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Chicago IP Litigation Tracking Northern District of Illinois IP Cases

Tag Archives: Preemption

Court Allows Joinder of BitTorrent Does for Early Stages of Case

Posted in Federal Rules, Pleading Requirements

Purzel Video GmbH v. Does 1-99, No. 13 C 2501, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Aug. 16, 2013) (Gottschall, J.).

Judge Gottschall denied various Doe defendants’ motions to quash third party subpoenas to their respective internet service providers (ISPs) as well as motions to sever and dismiss individual Does from this action.  This is a BitTorrent case in which the Does are accused of being part of a “swarm” that downloads a copyright file, in this case the motion picture “Trade of Innocents.”  Of particular interest, the Court held as follows:

  • The Court avoided a district split in whether Doe defendants have standing to quash a third-party ISP subpoena, holding that plaintiff Purzel Video was entitled to the information sought in the subpoenas and that the Doe defendants were not unduly burdened by the third-party subpoenas.  The fact that the customer associated with the identified IP address may not be the actual infringer was not a basis for quashing the subpoenas.
  • The Court ordered Purzel Video not to publish any Doe’s identity without leave of Court.  And to further limit “potential for harassment,” the Court held that only the bill payer and mailing address related to the IP address were discoverable.  Purzel Video was not entitiled to phone numbers or email addresses.  Purzel was also required to communicate with Does via their respective counsel to the extent that they had counsel.
  • Recognizing a nation-wide split in authority as to how closely connected members of a “swarm” must be in order to be joined in a single suit, the Court sided with Judge Castillo, holding that it was sufficient that the Does downloaded the same initial seed file intending to use other computers to download pieces of the copyrighted works and to allow the Doe’s computer to be used by others in the swarm to download the same work.  The Court also noted that while not all Does downloaded the files at the same time, the downloads occurred during the same month.
  • The Court declined to exercise its Fed. R. Civ. P. 21 discretion to sever the cases, although without prejudice to reconsider at a later date.  In the early stages of the case, the issues amongst Does remained relatively common and joinder made judicial sense.  It is possible that varying and opposing defenses might eventually change that, at which point the Court would be willing to consider severing some or all of the cases.
  • Purzel Video’s civil conspiracy claim was preempted by copyright law because it seeks to vindicate the same rights as a copyright claim.
  • Purzel Video’s Local Rule 3.2 corporate disclosure was deficient because it did not list all of the members of Purzel Video.  A GmbH is a German LLC, and Local Rule 3.2 requires disclosure of all members of LLC’s.

Copyright Act Preempts Misappropriation Claim

Posted in Local Rules

Morningware, Inc. v. Hearthware Home Prods., Inc., No. 09 C 4348, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Sep. 4, 2012) (St. Eve, J.).

Judge St. Eve granted in part plaintiff Morningware’s motion for summary judgment as to defendant Hearthware’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act, Lanham Act and related state law counterclaims. 

As an initial matter, the parties’ Local Rule 56.1 statements of fact were deficient in numerous ways: 

  • Many of both parties’ statements were not properly supported with admissible evidence or contained legal argument instead of factual statements.  Any such “facts” were not deemed true.
  • The parties appeared to copy and past portions of their briefs into their Local Rule 56.1 statements.  That practice was not helpful to the Court.

These deficiencies resulted in a “very brief” recitation of uncontested facts.

Lanham Act False Representation & False Advertising

There were questions of fact as to each of Morningware’s alleged false representations of fact, in particular whether certain statements were false or misleading.  As such, summary judgment was not proper.

Deceptive Trade Practices Act

Hearthware’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act claim was based upon the same conduct as in its Lanham Act claim.  As such, summary judgment was denied for the same reason.

Common Law Misappropriation

Hearthware’s common law misappropriation claim was based upon allegations that Morningware’s infomercial was designed to mimic Hearthware’s infomercial.  This claim was preempted by the Copyright Act.  The infomercial was copyrightable and the misappropriation claim amounted to a claim of copying, which is actionable pursuant to the Copyright Act.  The Court, therefore, granted Morningware summary judgment on this claim.

 

Unfair Competition Not Preempted by Lanham Act

Posted in Pleading Requirements

Persis Int’l, Inc. v. Burgett, Inc., No. 09 C 7451, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Sep. 26, 2011) (Guzman, J.).

Judge Guzman granted in part plaintiffs’ (collectively “Persis”) motion to dismiss defendant Burgett’s counterclaim in this Lanham Act case involving the SOHMER mark. The Court dismissed Burgett’s cancellation proceeding because it was based upon the submission of an allegedly fraudulent document in a separate trademark proceeding.

The Court dismissed two declaratory judgment claims related to a separate mark because they were unrelated to the case and were duplicative of claims in another ongoing case. The Court also dismissed a declaratory judgment claim regarding the SOHMER mark as duplicative of the existing claims and answer.

The Court allowed Burgett’s trademark infringement claim because it alleged that it owned the mark and the relevant tire and even if it later assigned the mark, its right to pursue past damages did not necessarily flow with the assignment. The Court also allowed Burgett’s unfair competition claim. Illinois unfair competition is not preempted by the Lanham Act, although it can be proven with the same or similar facts.

Contract Claims Sound in Copyright

Posted in Jurisdiction

Schrock v. Learning Curve Int’l, Inc., No. 04 C 6927, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Sep. 29, 2010) (Kocoras, J.)

Judge Kocoras denied defendant’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and Rule 56 motion for summary judgment in this copyright and contract dispute involving photographs of Thomas & Friends characters – trains from the island of Sodor well-known to those like me with young children.

First, plaintiff’s claims sounded in copyright regardless of whether the Court used the "face of the complaint" test or the "principal and controlling issue" test both of which have been used by the Seventh Circuit. The complaint and the issues expressed in it made clear that copyrights were at the heart of the dispute. The Complaint alleged that plaintiff authored photographs and copyrighted them, entered an agreement with defendants, and that defendant’s use of the photographs violated the agreement.

Second, the Court denied summary judgment as to the contract claim because there was a question of material fact as to whether a binding agreement was formed between the parties and the Court held that in the event the trier of fact determined a valid contract exists, the agreement was not barred by the statute of frauds because plaintiff had fully performed his obligations pursuant to the agreement.

Passing Off Claims Preempted by Copyright Claims

Posted in Jurisdiction

Cyber Websmith v. Am. Dental Assoc., No. 09 C 6198, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Aug. 4, 2010) (Dow, J.).

Judge Dow granted defendants’ Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss plaintiff’s Lanham Act and Illinois Deceptive Trade Practices Act claims. Both were essentially reverse passing off claims – defendants allegedly represented plaintiff’s website templates as their own. And reverse passing off claims based upon copyrighted works rarely survive preemption claims. Pleading consumer confusion was not enough to avoid preemption in this case.

Tort Claims Preempted by Patent Claims Absent Objective & Subjective Bad Faith

Posted in Jurisdiction

Viskase Companies, Inc. v. World Pac Int’l AG, No. 09 C 5022, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. May 10, 2010) (Bucklo, J.).

Judge Bucklo granted declaratory judgment defendants’ (collectively "World Pac") motion to dismiss declaratory judgment plaintiff Viskase’s state law tort claims as preempted by Viskase’s declaratory judgment patent claims. Patent holders have a basic right to assert their patents. In order to make tort claims based upon patent assertions, therefore, Viskase had to show that defendants acted in bad faith in asserting their patents, both objectively and subjectively. Viskase’s general statement of bad faith did not meet the Twombly/Iqbal pleading standards. Furthermore, defendants need not have stated in their assertion letters to third parties that Viskase objected to defendants’ claims.

The Court had specific jurisdiction over foreign defendant World Pac. World Pac’s filing for U.S. patents and its enforcement letters regarding the patents-in-suite created specific jurisdiction.

Unjust Enrichment Claim Based Upon Non-US Acts Not Preempted by Copyright Act

Posted in Jurisdiction

Zimnicki v. Neo-Neon Int’l, Ltd., No. 06 C 4879 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 9, 2009) (Norgle, J.)

Judge Norgle denied defendant Neo-Neon International’s ("Neo-Neon") Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings regarding plaintiff’s unjust enrichment claim in this copyright dispute.  Plaintiff sued Neo-Neon and others for alleged infringement of plaintiff’s copyrighted decorative holiday lighting products.  Plaintiff also asserted an unjust enrichment claim against Neo-Neon alleging that Neo-Neon profited from making, using and selling products based upon plaintiff’s designs.  The unjust enrichment claim met the first prong of the preemption test because plaintiff admitted the designs at issue were copyrighted.  But the second prong was not met.  Neo-Neon’s accused acts occurred outside the US, in China.  Because the alleged acts were extraterritorial, they did not fall within the exclusive rights granted to copyright holders pursuant to §106.  This was true even though the same acts in the US would presumably have been covered and, therefore, preempted.

*  Click here for more on this case in the Blog’s archives.

 

Copyright Statutory Damages: Infringement Must Start After Registration

Posted in Legal News

Cassetica Software, Inc. v. Computer Sciences Corp., No. 09 C 0003, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jun. 18, 2009) (Kendall, J.).

Judge Kendall granted defendant CSC’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.  Plaintiff Cassetica asserted patent infringement, breach of contract, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act ("CFAA"), and related state law claims based upon CSC’s alleged continued use of Cassetica’s NotesMedic software after the end the parties’ contract for the software.  The Court dismissed each claim as follows:

  • Copyright Infringement:  Cassetica’s copyright claim was dismissed because Cassetica could not recover its claimed statutory damages.  Cassetica registered its copyright after CSC’s alleged infringement began.  It did not matter that CSC’s alleged infringement allegedly continued after the registration.
  • Breach of Contract:  Because CSC’s alleged breach occurred after the contract terminated there was no longer a contract to be breached and, therefore, no claim.
  • CFAA:  There was no "damage" as defined by the CFAA.  The CFAA defines damages as harm to a computer system’s data.  But Cassetica alleged copying of electronic information, not that any of its data was lost or harmed.  Otherwise, Cassetica only made bare allegations that its data was harmed without any factual statement.
  • Other State Law Claims:  Cassetica’s conversion, trespass to chattels and unjust enrichment claims were all preempted by the copyright law because each state law claim was based upon the alleged downloads of the NotesMedic software.

Allegation of Registration Without Certificate Sufficient for Copyright Claim

Posted in Legal News

Stereo Optical Co., Inc. v. Judy, No. 08 C 2512, 2008 WL 4185689 (N.D. Ill. Sep. 8, 2008) (Kocoras, J.).

Judge Kocoras granted in part defendants’ Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss plaintiff’s copyright, trade secret and related state law claims. The Court noted that the Seventh Circuit required a registered copyright, not just pre-registration, to file a copyright complaint. But the Court held that it was sufficient to allege the registration and did not dismiss the claim because the registration was not attached. The Court did note, however, that the registration requirement was jurisdictional and the motion, therefore, should have been styled a Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) motion for lack of jurisdiction.

The Court also denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s trade secret complaints. While plaintiff did not specifically identified the allegedly misappropriated trade secrets they did allege misappropriation of customer lists, vision test methodologies and other information that could be trade secrets.

Finally, the Court dismissed plaintiff’s unjust enrichment claim because it was preempted by the copyright and trade secret claims. The alleged unjust enrichment sought damages for either the alleged copyright infringement or the alleged trade secret misappropriation. Plaintiff’s other state claims, however, required additional elements and were not preempted.

Removal Papers Argue Consumer Fraud Act Claim Sounds in Copyright

Posted in Legal News

LimitNone v. Google, Inc., No. 08 C 4178 (Manning, J.).

Last month I posted that LimitNone, a Chicago company, sued Google for trade secret misappropriation seeking $1B — click here for that post.  Earlier this week, Google removed the case to the Northern District, arguing that LimitNone’s Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act ("ICFA") claim sounded in copyright and, therefore, was preempted by the Copyright Act creating federal question jurisdiction (click here for Google’s removal papers). 

In its complaint, LimitNone alleged that Google entered a nondisclosure agreement with LimitNone to review LimitNone’s gMove software — software that helps Microsoft Outlook users migrate data to the Google platform.  Google allegedly assured LimitNone that it would not offer a competing product.  But after receiving LimitNone’s trade secrets, including its software code, and promoting the $19 gMove software, Google allegedly began offering a free, competing software package which allegedly used LimitNone’s trade secrets.   LimitNone has not filed any responsive papers or pleadings yet, but I will keep you updated if LimitNone challenges the removal.

Confidential Information is Potentially Broader Trade Secret Information

Posted in Jurisdiction

United Image Print Group, LLC v. Mullen, No. 07 C 6720, 2008 WL 62205 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 4, 2008) (Kocoras, J.).

Judge Kocoras held that the Court lacked sufficient information to rule on preemption of plaintiff’s Illinois Computer Tampering Act and breach of fiduciary duty claims by the Illinois Trade Secret Act. Both claims were based upon defendant’s alleged misappropriation of allegedly confidential information before defendant resigned and took a position with a competitor. The Court reasoned that confidential information could include both trade secrets and protected information that did not rise to the level of trade secrets. Because information outside of the complaint was required to decide the scope of the claims, preemption could not be resolved in defendant’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.

Rule 9(b) Pleading Standards for Lanham Act False Advertising Claims

Posted in Jurisdiction

CardioNet, Inc. v. LifeWatch Corp., No. 07 C 6625, 2008 WL 567031 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 27, 2008) (Conlon, J.).

Judge Conlon granted in part counter-defendant CardioNet’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss counter-plaintiffs’ (collectively, “LifeWatch”) Lanham Act false advertising and related Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act (“UDTPA”) and Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Trade Practices Act (“CFA”) claims. LifeWatch alleged that CardioNet improperly acquired one of LifeWatch’s prescription-only heart monitoring devices, the Life Star ACT. The device monitors a person’s heart rate and uses a cell phone to transmit irregular readings to a monitoring station. CardioNet allegedly inspected and tested the device. Then based on its tests, CardioNet allegedly misappropriated LifeWatch’s trade secrets and intentionally made false and misleading statements about the LifeStar ACT in its advertising. LifeWatch’s Lanham Act, UDTPA and CFA claims were all based upon CardioNet’s allegedly false advertising.

LifeWatch identified the allegedly false statements with specificity, but because LifeWatch did not plead who made them or when and where they were made, LifeWatch’s claims did not meet Rule 9(b) heightened pleading standards. The Court, therefore, dismissed the Lanham Act, UDTPA and CFA claims.

Trade Secret Act Preempts State Claims Based Upon Confidential Information

Posted in Jurisdiction

CardioNet, Inc. v. LifeWatch Corp., No. 07 C 6625, 2008 WL 567223 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 27, 2008) (Conlon, J.).

Judge Conlon granted in part defendants’ (collectively, “LifeWatch”) motion to dismiss plaintiff CardioNet’s state law claims as preempted by the Illinois Trade Secrets Act (“ITSA”). CardioNet alleged that LifeWatch improperly obtained one of CardioNet’s prescription-only MCOT remote heart monitoring devices by getting a false prescription for it. LifeWatch then tested the MCOT by, among other things, simulating a heart attack. Based upon the tests, LifeWatch gathered allegedly trade secret information from the MCOT.

The Court held that CardioNet’s conversion claim was preempted to the extent it was based upon gathering trade secret information from the MCOT because conversion of trade secrets is a restatement of misappropriation. But the claim was not preempted as it related to conversion of the MCOT device.

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Breach of Contract With IP Implications Not Enough for Federal Jurisdiction

Posted in Jurisdiction

Krueger v. TradeGuider Sys., LLC, No. 07 C 6261, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Nov. 27, 2007) (Kendall, J.)*

Judge Kendall granted plaintiff Todd Krueger’s (“Krueger”) motion to remand this breach of Employment Agreement (“Agreement”) suit to Cook County Circuit Court. Krueger originally filed his Complaint in Cook County Circuit Court. Defendants (collectively “TradeGuider”) remanded the case to the Northern District, arguing that Krueger’s claim for breach of the Agreement, which governed his employment as TradeGuider’s CEO, was a federal copyright claim. TradeGuider reasoned that determining whether it had breached the Agreement required a determination of whether Krueger’s works were works for hire. The Court cited the Seventh Circuit’s narrow view of copyright preemption for contract claims – generally a contract involving copyrights is of a different scope than the copyrights because the contract is a private agreement between parties and a copyright is a right against the world. The alleged breach, therefore, was not essentially a copyright claim because it included rights beyond the copyright. Additionally, the Court reasoned that there was no evidence that suggested any copyright law would have to be interpreted to construe the contract or rule upon the alleged breach.

*Click here for a copy of the opinion.

Trade Secret Act Does Not Preempt Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claims

Posted in Jurisdiction

RTC Indus., Inc. v. Haddon, No. 06 C 5734, 2007 WL 2743583 (N.D. Ill. Sep. 10, 2007) (Grady, J.).

Judge Grady denied defendant’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings. The Court held that plaintiff’s breach of fiduciary duty claim was not preempted by the Illinois Trade Secret Act. Plaintiff alleged that defendant (plaintiff’s employee) violated his fiduciary duty to plaintiff (his employer at the time) by disclosing to third party DCI Marketing (“DCI”) that a DCI employee had accepted an offer to work for plaintiff. The Court held that the alleged acts would breach defendant’s fiduciary duty regardless of whether the hiring decision was confidential. The breach of fiduciary duty claim, therefore, was not preempted.

The Court also held that the non-complete clause defendant signed as a condition of employment was enforceable even though it lacked a geographic restriction. There was a two year time restriction and an “activity” restriction – defendant was only prevented from taking a job with a competitor that would either result in actual or threatened use of plaintiff’s confidential information.

Parties Must File Motions Promptly

Posted in Discovery

United States Gypsum Co. v. LaFarge N. Am., Inc., No. 03 C 6027, 2007 WL 2091020 (N.D. Ill. Jul. 18, 2007) (Hart, J.).

Judge Hart granted in part defendants motion to enforce the Court’s order and denied plaintiff’s motion to compel discovery. The Court previously ruled upon the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment, holding that plaintiff’s state law claims were not preempted by the Illinois Trade Secrets Act, but significantly limiting the claims and removing some defendants (you can read more in the Blog’s archives). Defendant sought reconsideration of the Court’s preemption ruling. But the Court held that the motion, filed three months after the Court’s opinion, was untimely and that it presented no new arguments. The Court granted defendant’s request that plaintiff be limited to the trade secrets it identified during fact discovery and prior to summary judgment briefing.

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Unjust Enrichment Claim is Preempted by Copyright Law

Posted in Legal News

Vaughn v. Kelly, No. 06 C 6427, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jul. 16, 2007) (Manning, J.).

Judge Manning denied defendant R. Kelly’s (“Kelly”) motion to dismiss plaintiff Vaughn’s case arguing that Vaughn’s state law claims were preempted by copyright law. The Court previously dismissed Vaughn’s motion to remand the case to state court, holding that his unjust enrichment claim sounded in copyright law and giving Vaughn time to amend his complaint to remove the copyright elements (you can read more about the case in the Blog’s archives). Kelly now moves to dismiss the amended complaint. As in the original complaint, Vaughn alleged that he introduced Kelly to stepping, taught him how to step, helped him write a stepping-based song entitled "Step in the Name of Love," and collaborated with Kelly to develop a video for the song.  The Court held that Vaughn’s unjust enrichment claim was preempted by copyright law, but granted Vaughn leave to refile the claim as one for copyright infringement. The Court refused to consider Vaughn’s proposed amended unjust enrichment claim because Vaughn failed to amend the unjust enrichment claim when the Court first offered Vaughn a chance to amend and because it is improper to consider amendments as part of a motion to dismiss. The Court held that Vaughn’s breach of oral contract claim was not preempted by copyright law because it could be for less than co-ownership of the copyright, which would be preempted. 

Conspiracy Claim Based Solely on Trade Secrets Preempted by ITSA

Posted in Jurisdiction

Abanco Int’l., Inc. v. Guestlogix Inc., __ F. Supp.2d __, 2007 WL 1492928 (N.D. Ill. May 21, 2007) (Bucklo, J.).

Judge Bucklo dismissed plaintiff’s conspiracy claim but not its unjust enrichment and tortious interference claims, holding that the former was preempted by the Illinois Trade Secret Act ("ITSA").  Plaintiff alleged that it entered a business relationship with defendant, supported by a confidentiality agreement (the "Agreement").  The parties were working together to supply airlines with electronic "buy-on-board" systems that would allow passengers to pay for drinks and other in-flight purchases with credit cards.  Plaintiff alleged that, based upon the Agreement, it provided defendant confidential, trade secret information about its buy-on-board system (the "Abanco System") and that with defendant’s support, plaintiff entered negotiations to provide the Abanco System to third party American Airlines.  But after the parties’ relationship soured, American Airlines allegedly ended negotiations with plaintiff and entered an agreement with defendant for a buy-on-board system.  Plaintiff then filed suit against defendant alleging trade secret misappropriation, breach of the Agreement, unjust enrichment, tortious interference and conspiracy.  The Court held that plaintiff’s unjust enrichment and tortious interference claims were not preempted by ITSA because they were based upon information protected by the Agreement in addition to plaintiff’s alleged trade secrets.  Specifically, plaintiff alleged that it gave defendant information "including information that was confidential, non-public, and proprietary and which constituted Abanco trade secrets." (emphasis added by the Court).  But plaintiff’s conspiracy claim was based solely upon defendant’s and American Airline’s use of information obtained from Abanco "constitut[ing] trade secrets belonging to Abanco."  Because Abanco did not claim the conspiracy used any information other than its trade secrets, the conspiracy claim was preempted.

Insufficient Facts to Determine Whether Computer Program was Protected by Copyright or Trade Secret

Posted in Summary Judgment

Stafford Trading, Inc. v. Lovely, No. 05 C 4868, 2007 WL 1512417 (N.D. Ill. May 21, 2007) (Coar, J.).

Judge Coar granted in part declaratory judgment plaintiffs’ (collectively "Stafford") motion to dismiss and denied Stafford’s summary judgment motion.  The Court dismissed defendants’ fraud and unjust enrichment counterclaims after holding that they were preempted by the Illinois Trade Secret Act.  The Court also dismissed defendants’ fraudulent concealment.  The material fact that Stafford allegedly failed to disclose was the opinion that Stafford owned the RIVAS electronic options trading platform outright.  But the Court held that an allegedly withheld opinion could not support a fraudulent concealment claim.

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Unjust Enrichment Claim Sounds in Copyright Law

Posted in Jurisdiction

Vaughn v. Kelly, No. 06 C 6427, 2007 WL 804694 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 13, 2007) (Manning, J.).

Judge Manning denied plaintiff Vaughn’s motion to remand his case to state court, but gave plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint.  Vaughn sued defendant R. Kelly ("Kelly") in Illinois state court alleging breach of contract, fraud and unjust enrichment, among other things.  Vaughn alleged that he introduced Kelly to stepping, taught him how to step, helped him write a stepping-based song entitled "Step in the Name of Love," and collaborated with Kelly to develop a video for the song.  Kelly had the case removed to the Northern District based upon an argument that the claims sound in copyright law.  In his motion to remand, Vaughn argued that his case was not about copyright, but about Kelly’s alleged theft of his uncopyrightable ideas and the breach of the contract governing the exchange of those ideas.  The Court noted that Vaughn’s fraud and breach of oral contract claims were close questions, but held that Vaughn’s unjust enrichment claim sounded in copyright.  The unjust enrichment was based upon fixed works — Kelly’s song and video — and the unjust enrichment claim is equivalent to allegations of Kelly’s infringement of Vaughn and Kelly’s alleged joint work.  The Court acknowledged that Vaughn was likely to amend his complaint to force remand and gave Vaughn a deadline for filing any such amended complaint.

Conflicting Testimony Creates Questions of Fact in Trade Secrets Case

Posted in Summary Judgment

RRK Holding Co. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., No. 04 C 3944, 2007 WL 495254 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 14, 2007) (Coar, J.).

Judge Coar denied defendant summary judgment on plaintiff’s trade secret and breach of contract (nondisclosure agreement) claims. The Court also granted defendant summary judgment on plaintiff’s unjust enrichment claim holding that because it was based upon the trade secret misappropriation allegations it was preempted by the Illinois Trade Secret Act (“ITSA”). Plaintiff alleged that, pursuant to a nondisclosure agreement, it disclosed to defendant its plans for its “combination tool” which consisted of a rotary saw, also called a spiral saw, which could be converted into a plunge router. But after negotiations broke down over price, defendant allegedly disclosed the idea to its Canadian subsidiary, which then allegedly disclosed the idea to another party, Choon Nang Electrical Appliance Manufacturing Ltd. (“Choon Nang”), that obtained a British design patent on the combination tool and produced it for defendant. 

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Defendants Do Not Necessarily Need to Be Individually Identified Throughout a Complaint

Posted in Pleading Requirements

QSRSoft, Inc. v. Restaurant Tech., Inc., No. 06 C 2734, 2006 WL 3196928 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 2, 2006) (Der-Yeghiayan, J.).

In this trade secret and copyright dispute, Judge Der-Yeghiayan granted the individual defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s conversion claim because it was preempted by plaintiff’s Illinois Trade Secrets Act claim.  The Court, however, denied the remainder of the motion.  The remainder of the challenged the sufficiency of the pleadings generally, as well as each count specifically.  The individual defendants argued that each of the counts was not sufficiently plead because plaintiff failed to specifically identify each defendant by name, instead they were collectively referred to in the allegations as "defendants."  The Court held that the general references to the "defendants" were more than sufficient to put defendants on notice of the alleged acts.

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Absolute Litigation Privilege Does Not Protect Patent Litigants

Posted in Pleading Requirements

Conditioned Ocular Enhancement, Inc. v. Bonaventura, 05 C 3153, 2006 WL 2982140 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 17, 2006) (Zagel, J.).

Judge Zagel held that Illinois’s absolute litigation privilege, which protects communications leading up to a litigation, did not protect a patentholder’s cease and desist letters because, in addition to federal preemption issues, the Illinois privilege is limited to defamation and false light claims.  Plaintiff alleged that defendant was practicing its patented vision training services.  In addition to filing suit, plaintiff also sent certain of defendant’s customers cease and desist letters warning that defendant was unlawfully using plaintiff’s patented vision training methods.  Defendant filed several Lanham Act and tortious interference counterclaims alleging that plaintiff’s cease and desist letters were sent in bad faith.

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A Trademark Claim By Any Other Name is Still a Trademark Claim

Posted in Jurisdiction

Richmond v. National Inst. of Certified Estate Planners, No. 06 C 1032, 2006 WL 2375454 (N. D. Ill. Aug. 15, 2006) (Manning, J.).

This is a trademark action regarding defendants’ use of the term "certified estate planner" ("CEP").  In addition to trademark claims, plaintiff also brought claims for civil conspiracy, conversion and trespass to chattel.  Plaintiff alleged that defendants’ use of the CEP mark constituted conversion and trespass to chattel.  Plaintiff also alleged that the individual defendants engaged in civil conspiracy by taking the CEP mark for the benefit of NICEP and for their own individual uses.

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