Mike Atkins at the Seattle Trademark Lawyer has an interesting post — click here for the post — about a pending Chinese trademark infringement suit, in which plaintiff seeks monetary damages and a public apology to be published in newspapers. IP Dragon follows up Atkins’s post, explaining that an apology is a Chinese trademark remedy and that an apology is a punishment in a “face saving culture,” as IP Dragon describes China and Japan, the nationalities of the two entities involved in the suit. Click here for IP Dragon’s post.
But punishment or not, this raises an interesting question for US trademark law. It seems to me that a public apology (or acknowledgement of the infringement) would be a more powerful tool for the consumers that trademark law intends to protect than just monetary damages and an injunction. An acknowledgement of the infringement would warn consumers who might still unwittingly purchase items based upon the infringing marks after the injunction is in place. Maybe it is time to amend the Lanham Act.

Continue Reading Should Apologies be Added to Trademark Damages?

Lorillard v. Montrose Wholesale Candies & Sundries, Inc., No. 03 C 5311 & 4844, 2008 WL 1775512 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 17, 2008) (Aspen, J.).
Judge Aspen adopted Magistrate Judge Cole’s Report and Recommendation, denying defendants’ Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e) motion to alter the Court’s judgment against defendants – click here to read more about that Report and click here to read more about this case in the Blog’s archives. The Court awarded plaintiff Lorillard $2.5M in statutory damages for defendants’ sales of counterfeit cigarettes using Lorillard’s trademarks. Defendants objected to, among other things, a statutory damages award in excess of $1M. Defendants argued that 15 U.S.C. § 1117(c)(2) only allowed $1M in statutory damages per type of goods sold. Because this case only involved one type of goods, cigarettes, defendants argued statutory damages could not exceed $1M. But the Court held that the limitation was $1M per counterfeit mark per type of good. Because Lorillard alleged five counterfeit marks were used, the statutory damages limit was $5M.

Continue Reading Counterfeiting Statutory Damages are up to $1M/Trademark

Brian Higgins at the Maryland IP Law Blog posted an analysis of significant willfulness decisions post-In re Seagate, 497 F.3d 1360 (Fed. Cir. 2007) — click here for the post and click here for a subsequent post discussing Se-Kure Controls, Inc. v. Diam USA, Inc., No. 06 C 4857, 2008 WL 169029 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 17, 2008) (Cox, Mag. J.). Of the eleven decisions Higgins identified, three were Northern District decisions and one was a Federal Circuit decision analyzing a Northern District case. Here are my posts on the Northern District decisions:
Abbott Labs. v. Sandoz, Inc., No. 05 C 5373, 2007 WL 4287503 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 4, 2007) (Coar, J.).
Se-Kure Controls, Inc v. Diam USA, Inc.
Trading Techs. Int’l, Inc. v. eSpeed, Inc., No. 04 C 5312, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jan. 3, 2007) (Moran, Sen. J.).
As you can infer from the relatively small number of cases identified by Higgins, there remains a lot of law to be written about Seagate before the standard is well settled. I suspect that within 18-24 months there will be a relatively large body of law, including numerous Federal Circuit decisions exploring the new standard’s outlines. Until then, patent litigants will face a degree of uncertainty regarding willfulness. Of course, defendants will generally be glad to have some uncertainty in exchange for plaintiffs’s higher willfulness hurdle.

Continue Reading Willfulness Post-Seagate

Trading Techs. Int’l, Inc. v. eSpeed, Inc., No. 04 C 5312, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Feb. 5, 2008) (Moran, Sen. J.).*
Judge Moran denied defendants’ Fed. R. Civ. P. 59 motion for a new trial of damages on the condition that plaintiff Trading Technologies (“TT”) accepted a remittitur of defendant eSpeed’s portion of the damages. After a trial, the jury returned a verdict for TT and awarded $3.5M in compensatory damages, split $2M against defendant Ecco and $1.5M against defendant eSpeed. At trial, TT’s damages model was based upon a proposed reasonable royalty of between $.15 and $.25 per trade and a total of approximately 18M to 23M trades for a damages range of about $3.5M to $4.6M. TT argued that the apportionment of damages was irrelevant because the total award was within the argued range and because eSpeed purchased Ecco and, therefore, would be paying the full amount. But the Court noted that Ecco’s award would be paid from an escrow account set up for because of TT’s patent claims when eSpeed purchased Ecco. Additionally, eSpeed’s $1.5M judgment was well beyond the highest award that could be supported by TT’s evidence. The evidence showed that during the relevant time, eSpeed completed approximately 2.1M trades. Even at $.25 per trade, TT’s highest proposed royalty, the possible damages were only $539,468. The Court, therefore, offered TT a remittitur of $539,468 or a new trial on damages.
The Court also awarded TT prejudgment interest set at the average prime rate for the period compounded monthly, because TT collected license fees monthly.
* Click here to read much more about this case in the Blog’s archives and click here for a copy of this opinion.

Continue Reading Trading Technologies v. eSpeed: Damages Remittitur

In a recent post on the University of Houston Law Center Faculty Blog (another LexBlog site), Ray Nimmer asks whether the Supreme Court’s recent eBay v. MercExchange permanent injunction decision will lead to compulsory licensing. Nimmer discusses two alternatives when a permanent injunction is not granted after a patent infringement finding:
One response is simply to assess damages as to past infringement, leaving any future use of the patent for a voluntary agreement of the parties (a license) or a subsequent infringement suit for the subsequent infringements. That is clearly the preferable option, although it does raise limited issues of judicial economy.
A second alternative is to permit subsequent use by the defendant subject to the payment of a reasonable royalty imposed by the court. This is a form of compulsory licensing that rewards the wrongdoer, unless the remedy has been requested by the patent owner. Nevertheless, a panel of the Federal Circuit indicated that such a remedy may be appropriate. One wonders why.
Nimmer concludes that courts should not impose compulsory licensing for future infringement absent substantial public policy reasons:
The preconditions should be both an opportunity to negotiate a license and, failing a bargain, a request by both parties for the court to impose a royalty as part of the remedy for infringement. A patent creates a right to exclude and, where the patent owner prefers to exercise that right, it should not be forced into a licensing arrangement resulting from a case in which it prevailed on the infringement claim. There may be some cases in which vital public policy interests justify this result, but those cannot be grounded simply in the fact that the court denied a permanent injunction or the parties have not agreed to license terms. A remedy should not penalize the person to whom the remedy is awarded.

Continue Reading Will eBay v. MercExchange Lead to Compulsory Licensing?

RRK Holding Co. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., No. 04 C 3944, Min. Order (N.D. Ill. Sep. 10, 2007) (Coar, J.).*
Judge Coar denied the parties’ damages motions in limine.* First, the Court held that defendant Sears, Roebuck & Co. (“Sears”) could have its damages expert Catherine Lawton testify regarding her analysis of a hypothetical September 2001 negotiation between the parties. Plaintiff RRK Holding (“RRK”) argued that the misappropriation began in March 2000, not when Sears began selling its product in September 2001. As a result, Sears contended that Lawton’s September 2001 hypothetical negotiation should not be allowed into evidence. But the Court held that the timing of the misappropriation was a question of fact for the jury and, therefore, allowed Lawton’s testimony.
Second, the Court held that Sears could introduce the 2003 sale of some of RRK’s assets for $17M as part of Sears’s damages case. The Court held that the value of the sale was relevant to RRK’s alleged injury based upon the alleged misappropriation.
Third, the Court held that RRK could introduce damages calculations including periods beyond the “head start” period (the time it would have taken for Sears to reverse engineer RRK’s combination tool). The head start period was disputed, preventing the Court from fixing a time for the period, and any alleged harm would be resolved by a jury instruction explaining how the jury should calculate damages relative to the head start period.
Finally, the Court denied RRK’s motion for sanctions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1927. RRK argued that Sears’s March 2007 production, two years after fact discovery closed, of documents dated 1999 was “unreasonable and vexatious” and should be sanctioned. But the Court held that Sears’s explanation that the documents were found when it replaced its litigation counsel and new counsel ran additional searches rendered the delay “negligen[t] and reckless[],” but not in bad faith. The Court, therefore, did not impose sanctions.
* Click here for a copy of the opinion and click here for more about this case in the Blog’s archives.

Continue Reading “Negligence and Recklessness” Does Not Warrant Discovery Sanctions

Ball Aerosol & Specialty Container, Inc. v. Limited Brands, Inc., No. 05 C 3684, 2007 WL 2570351 (N.D. Ill. Sep. 4, 2007) (Der-Yeghiayan, J.).
Judge Der-Yeghiayan granted plaintiff Ball Aerosol & Specialty Container (“BASC”) summary judgment on the issue of patent damages, held that the case was exceptional and then doubled some of the damages and trebled the remainder. The Court previously construed the claims of BASC’s patent for a candle tin with a cover that can be used as a base and granted plaintiff summary judgment of infringement. In this opinion, the Court weighed the Georgia Pacific factors and held that they warranted a royalty rate of 20%. This rate represented an increase over the 17% rate BASC argued it would have granted in an arms-length negotiation to compensate BASC for the compulsory license. The Court then found that the case was exceptional because, among other reasons, defendants continued selling infringing product after the Court granted summary judgment of infringement. Based on the exceptional case holding, the Court doubled the damages from sales before the Court granted BASC summary judgment of infringement and trebled the damages for all sales after summary judgment.
Summary judgment of damages is a fairly rare occurrence. A quick review of the docket does not suggest that the parties waived their right to a jury. So, the facts in this case must have been very strong.

Continue Reading Rare Summary Judgment of Damages is Doubled/Trebled

Lorillard Tobacco Co. v. Montrose Wholesale Candies & Sundries, Inc., No. 03 C 5311 & 4844, 2007 WL 2580491 (N.D. Ill. Sep. 10, 2007) (Cole, Mag. J.).
Judge Cole recommended awarding plaintiff $2.5M in statutory damages. The Court had previously entered a Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(b) default judgment against defendants for sales of counterfeit Newport cigarettes in violation of the Lanham Act.* The Court recommended that a damages hearing was not necessary because of defendants’ four year pattern of avoiding discovery obligations leading to a default judgment, including failing to produce damages documents. Having actively avoided producing the information for four years, defendants were not now entitled to seek opportunities to present evidence in their defense. Furthermore, the Court reported that a $2.5 M award was reasonable. $2.5M was half of plaintiff’s estimate of defendants’ infringing sales and it was half of the potential $1M statutory award for each of the five marks defendants infringed.
* For more on this case, see the Blog’s archives.

Continue Reading $2.5M Statutory Damages Award Set Without Hearing