Mindy’s Restaurant, Inc. v. Watters, No. 08 C 5448, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jun. 9, 2009) (Der-Yeghiayan).
Judge Der-Yeghiayan granted defendants’ Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction even though plaintiff brought a federal Lanham Act trademark infringement claim. While Lanham Act claims are generally considered federal questions creating subject matter jurisdiction, plaintiffs claims were in essence breach of contract claims. Plaintiff was a franchisor of Mindy’s Restaurants. Defendants were franchisees, until they allegedly stopped making required franchise payments and plaintiff terminated the franchise agreement. While plaintiff’s claims were for use of plaintiff’s trademarks when defendants allegedly continued operating their restaurant after the franchise agreement was canceled. As a result, the Court held that the parties dispute and plaintiff’s claims sounded in contract, not the Lanham Act. The reason the trademarks were allegedly infringed was the termination of the franchise agreement.

Continue Reading Trademark Claims Dismissed Because Dispute Sounds in Contract

Publications Int’l. Ltd. v. LeapFrog Enters., Inc., No. 08 C 2800, Slip Op. (Dec. 4, 2008) (Guzmán, J.).
Judge Guzmán granted declaratory judgment defendant LeapFrog’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss plaintiff Publication International’s (“PIL”) claim for declaratory relief regarding the POINGO mark used in association with a pen-like electronic reading device. PIL alleged, and LeapFrog admitted, that LeapFrog used the POINGO mark for a pen reader system in one presentation to a retailer, but never marketed or sold a pen reader using the name and never sought to register the mark with the PTO. PIL also alleged that LeapFrog sent PIL cease and desist letters warning that LeapFrog’s earlier use of the POINGO mark gave it priority in the mark. The Court held that PIL had not met its burden because it had not alleged that LeapFrog had used the mark on products in commerce or that LeapFrog had sufficient intent to use the mark in commerce. Without a use in commerce or an intent to use, the immediacy required for a declaratory judgment action was not present.

Continue Reading Trademark DJ Requires Allegations of Continued Rights in the Marks

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.

Continue Reading Allegation of Registration Without Certificate Sufficient for Copyright Claim

24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc. v. Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp., No. 08 C 3853, 2008 WL 4671748 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 21, 2008).
Judge Lefkow granted defendants’ Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss plaintiff 24 Hour Fitness’s (“24”) trade secret misappropriation complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. 24 alleged that defendant Bally Total Fitness (“Bally) and the individual defendant (“Defendant”) misappropriated 24’s trade secrets when Defendant resigned his position as 24’s COO and became Bally’s CEO. But defendants argued that the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over 24’s state law trade secret claims because there was no diversity of citizenship – both 24 and Defendant were California citizens. 24 argued that Defendant was, in fact, a citizen of Illinois because he worked at Bally’s Illinois headquarters and because Defendant’s contract with Bally required that he move to Illinois before the case was filed.
Looking at the totality of the circumstances, the Court held that Defendant remained a citizen of California, where he had lived while employed by 24. Defendant had put his California home for sale and did have a contract requiring that he become domiciled in Illinois, although the particulars of the contract were disputed. But the most significant factor in the analysis was that Defendant’s family remained in California. And Defendant had not purchased or rented a home in Illinois or gotten an Illinois driver’s license, bank account or voter registration card.
Finally, the Court denied 24’s request to file an amended complaint adding a federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act claim. A complaint cannot be amended to create subject matter jurisdiction. The case, therefore, had to be dismissed.

Continue Reading Location of Family Major Factoring in Determining Citizenship

Nova Design Build, Inc. v. Grace Hotels, LLC., No. 08 C 2855, 2008 WL 4450305 (N.D. Ill. Sep. 30, 2008) (Der-Yeghiayan, J.).
Judge Der-Yeghiayan denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ copyright infringement and related state law claims. Plaintiffs claimed that they developed plans for a Holiday Inn Express hotel defendants planned to build, and that defendants infringed the copyrights in plaintiffs’ plans by revising them with another firm and using them without plaintiffs’ permission. The Court held that plaintiffs’ copyright claim was sufficiently pled. Plaintiffs alleged ownership of a copyright, attaching the copyright registration, and that defendants infringed the copyright. Defendants’ argument that plaintiffs’ plan were a derivative work were beyond the pleadings and, therefore, not appropriate for a Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion.
Similarly, defendants’ argument that plaintiffs, as authors of a derivative work, lacked standing to bring their copyright suit also was beyond the scope of a Rule 12(b) motion to dismiss. Furthermore, it was not ripe for decision because defendants made the argument for the first time on reply.
The Court also held that defendants’ arguments as to plaintiffs’ state law claims were beyond the complaint and, therefore, not sufficient for a motion to dismiss.

Continue Reading Court Does Not Consider Facts Beyond Complaint in Rule 12(b) Motions

Tuthill Corp. v. ArvinMeritor, Inc., No. 07 C 2758, 2008 WL 4200888 (N.D. Ill. Sep. 5, 2008) (Gottschall, J.)
Judge Gottschall denied declaratory judgment (“DJ”) defendant ArvinMeritor’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. ArvinMeritor sent DJ plaintiff Tuthill Corp. a letter alleging that Tuthill infringed a group of patents to recreational vehicle suspension systems (the “RV patents”). Tuthill responded that its product did not infringe, that the patents were invalid, and that the accused products were not in production yet. Tuthill alleged that the parties had continuing discussions regarding the RV patents. ArvinMeritor claimed that the discussions went dormant as to the RV patents after it received Tuthill’s letter. Tuthill filed this suit after its accused products were put on the market. The Court held that regardless of whether the discussions went dormant, Tuthill’s claim met the Supreme Court’s MedImmune standard, as defined in the Federal Circuit’s SanDisk opinion. And ArvinMeritor never dissolved the controversy by providing Tuthill a covenant not to sue.

Continue Reading Dormant Infringement Accusation Creates Declaratory Jurisdiction

Strom v. Strom Closures, Inc., No. 06 C 7051, 2008 WL 489363 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 20, 2008) (Der-Yeghiayan, J.).
Judge Der-Yeghiayan granted plaintiff Victoria Strom’s (“Strom”) motion to dismiss defendants’ (collectively “SCI”) counterclaims. SCI filed an earlier suit charging Strom with patent infringement. The parties settled that suit pursuant to a Settlement Agreement (“Agreement”). SCI alleged that Strom breached the Agreement and was once again, therefore, infringing SCI’s patents. But the Court held that once a district court dismisses a case with prejudice, it cannot reopen the case for enforcement of a related agreement without independent jurisdiction. SCI’s appropriate claim was for breach of the Agreement, not patent infringement. Because breach of the Agreement was a state law claim and because there was no diversity (SCI pled that all parties were Illinois residents), the Court lacked jurisdiction. Finally, the Court held that there was not supplemental jurisdiction based upon Strom’s federal employment claims. Strom’s claims and the breach of the Agreement were not sufficiently related.

Continue Reading Breached Settlement Does Not Create Patent Jurisdiction

Goss Int’l Ams., Inc. v. A-Am. Mach. & Assembly Co., No. 07 C 3248, 2007 WL 4294744 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 30, 2007) (Gettleman, J.).
Judge Gettleman denied defendant’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss plaintiff’s copyright for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff alleged that defendant violated plaintiff’s copyrights in its simplified machine drawings of its commercial printing machines by placing them on the internet without authorization. The Court held that plaintiff’s simplification of its drawings and addition of part numbers were sufficient to meet copyright’s originality requirement. The Court also looked to the Fifth and Eighth Circuits and held that the registration requirement was met when plaintiff filed its copyright registration, as opposed to when the Copyright Office acted on it. In this case, plaintiff filed its application in May 2007 and was waiting on registration as of the date of the opinion. The Court reasoned that because plaintiff would also have a cause of action if the registration was denied, there was no reason to make plaintiff wait until the Copyright Office acted.

Continue Reading Application for Copyright Registration Creates Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Everything Baseball Ltd., LLC v. Team Athletic Goods, Inc., No 05 C 5526, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Aug. 16, 2007) (Pallmeyer, J.).
Judge Pallmeyer denied defendant Team Athletic Goods, Inc.’s (“TAG”) Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of standing. The inventors of the patent at issue, for baseball chest protectors, assigned their rights in the patent to Everything Baseball Ltd. (“EB Ltd.”), but the correct corporate name was Everything Baseball Limited, LLC (“EBL LLC”). Plaintiffs argued that because EBL LLC was not the assignee when it filed suit, the Court should dismiss the case. But the Court held that the assignment to EB Ltd. was a clerical error and that the parties’ clear intent was to assign to plaintiff EBL LLC. The Illinois’s records show that while EBL LLC was incorporated, EB Ltd. never existed. Furthermore, some months after TAG identified the error, EBL LLC amended their assignment with the PTO. But the Court did note that the amended assignment could not create standing in this suit. The Federal Circuit case law is clear that where standing does not exist when the suit is filed, it cannot be corrected during the suit. The difference in this case was the Court’s ruling that the intent of the assignment agreement was to assign the patent in suit to EBL LLC, not EB Ltd., which did not exist.

Continue Reading Clerical Error in Assignment Does Not Destroy Standing

Black & Decker, Inc. v. Robert Bosch Tool Corp., No. 06 C 4440, Min. Order (N.D. Ill. Jul. 13, 2007) (Manning, J.).
In the first Northern District opinion to address the Supreme Court’s MedImmune declaratory judgment standard, Judge Manning denied plaintiff Black & Decker’s (“B&D”) motion to dismiss defendant Robert Bosch Tool Corp.’s (“Bosch”) declaratory judgment counterclaims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. In a prior case between the parties before Judge St. Eve (numerous prior opinions are discussed in the Blog’s archives), B&D asserted that two models of Bosch’s Power Box radio (the “Old Power Box”) infringed B&D’s two patents (the “Old Patents”). Shortly before Judge St. Eve held trial in the previous case, B&D brought this suit against Bosch asserting that Bosch’s new model of its Power Box radio (the “New Power Box”) infringed a third patent (the “New Patent”). At about the same time, B&D sought leave to present evidence at trial before Judge St. Eve that the New Power Box infringed the Old Patents. Judge St. Eve, however, held that B&D had not disclosed the New Power Box as an accused product and that Bosch would be prejudiced by adding it immediately before trial. After the trial before Judge St. Eve, the jury returned a verdict that the Old Power Boxes willfully infringed certain claims of the Old Patents.
Shortly after Judge St. Eve excluded the New Power Box from her trial, B&D amended the complaint in this case to allege infringement of the Old Patents. In response, Bosch added declaratory judgment counterclaims regarding a third set of B&D patents (the “Smith patents”) which B&D had never asserted against Bosch. Bosch argued that an actual controversy existed because of the history of litigation between the parties and B&D’s prior testimony that it placed a high value on the exclusivity its patents provided in the workplace radio marketspace. B&D countered that, despite filing two suits against Bosch, B&D had never asserted the Smith patents against Bosch, or any other party. B&D also argued that St. Eve had already dismissed similar counterclaims in the last case for lack of actual controversy. But St. Eve’s decision was based upon the Federal Circuit’s old reasonable apprehension test, which the Supreme Court’s MedImmune decision overruled. Looking at “all of the circumstances,” as required by MedImmune, the Court held that an actual controversy existed. Among other reasons, the Court noted that the wide-ranging dispute between the parties regarding the workplace radios, suggested that it was in the parties’ best interests to resolve any dispute regarding the Smith patents.

Continue Reading Northern District’s First Post-MedImmune DJ Decision