judge Kennelly granted in part defendants’ (collectively “L&P”) motions to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims in this Lanham Act case in this dispute regarding trademarked bratwurst:

  •  The Court denied L&P’s motion seeking to dismiss claims based upon laches.  While plaintiffs’ (collectively “S&A”) notice letter was well before the various laches periods, there was no allegation in the complaint that L&P’s infringement was continuous since the notice letter, nor was there any specific allegation of infringement before July 2010 when laches would have attached.  Furthermore, the Seventh Circuit cautions that dismissing a complaint based upon laches is an “unusual step.”
  • S&A’s claim for declaratory judgment of ownership of the Krueger Sausage Marks was dismissed.  S&A did not allege that L&P was challenging its ownership, and the claim failed to add anything to the case because the ownership issue would necessarily be decided by other claims.
  •  S&A’s Illinois anti-dilution claim was dismissed because the parties were competitors.
  •  S&A’s accounting claim was dismissed because S&A’s allegations recited the standard without showing the lack of a remedy at law or need for discovery.
  •  S&A’s civil conspiracy complaint was dismissed because the complaint only offered conclusory allegations regarding the alleged conspiracy amongst the defendants.
  •  S&A’s unfair competition claim was not duplicative of its trademark claims because it alleged facts regarding misappropriation of business information which were not alleged in S&A’s trademark claims.

Soliciting Illinois Customers Creates Jurisdiction

Posted in Jurisdiction

Fasteners for Retail, Inc. v. Andersen, No. 11 C 2164 Slip. Op. (N.D. Ill. Aug. 30, 2011) (Kennelly, J.). 

Judge Kennelly denied defendant Andersen’s motion to dismiss this patent and trade secret case. The Court had personal jurisdiction over Andersen because he worked for defendant K International, an Illinois entity, and Andersen had solicited his former customers in Illinois.

Venue was also proper in the Northern District. A substantial part of the facts at issue occurred in Illinois. The parties’ prior agreement did not release plaintiff’s trade secret claims because they were not contemplated when plaintiff signed the agreement.

Releases Can Waive Future Claims

Posted in Summary Judgment

Hollister Inc. v. Convatec Inc., No. 10 C 6431, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. June 21, 2011) (Kennelly, J.).

Judge Kennelly granted defendant Convatec’s summary judgment because of earlier settlement agreement released plaintiff Hollister’s patent infringement claims involving bowel management systems as to then existing products. Here are the key holdings:

  • The release provisions in the agreement made clear that the parties intended to release future sales of existing product lines.
  • The accrued products did not have new, infringing features that would have brought them outside the bonds of the agreement.
  • Hollister cited no case supporting its argument that in New Jersey releases would only be for past and current sales, not future.
  • Hollister offered no case law supporting its arguments that a patent application cannot be released before it is issued.

Lawyers Sanctioned for False Pro Hac Vice Application Statements

Posted in Local Rules

Irrevocable Trust of Anthony J. Antonious v. Tour Edge Golf Manufacturing, Inc., No. 10 C 5552, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Apr. 17, 2011) (Kennelly, J.).

Judge Kennelly sanctioned two counsel, Silverman and Daghighian, for false statements made in Silverman’s pro hac vice application which was filed by Daghighian in this patent case. Daghighian prepared and filed Silverman’s application, without his consent or review, based upon prior applications the two had filed in other courts. In doing so, Daghighian stated for Silverman that he had never been suspended from practice and that he had not been held in contempt. The Court later learned that both statements were false. The Court noted that it would likely have granted Silverman’s application had he explained the two instances that should have been identified, but despite that the misstatements were material.

The Court ordered that: 1) Silverman provide a copy of the Court’s opinion to his state disciplinary authority; 2) Silverman pay a $5,000 fine to the Clerk to be put into the pro bono fund; and 3) Silverman was barred from seeking pro hac vice admission to the Northern District for three years without prior permission from the Court’s Executive Committee. Silverman received the more severe sanctions of the two because he was significantly more experienced and because he failed to take personal responsibility in the declaration he provided the Court.

Daghighian received lesser sanctions because he had only been practicing five years and, while his violations were more egregious in some ways, he took responsibility for his actions in his declaration. The Court ordered that: 1) Daghighian provide a copy of the Court’s opinion to his state disciplinary authority, but suggested that the authorities consider the mitigating factors the Court noted in rendering its decision; 2) Daghighian pay a $1,000 fine to the Clerk to be put into the pro bono fund; and 3) Daghighian’s appearance and pro hac vice application were not stricken.

Patent Cross-License Releases Future and Past Claims

Posted in Settlement

Hollister Inc. v. ComvaTec Inc., No. 10 C 6431, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jun. 21, 2011) (Kennelly, J.).

Judge Kennelly granted defendant ConvaTec’s motion for summary judgment that its accused bowel management systems were covered by a patent cross-license agreement between ConvaTec and plaintiff Hollister’s predecessor Zassi. The agreement released each party for "any and all past, present or future claims" including patent infringement claims involving the parties then existing product lines.

The agreement excerpted new features from the release. But ConvaTec’s accused Flexi-Seal products had the same designs as ConvaTec’s products at the time of the agreement.

Hollister’s argument that only covenants not to sue, not releases, may discharge future claims was not founded in the law. Hollister cited no cases that stood for that point.

Northern District of Illinois Patent Program Begins

Posted in Legal News

The patent pilot program started this month in the Northern District and across the country.  The pilot program is a ten-year look at ways to handle patent cases more effectively.  The main component of the pilot program is judges in pilot districts, including the Northern District, self-selecting as patent judges.  Patent cases will continue to be randomly assigned to all Northern District judges.  But when a non-patent judge is assigned a patent case that judge will have thirty days to order reassignment of the case.  When reassignment is ordered, the case will be randomly reassigned to one of the patent judges.  There will also be patent-related education and programs offered for the patent judges across the country. 

One unanswered question about the pilot program remains:  If a non-patent judge was assigned a patent case less than thirty days before the program kicked off on September 19, can the non-patent judge order the patent case reassigned pursuant to the pilot program?  I have not seen it happen yet, but I suspect it could over the next week or two.

The Northern District issued the following list of judges who have self-selected as patent judges:

  • Chief Judge James F. Holderman

  • Judge Ruben Castillo
  • Judge John W. Darrah
  • Judge Gary S. Feinerman
  • Judge Virginia Kendall
  • Judge Matthew F. Kennelly
  • Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow
  • Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer
  • Judge Amy J. St. Eve
  • Judge James B. Zagel
  • Inventorship Analysis for Foreign Counterpart Patents Requires Separate Analysis

    Posted in Trial

    Affymax, Inc. v. Johnson & Johnson, No. 04 C 6216, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Mar. 21, 2011) (Kennelly, J.).

    Judge Kennelly granted in part plaintiff Affymax’s motion to vacate the arbitration award between the parties, remand the case to the arbitration panel for further determination of the inventorships of foreign patents. The parties previously undertook two years of discovery before a three-member AAA panel. That panel held that Affymax and defendants (collectively "Johnson & Johnson") were joint inventors on several U.S. Patents and that Johnson & Johnson was the sole inventor as to one patent, and therefore, its foreign counterparts. Noting that it could not vacate the arbitration decision even for "gross" misapplication of the law, the Court considered Affymax’s arguments to vacate the award as to the patents held to be solely owned by Johnson & Johnson:

    1. The evidence suggested that the panel did conduct the claim-by-claim analysis required by the Agreement as to the US patents and claims. It did not matter that they did not detail the analysis for each US claim.
    2. The arbitrator’s decision clearly and thoroughly stated the law of joint inventorship. Affymax’s disagreement with the application of the law is not grounds for vacating an arbitration award.
    3. The arbitrator had the relevant evidence before them. The trail of documents connecting Affymax to the documents was not relevant because the arbitrators disagreed with Affymax regarding the conclusions drawn from the documents.
    4. The arbitrators manifestly disregarded the law by finding that the foreign patents had the same ownership interests as their U.S. counterparts without performing the required claim-by-claim inventorship analysis. The Court, therefore, vacated the award regarding the foreign patents and rewarded the arbitration panel for determination of inventorship of the foreign patents.

    No Inequitable Conduct Where “Withheld” Reference Was Previously Disclosed

    Posted in Legal News

    Avery Dennison Corp. v. Continental Datalabel, Inc., No. 10 C 2744, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Nov. 30, 2010) (Kennelly, J.).

    Judge Kennelly granted plaintiff Avery Dennision’s ("ADC") Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss defendant Continental Datalabel’s ("CDI") inequitable conduct, Walker Process fraud and sham litigation counterclaims in this patent dispute regarding labels with a tear off liner to expose a portion of a label column for easy removal.

    Inequitable Conduct

    CDI alleged two bases of inequitable conduct. First, ADC allegedly intentionally failed to tell the examiner that certain limitations outlined in a series of bullet points were from a particular prior art reference. That claim filed because ADC had previously disclosed the prior art reference at issue to the examiner – once a reference is before an examiner, it cannot be found to have been withheld from the examiner. Second, ADC allegedly intentionally failed to disclose to the examiner that curling up of labels is an inherent characteristic of adhesive labels. But ADC had disclosed the inherent curling up by disclosing various prior art references regarding adhesive labels that taught the inherent curling up, combined with the examiner’s presumed experience in the art.

    Walker Process Fraud Claim

    Because CDI’s Walker Process claim was premised upon the alleged inequitable conduct, CDI’s Walker Process claim failed. The Court further noted that because inequitable conduct is a broader concept than Walker Process fraud, a party that fails to make its case for inequitable conduct, cannot make a Walker Process fraud claim.

    Sham Litigation

    CDI’s sham litigation claim was based upon allegations that ADC knew the patent was invalid based upon the Brady prior art reference, which was before the examiner, and because had ADC tested CDI’s accused labels, ADC would have realized its suit was baseless. Because the Brady reference was before the examiner, however, the Court could not find that the claim was "objectively baseless" as required for sham litigation. ADC could have reasonably believed that after the examiner considered Brady and granted ADC’s patent, ADC’s patent was in fact valid over Brady.

    And ADC’s alleged failure to test the accused CDI product was not sufficient for a sham litigation claim. Sham litigation requires more than an unsuccessful suit. While CDI may eventually prove that it did not infringe, ADC’s failure to perform one test identified by CDI does "not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility" that ADC’s suit was in bad faith.

    “Prudent” Filing of Second Suit Not Sanctionable

    Posted in Local Rules

    DH Holdings, LLC v. MeridianLink. Inc., No. 10 C 2351, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Aug. 23, 2010) (Kennelly, J.).

    Judge Kennelly denied defendant MeridianLink’s motion for sanctions pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 11, § 1927 and the Court’s inherent powers. Plaintiff DH Holdings originally filed its Northern District patent infringement case in 2008, and Judge Norgle entered a default against MeridianLink when it failed to answer the complaint. MeridianLink later got the judgment overturned for improper service in the Central District of California, and then filed a declaratory judgment action in that district. DH Holdings responded by filing the instant case and simultaneously asking Judge Norgle to reopen the 2008 case. MeridianLink claimed that DH Holding unnecessarily multiplied the litigation by seeking to reopen the 2008 case and filing the instant case. But the Court held that DH Holding simply took prudent actions to maintain the status quo. DH Holding could not be certain that its original case would be reopened. So, filing a new case was a reasonable precaution.

    No Reverse Confusion Because of Dissimilar Trademarks

    Posted in Legal News

    World Wide Sales, Inc. v. Church & Dwight Co., Inc., No. 08 C 1198, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Nov. 9, 2009) (Kennelly, J.).

    Judge Kennelly granted defendant Church & Dwight (“CD”) summary judgment on each of plaintiff World Wide Sales’ (“WWS”) claims for trademark infringement, Lanham Act unfair competition and fraud on the Patent and Trademark office. WWS claimed that CD infringed and unfairly competed with WWS’s Forever Fresh for the Fridge trademark, used with a refrigerator odor elimination product, by using CD’s Fridge Fresh mark with its Arm & Hammer refrigerator deodorizer product.

    Lanham Act

    The parties stipulated that CD’s mark was protectable for purposes of this motion. The only issue, therefore, was whether there was a likelihood of confusion. Generally, a court would consider whether consumers believed CD’s mark referred to WWS’s product. But WWS relied upon a theory of reverse confusion, arguing that CD had so saturated the market with its junior mark that consumers believed WWS’s products were CD’s products. Courts apply the same likelihood of confusion factors in both reverse confusion and confusion cases, although the factors are weighted differently:

    • Similarity of Products. The products had similar deodorizing uses, but they were presented so differently that there was little chance of consumer confusion.
    • Degree of Similarity. Beyond both using “Fridge” and “Fresh” the marks were not similar. Among other things, WWS’s mark was surrounded by pictures of refrigerated food stored with or without its product, CD’s mark was against a yellow-orange background, similar to other Arm & Hammer products without any pictures of food. The factor weighed strongly in CD’s favor as it was “extraordinarily unlikely” that consumers would be confused.
    • Use and Manner of Concurrent Use. The parties’ distribution channels were vastly different. WWS offered no evidence of the products being sold in the same store or advertised in the same publication.
    • Strength of Mark. WWS’s mark was descriptive and relatively little had been invested in promoting the mark. As a result, the Court held that the mark was relatively weak.
    • Consumers’ Degree of Care. While the products at issue were relatively inexpensive, the Court still held that there was little chance consumers would confuse the products.
    • CD’s Intent. Because the junior user does not seek to profit from the senior user’s mark in reverse confusion cases, CD’s intent was irrelevant.
    • Actual Confusion. WWS offered no evidence of actual confusion.

    Based upon the factors, the Court held that no reasonable fact finder could find a likelihood of confusion.

    Fraud on the PTO

    Because WWS’s registration disclaimed the exclusive use of “fridge” and “fresh,” no reasonable fact finder could have found that CD lacked a reasonable belief that “fridge” and “fresh” were unprotected words. And therefore, failing to disclose WWS’s "Forever Fresh for the Fridge" registration to the PTO during the prosecution of CD’s "Fridge Fresh" mark was not fraud.

    N.D. Illinois Local Patent Rules Will Drive Cases to Chicago

    Posted in Local Rules

    The most popular posts on the Blog during 2009, in terms of both views and reader questions, were those on the Local Patent Rules.  Because of high interest, I have plans for additional analysis this year.  This is the first of those posts.  In late 2009, I had an article published in Bloomberg Law discussing why the new Rules will drive patent cases to the Northern District of Illinois.  Bloomberg generously allowed me to post a pdf version of the story — click here to download it — and to repost it on the blog.  Here is the article:

    The Northern District of Illinois enacted Local Patent Rules ("LPR" or "Rules") on October 1, 2009. The purpose of the Rules is to normalize patent litigation in the Northern District of Illinois and to streamline the patent litigation discovery process. See LPR, Preamble. The rules also make clear that the court does not intend to become a "rocket docket." In fact, the Rules create a schedule that would have cases ready for trial in a little over two years, although cases would not necessarily be tried at that time. That is at most a modest change from the court’s average time to trial for all cases—about twenty-seven months, according to the most recent Federal Court Management Statistics.

    The Northern District of Illinois did not intend that its new Rules would drive patent cases to Chicago, as has happened when other courts enacted local patent rules, such as the Eastern District of Texas. But despite its intentions, the Northern District of Illinois’s plan to normalize patent litigation practice and streamline discovery will significantly increase patent filings in Chicago. To understand why the Rules will increase case filings, it is important to understand the process created by the Rules, and then look at the impact specific Rules will have for both patentholders and accused infringers.

    Continue Reading

    Seventh Circuit Pattern Trademark Jury Instructions

    Posted in Jury Instructions

    Click here for the Seventh Circuit’s new proposed pattern trademark jury instructions.The committee that prepared the instructions included Northern District of Illinois Judges Kendall and Kennelly, as well as a broad spectrum of attorneys from academic, government and private practice.

    The pattern instructions are impressive for their thoroughness. They are also very well cited, making them an excellent primer on Seventh Circuit trademark law. Of particular note, the instructions do not include a dilution instruction because since Congress’s 2006 revision of the dilution laws, there has not been sufficient appellate interpretation. 

    *  The jury instructions are not yet in final form.

    Loyola Chicago’s IP Day in Chicago

    Posted in Legal News

    Loyola University’s and the Chicago Intellectual Property Alliance’s annual IP Day In Chicago is next week, Tuesday, November 3 at the law school, 25 East Pearson Street in Chicago.  This is a do not miss event every year.  This year’s program includes a keynote speech by the Northern District of Illinois’s Judge Kennelly and impressive panels discussing topics including the new proposed generic top-level domains and protecting patents and trade secrets and policing false advertising.  Click here for a brochure with more details and registration information.

    Chicago 2016 is a Trademark, But Not All City-Plus-Olympic-Year Marks Are

    Posted in Legal News

    Frayne v. Chicago 2016, No. 08 C 5290, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Oct. 2, 2009) (Kennelly, J.). 

    Judge Kennelly denied defendants Chicago 2016’s and the United States Olympic Committee’s ("USOC") motion for summary judgment regarding its Stevens Act and Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act ("ACPA") claims regarding plaintiff’s www.chicago2016.com website. And the Court granted defendants summary judgment as to plaintiff’s federal and state constitutional claims, and plaintiff’s laches defense. Plaintiff registered the Chicago2016.com domain in 2004, and after the sale, the domain registrar maintained a parking page on the site which included advertising links. Revenues for the links went to the registrar, not plaintiff.

    Stevens Act*

    The Court held that the parking page was commercial. But there was a question of fact as to whether plaintiff "used" the trademark, in this case the domain, for commercial purposes as required by the Stevens Act. Plaintiff did not receive revenues from the parking page and it was even unclear whether plaintiff knew of the parking page or consented to the registrar’s use of the parking page.

    The Court also analyzed whether Chicago 2016 was a mark that fell within the Stevens Act. While city-plus-Olympic-year combinations were not automatically protectable marks within the scope of the Stevens Act, certain city-plus-Olympic-year combinations can acquire an association with the USOC and the Olympics. Chicago 2016 likely gained that association by April 2007 when the USOC picked Chicago as a 2016 Olympic candidate. But the parties did not brief the issue of when the association occurred, so the determination required further proceedings.


    The ACPA claim was not ripe for summary judgment because it depended upon a determination that Chicago 2016 was a protected mark pursuant to the Stevens Act which the Court had held required further proceedings. Additionally, there was a question of fact as to whether plaintiff had a bad faith intent to profit from the Chicago 2016 mark.


    The Court granted defendants summary judgment on plaintiff’s laches claim. Plaintiff argued that if he had been aware of defendants’ intent to pursue this suit, he would have challenged defendants’ Chicago 2016 mark in the Patent & Trademark Office. But defendants second Chicago 2016 mark application was published concurrently with their first threat to take action against plaintiff. Plaintiff did not, however, challenge that application. No reasonable fact-finder could find plaintiff was prejudiced in those circumstances.

    Constitutional Claims

    The Court granted defendants summary judgment as to plaintiff’s constitutional claims based upon the Noer-Pennington doctrine. Noer-Pennington protects a party’s right to file a lawsuit so long as the suit is not a sham. Defendants’ claims regarding their Chicago 2016 mark were backed by precedent. Defendants cited several cases in which WIPO ruled for Olympic organizations regarding city-plus-Olympic-year combination marks. 

    * For more on the Steven Act, which grants the USOC absolute rights in certain Olympics-related trademarks click here

    Attempted Reverse Domain Highjacking Not Actionable

    Posted in Legal News

    Frayne v. Chicago 2016, No. 08 C 5290, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jan. 8, 2009) (Kennelly, J.).

    Judge Kennelly granted defendants’ motion to dismiss as to plaintiff’s Lanham Act Section 114(2)(D) reverse domain name highjacking and attempted highjacking claims.*  Plaintiff registered Chicago2016.com in 2004 at which time plaintiff was not aware that Chicago intended to bid for the 2016 Olympics.  In 2007, plaintiff was contacted by a representative of Chicago 2016 and asked whether plaintiff would entertain offers for the website.  Plaintiff refused and defendants eventually initiated proceedings before the World Intellectual Property Organization alleging that plaintiff registered the domain name in bad faith and in violation of the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute Resolution Policy ("UDRP").  Plaintiff’s domain name, however, was never suspended, disabled or transferred to defendants.

    Plaintiff conceded that highjacking claim should be dismissed because the domain name had not been suspended, disabled or transferred.  And the Court held that the Lanham Act did not create a cause of action for attempted highjacking.  The text of the statute specifically required that the domain name actually be suspended, disabled or transferred.

    Court Requires Clear Explanation From Counsel for Further Construction

    Posted in Claim Construction

    Rowe Int’l. Corp. v. ECast, No. 06 C 2703, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Nov. 28, 2008) (Kennelly, J.).

    Judge Kennelly construed the terms of plaintiff’s computer jukebox patents — click here for more on this case in the Blog’s archives, including more on claim construction.  Of particular interest, the Court held that "programmable computer memory" and "programmable memory" both mean a computer memory that can be programmed, requiring little construction.  The Court rejected defendant’s construction that would have limited the term to random access memory. 

    The parties both sought further construction of "user attract", but the Court had previously construed the term and saw no basis to revisit the construction without a clear and succinct explanation from counsel as to why it was required.