Header graphic for print
Chicago IP Litigation Tracking Northern District of Illinois IP Cases

Tag Archives: Sua Sponte

Answers Must Follow “Yellow Brick” Road of Federal Rules

Posted in Pleading Requirements

Wastequip Mfg. Co., LLC v. Precision Sewing, Inc., No. 13 C 8726, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Feb. 13, 2014) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

Judge Shadur sua sponte struck certain paragraphs of defendant’s answer and affirmative defenses for straying from the “yellow brick road” set by the Federal Rules in this patent case.

The Court struck answers that were not responded to based upon a lack of information and belief.  The Court also struck improper affirmative defenses.  The Court did not strike defendant’s invalidity affirmative defense because defendant did not have to clearly deny validity in its answer.  Therefore, an invalidity affirmative defense was proper, although the Court usually strikes them.  But the Court struck other defenses that were directly contradictory to plaintiff’s allegations.

Court Orders Briefing Where Complaint Shown No Correction to Chicago

Posted in Local Rules

Sonic Indus., LLC v. iRobot Corp., No. 13 C 9251, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jan. 17, 2014) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

Judge Shadur sua sponte ordered the parties to explain their positions as to whether venue for this patent case was proper in the N.D. Illinois.  Based upon the complaint, plaintiff Sonic was a Delaware company and iRobot was a Massachusetts company.  The Court saw no connection to the Northern District except, perhaps Sonic’s interest in the Court’s Local Patent Rules.         

Fine Levied for Failing to Serve Courtesy Copies

Posted in Local Rules

Sonic Industry, LLC v. iRobot Corp., No. 13 C 9251, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jan. 14, 2014) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

Judge Shadur sua sponte fined plaintiff Sonic Industry for failure to comply with Local Rule 5.2(f).  Several days after filing its complaint, Sonic Industry still had not provided chambers with a courtesy copy of the complaint.    

Plaintiff Given an Opportunity to Correct Diversity Jurisdiction Pleading

Posted in Jurisdiction, Pleading Requirements

Alliance for Water Efficiency v. Fryer, No. 14 C 115, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jan. 15, 2014) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

Judge Shadur sua sponte ordered plaintiff Alliance for Water Efficiency (“AWE”) to correct two deficiencies in its diversity jurisdiction pleading:

  1. AWE pled that it was headquartered in Illinois, but did not plead its corporate citizenship.
  2. AWE pled that defendant was a resident of California, but not whether defendant was also a citizen of California.

Although the Seventh Circuit generally required dismissing complaints where an individual’s residence, but not citizenship, is pled the Court found that “Draconian” and afforded AWE five days to correct its complaint, if it could.

Court Maintains Secrecy of Copyright Doe Defendants Because of “Substantial Possibilit[y]” of Misnaming

Posted in Discovery

Osiris Entertainment, LLC v. Does 1-38, No. 13 C 4901, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Aug. 20, 2013) (Tharp, J.).

Judge Tharp granted plaintiff Osiris Entertainment’s Fed. R. Civ. P 26(d) motion to take expedited discovery prior to a Rule 26 conference in order to discover the potential identities of the thirty eight Doe defendants otherwise only identified by their respective IP addresses in this copyright case involving the alleged infringement of the movie Awaken via BitTorrent. 

As an initial matter, the Court sua sponte considered whether the thirty-eight Does were properly joined.  Recognizing a district split, that mirrors a national split among district courts, the Court held that members of the same swarm may be joined in a single suit even if their direct participation in the swarm did not overlap in time, explaining:

As noted above, BitTorrent requires a cooperative endeavor among those who use the protocol.  Every member of a swarm joins that cooperative endeavor knowing that, in addition to downloading the file, they will also facilitate the distribution of that identical file to all other members of the swarm, without regard to whether those other members were in the swarm contemporaneously or whether they joined it later.  In that light, permitting joinder among non-contemporaneous swarm participants does not seem novel or extreme; the law governing joint ventures and conspiracies, for example, clearly permits plaintiffs to proceed against groups of defendants who engaged in a cooperative endeavor to facilitate an unlawful object whether or not all of the members of the group took part in all of the actions of the group and without regard to when the members joined the group.

Citations omitted.  The Court did, however, note that there would be some requirement of temporal proximity because at some amount of separation the analogy would break down.  But in this instance, the alleged Does were involved over a “relatively brief” period.

Having determined that joinder was proper at least at the initial stages of the case, the Court granted Osiris Entertainment’s motion to issue subpoenas aimed at identifying the Does based upon their alleged IP addresses.  The Court, however, prohibited Osiris Entertainment from publishing the Doe’s alleged identities without leave of Court, noting that there was a “substantial possibility[y]” that the individuals associated with a particular IP address were not the individuals that downloaded the allegedly copyrighted material. 

BitTorrent Doe Defendants Must be Part of the Same “Swarm” at the Same Time to be Joined in Suit

Posted in Pleading Requirements

Zambezia Film Pty, Ltd v. Does, No. 13 C 1323 & 1741, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Mar. 20, 2013) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

Judge Shadur sua sponte ordered plaintiff Zambezia Film to identify those Doe defendants that could be properly joined pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2) in this BitTorrent “swarm” copyright case.  The Court would dismiss the remaining defendants.  Relying upon a Michigan Law Review student note — The Case Against Combating BitTorrent Piracy Through Mass John Doe Copyright Infringement Lawsuits, 111 Mich. L. Rev. 283 (2012) — the Court required that Zambezia Film identify those Does that were both part of the same swarm and part of the same swarm at the same time as one another.  Any other defendants would be dismissed.


Plaintiff Must Provide Courtesy Copy of Complaint

Posted in Local Rules

Zambezia Film Pty, Ltd. v. Does 1-33, No. 13 C 1323, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Mar. 12, 2013) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

Zambezia Film Pty, Ltd. v. Does 1-60, No. 13 C 1741, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Mar. 12, 2013) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

Judge Shadur sua sponte ordered plaintiff Zambezia Film to provide the Court a courtesy copy of its recently filed copyright complaints in both of the cases.  The Court’s records suggested that Zambezia Film had not timely provided a courtesy copy of its complaint.  The Court used to exempt parties from serving courtesy copies of complaints, but that changed after the Clerk’s office stopped providing hard copies of complaints to chambers.  The Court did not, however, impose a sanction for the failure to serve a courtesy copy of the complaint, as it sometimes does for other pleadings.

Court Sua Sponte Orders Production of Evidence and a Hearing on a Copyright Issue

Posted in Local Rules, Uncategorized

Flava Works, Inc. v. Momient, No. 11 C 6306, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Apr. 1, 2013) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

Judge Shadur, after reading plaintiff FlavaWorks’ answer to defendant’s copyright counterclaims, sua sponte ordered FlavaWorks to produce a copy of the Commission Work Agreement that FlavaWorks alleged assigned all rights in the videos and photographs at issue to FlavaWorks.  The Court reasoned that deciding the issue of whether the Agreement transferred defendant’s rights in his works to FlavaWorks would move a case forward that had otherwise been largely a series of “procedural skirmishes.”  To the extent that there was not sufficient documentary evidence to establish the necessary facts, the Court asked the parties to submit a brief statement regarding how the issue could be effectively brought before the Court.



Courtesy Copies of Complaints Required by Local Rule 5.2(f)

Posted in Local Rules

Eiserman & Assocs., LLC v. Rosen, No. 13 C 1315, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Mar. 12, 2013) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

Zambezia Film Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-33, No. 13 C 1323, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Mar. 12, 2013) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

Zambezia Film Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-60, No. 13 C 1741, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Mar. 12, 2013) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

Shoppertrak RCT Corp. v. Objectvideo, No. 13 C 1323, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Mar. 12, 2013) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

In each of these cases, Judge Shadur entered similar orders requiring the plaintiff to provide the Court a courtesy copy of its newly filed complaint within one week of the date of the opinion.  The Clerk of the Court recently ended its practice of delivering each chambers a courtesy hard copy of any new complaints that it drew.  As such, the Court had stopped exempting counsel from its Local Rule 5.2(f) obligation to provide copies of complaints.  Going forward, counsel were required to file courtesy copies of complaints.  Courtesy copies of complaints are critical in order to allow the Court to control its docket by:

  1. Reviewing the contents of each complaint;
  2.  Issuing sua sponte orders as necessary regarding the complaint;
  3. Setting an initial status; and
  4. Creating a “bible sheet” for the binder the Court maintains as to each case before it.




Answer to Affirmative Defenses Struck as Improper

Posted in Pleading Requirements

New Paradigm Enterprises, Inc., d/b/a Q101 v. Merlin Media LLC, No. 12 C 5160, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Oct. 12, 2012) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

Judge Shadur sua sponte issued this order to address deficiencies in plaintiff New Paradigm’s answer to defendant Merlin Media’s counterclaims, specifically:

  • New Paradigm’s answers to Merlin Media’s affirmative defenses were struck as improper.
  • Denials based upon a lack of information and belief were struck as improper.
  • References to “strict proof” were ordered to be removed.
  • Answers that “waffle[ed]” and did not provide a response were required to be repled.

Motion to Dismiss Conflicting With Service Affidavit Raises “Red Flag”

Posted in Jurisdiction

Pyramid Packaging, Inc. v. Pyramid Packaging, LLC, No. 12 C 4420, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jul. 20, 2012) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

Judge Shadur sua sponte raised several issues with defendant’s motion to dismiss in this trademark case.  Defendant’s counsel claimed that service was delayed and made upon the wrong entity.  But plaintiff’s sworn service affidavit “flatly refuted” those claims.  These and other issues would be discussed at the hearing on defendant’s motion.

Pro Se Answer Must Still Comply With Rules

Posted in Pleading Requirements

Flava Works, Inc. v. Momient, No. 11 C 6306, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. July 16, 2012) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

Judge Shadur sua sponte struck defendants’ pro se answer pursuant to Local Rule 5.2(e) for failure to comply with the Local Rule 5.2(c) font and margin requirements.  The Court also identified the following non-exhaustive list of problems with the answer:

  • In violation of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(b)(5), the defendant denied statements for which it lacked information and belief.
  • Defendants’ laundry list of 25 affirmative defenses was “unacceptable” for not providing sufficient factual notice.

Copyright Plaintiff Must Justify Doe Suit or Faces Dismissal

Posted in Pleading Requirements

AF Holdings LLC v. Doe, No. 12 C 4244, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jun. 5, 2012) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

Judge Shadur sua sponte gave plaintiff AF Holdings ten days to provide a further showing justifying its suit against an anonymous John Doe in this copyright infringement suit.  The Court explained that Doe cases were not a new problem.  The Court saw them years before when bands such as REO Speedwagon filed Doe suits based upon anticipated sales of knock-off concert t-shirts.  The Court refused to consider those suits until there was a specified infringer.  The Court held that AF Holdings had not sufficiently explained why they should be allowed to pursue a case to unmask the owner of an IP address.  The Court also raised concerns that it would issue a subpoena that extended beyond the geographic bounds of the Court’s authority.  If AF Holdings was not able to answer the Court’s concerns, the case would be dismissed without prejudice.

Defendant Must Amend Answer Without Filing A Full Amended Answer

Posted in Pleading Requirements

Am. Taxi Dispatch, Inc. v. Am. Cab Serv., Inc., No. 11 C 6796, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Nov. 17, 2011) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

Judge Shadur sua sponte ordered defendant American Cab to file an amendment to its answer (but not an entire amended answer) removing denials of plaintiff American Taxi’s compliant based upon a lack of information and belief. While lacking information and belief acts as a denial, without information and belief, American Cab may not deny the allegations. The Court also ordered American Cab’s counsel not to charge American Cab for the amendment and to inform American Cab of that in writing, copying the Court.

Venue Questioned Sua Sponte

Posted in Jurisdiction

ArrivalStar S.A. v. Geo-Comm, Inc., No. 11 C 5016, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jul. 27, 2011) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

Judge Shadur sua sponte challenged the sufficiency of plaintiff ArrivalStar’s venue allegations. Venue is proper in patent cares: 1) where the defendant resides; or 2) where the defendant allegedly committed the accused acts and had a regular place of business. Geo-Comm resided in Minnesota. So, only the second option was possible. ArrivalStar did plead that Geo-Comm sold accused products in the district. But ArrivalStar failed to plead that Geo-Comm had a regular and established place of business in the district. Instead of requiring immediate repleading or briefing, the Court set a status conference to discuss the issue.

Naming Doe Defendants in Bit Torrent Copyright Case is Shooting First, Identifying Targets Later

Posted in Discovery

Boy Racer, Inc. v. Does 1-22, No. 11 C 2984, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. May 9, 2011) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

Judge Shadur sua sponte dismissed plaintiff Boy Racer’s copyright infringement complaint without prejudice. The Court held that Boy Racer could not "shoot first and identify [its] targets later" by suing twenty-two Doe defendants. Instead, Boy Racer was free to file its suits against identifiable individuals.

“Oxymoronic” to Deny Contentions for Which You Lack Knowledge

Posted in Pleading Requirements

Bernina of Am., v. Imageline, Inc., No. 10 C 4917, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jan. 18, 2011) (Shadur, Sen. J).

Judge Shadur sua sponte ordered defendant to correct its answer. Two paragraphs stated that defendant lacked information and belief sufficient to answer and, based upon that, denied the contentions. The Court explained that denying a contention for which one lacked information and belief was "oxymoronic." The Court gave defendant time to file a paper removing the relevant denials.

Trading Technologies: “Mirror Image” Patent Counterclaims Struck Sua Sponte as “Meaningless”

Posted in Pleading Requirements

Trading Technologies Int’l, Inc. v. CQG, Inc., No. 10 C 718, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jan. 24, 2011) (Shadur, Sen. J.).*

Judge Shadur sua sponte dismissed defendants’ (collectively "CQG") noninfringement and invalidity counterclaims. The Court explained that "mirror image" noninfringement and invalidity patent counterclaims are "seemingly meaningless." And the "amorphous nature" of CQG’s counterclaims resulted in them being especially unnecessary. The Court, therefore, dismissed the declaratory judgment counterclaims.

*Click here for much more on this and TT’s other cases in the Blog’s archives.

Parties May Not Deny Statements for Which They Lack Information and Belief

Posted in Pleading Requirements

Bernina of Am., Inc. v. Imageline, Inc., No. 10 C 4917, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jan. 12, 2011) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

Judge Shadur sua sponte struck two paragraphs of plaintiff’s answer and affirmative defenses to defendants’ counterclaims. Both paragraphs denied allegations for which plaintiff lacked information and belief, which was both "oxymoronic" and in violation of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(b)(5).

Northern District Answers Must Repeat the Complaint’s Allegations

Posted in Local Rules

JAB Distribs., LLC v. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc., No. 10 C 5716, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Oct. 26, 2010) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

Judge Shadur sua sponte struck plaintiff JAB’s reply to defendant Martha Stewart Living’s counterclaims. The reply failed to comply with Local Rule 10.1, requiring that an answer repeat the contention before responding to it. Additionally, JAB was ordered not to deny statements for which it lacked information and belief; as denying something about which one lacks sufficient information is "oxymoronic."

Court Sua Sponte Orders Defendant to Present Affirmative Defenses and Motions

Posted in Pleading Requirements

Bernina J. Am. v. Imageline, Inc., No. 10 C 4917, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Nov. 18, 2010) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

Judge Shadur sua sponte issued an order regarding defendants’ answer. The Court dismissed affirmative defenses that were impermissibly inconsistent with the allegations in the Complaint. The Court also ordered defendants to present jurisdictional and Rule 12(b) defenses as motions, rather than conclusory affirmative defenses.

Court Sua Sponte Questions Validity of Lanham Act Claims

Posted in Pleading Requirements

Ashley Furniture Indus., Inc. v. Value City Furniture, Inc., No. 10 C 5413, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Sep. 27, 2010) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

Nothing that his opinion was styled "Memorandum" and not "Memorandum Order," Judge Shadur questioned the viability of plaintiff Ashley Furniture’s trademark infringement, false designation of origin and dilution claims. The Court opined that "no rational reader" could find that defendant Value City’s accused advertising violated Ashley Furniture’s trademarks or that Value City’s "accurate" use of Ashley Marks’ infringed the marks. The Court, however, did not strike the claims sua sponte. The Court also noted that, even if the "troublesome" claims were eliminated, Ashley Furniture’s Lanham Act unfair competition claims would still survive.

Court Orders Pre-Answer Brief re Viability of Lanham Act Case

Posted in Pleading Requirements

Ashley Furniture Indus., Inc. v. Value City Furniture, Inc., No. 10 C 5413, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Aug. 31, 2010) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

Judge Shadur sua sponte ordered plaintiff Ashley Furniture to submit a brief memorandum citing the principal cases supporting Ashley Furniture’s trademark infringement claims based upon Value City Furniture’s "aggressive competitive advertising" including the use of Ashley Furniture’s trademark. The memorandum would help facilitate addressing the case at the Court’s initial status conference. The Court also noted that while the use of a competitor’s name in advertising was once verboten, it is now ubiquitous.

Breach of Patent Settlement Does Not Create Federal Jurisdiction

Posted in Jurisdiction

Idex Corp. v. Dripping Wet Water, Inc., No. 08 C 1114, 2008 WL 4372038 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 26, 2008) (Shadur, Sen. J.).

Judge Shadur sua sponte gave plaintiffs one week to amend their pleadings to resolve potential subject matter jurisdiction issues.  The Court noted that the breach of a patent settlement did not create federal question jurisdiction because the agreement was about a patent.  And the Court held that it was not sufficient for diversity jurisdiction just to plead the parties’ residences.  Both residence and citizenship must be pled for the purposes of diversity jurisdiction.  The Court, therefore, ordered plaintiffs to amend their complaint to plead both residence and citizenship, or otherwise prove jurisdiction.  The Court also ordered plaintiffs to explain why the case was filed in the Northern District rather than in Texas where the parties had an ongoing suit or Connecticut where the litigation resulting in the settlement at issue took place.