Viskase Cos., Inc. v. World Pac Int’l AG, No. 09 C 5022, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. May 18, 2010) (Bucklo, J.).
Judge Bucklo construed the claims in this patent case regarding food curing technologies for use in packing sausages and other processed foods. The following construction were of particular note:
The Court declined to construe “barrier casing” holding that “barrier” did not require construction beyond its ordinary meaning. The parties real dispute was over the term “impermeable” which the Court construed.
The Court construed “impermeable” as “having a low enough permeability or transmission rate to steam and/or gas to prevent a measurable loss of weight, flavor, and taste during customary production, cooking, and storage.” This construction required a lower permeability than any known in the industry because that is how the patentee defined impermeable in the specification noting that courts cannot redraft claims to avoid “nonsensical results.”
“Plastic Foils” was construed as “a self-supporting film or sheet of plastic.” Because the patent contemplated laminating the plastic foil, it has to be self-supporting because only self-supporting foils can be laminated.
The Court held that “woven” in “woven fibers, fabric, knits and fleece” modified only fibers, not fabric, knits or fleece.

Continue Reading Court Will Not Rewrite Claims to Avoid Nonsensical Results

Chief Judge Holderman recently gave the annual State of the Court address, concluding that the Northern District continues to be an active, growing district court. Civil case filings were up 6.2% from 2008 to 2009, and the Northern District remains in the top 10% of district courts for median time to disposition – 6.2 months.
The Court began 2009 with one vacant judgeship – created by Judge Filip’s March 2008 resignation. The Court ended 2009 with from after Judges Bucklo, Coar and Gettleman took senior status. In February 2010, Judge Manning also took senior status. Judge Feinerman was confirmed last month, reducing the vacant seats by one, but there could be five vacancies again at the end of July when Judge Anderson retires.
The magistrate bench was also active. Judges Ashman and Keys shifted to recalled status. Judges Finnegan, Gilbert and Kim joined the bench.
Finally, the number of registered e-filers is up 18% to over 25,000. And the daily filing rate is up 15% to an average 867 documents per day.

Continue Reading The State of the Northern District Remains Strong

Ho v. Taflove, No. 07 C 4305, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Apr. 9, 2010 (Bucklo, J.)
Judge Bucklo denied plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration of the Court’s order granting defendants summary judgment as to plaintiffs’ Copyrights, Lanham Act and related state law claims in this dispute over whether defendants took plaintiffs’ mathematical model (the “Model”). As an initial matter, the Court noted that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not provide for “motions to reconsider.” Rather, parties file either a Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend judgment (within 28 days of the judgment) or a Rule 60(b) motion for relief from judgment (within a “reasonable time”). The substance of the motion determines whether it is heard pursuant to Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b). Plaintiffs’ motion was brought pursuant to Rule 60(b), but the Court treated it as a Rule 59(e) motion because it sought to alter the judgment, not for relief from it.
A Rule 59(e) motion requires newly discovered evidence or manifest errors of law. Plaintiffs’ motion as to their state law conversion, copyright and Lanham Act claims relied upon additional facts that were available during the initial briefing, but not raised at that time. The Court, therefore, did not consider the evidence and the plaintiffs’ arguments were denied.
As to the Court’s decision that the Model was not copyrightable as a mathematical formula pursuant to §102(b) of the Copyright Act, plaintiffs provided no convincing authority showing that it was copyrightable. And plaintiffs provided not even a single example of an alternate expression of the Model to satisfy the merger doctrine.

Continue Reading Court Will Not Amend Summary Judgment Based Upon “New” Evidence

Ho v. Taflove, NO. 07 C 4305, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jan. 15, 2010 (Bucklo, J.).
Judge Bucklo granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment in this copyright and Lanham Act case involving the alleged infringement and misappropriation of plaintiffs, a Northwestern professor and a Northwestern graduate student, mathematical model of a 4-level z-electron atomic model with Pauli Exclusion Principle for simulating the electron dynamics of active media using Finite Difference Domain method (the “Model”).
Copyright Claims
Plaintiffs copyrighted their thesis, notebooks, certain figures and a presentation, all embodying the Model. The Court held that the Model was uncopyrightable because it was fact and algorithm. The Court explained why the Model was a fact as opposed to a cartoon character like Mickey Mouse, as defendants argued:
But Mickey Mouse is not an idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, and his characteristics and personality are not intended to realistically mimic those of a real mouse (e.g., wears clothes, owns a dog, has jobs, etc.) Simply put, Mickey Mouse does not have plaintiffs’ merger doctrine or 17 U.S.C. §102(b) problems.
To the extent the Model was copyrightable based upon “unique considerations” underlying the Model, plaintiffs did not identify the considerations or support them with evidence. And the two copyrighted charts consisted of unprotectable elements such as lines, arrows and parabolas. Additionally, Northwestern described the figures as “fairly conventional diagramatic representations.”
Lanham Act Claims
Citing the Supreme Court’s Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., 539 U.S. 23, 123 S.Ct. 2041 (2003), decision, the Court held that the defendants were correct in identifying themselves as the originator of their papers, even if plaintiff originated the Model underlying the papers. The proper designation of origin is the producer of the work, not the author of the underlying idea. Because defendants prepared the papers, they were correctly identified. And the Court held that plaintiffs’ common law unfair competition claim failed for the same reasons.
Conversion Claim
The Court granted summary judgment in defendants’ favor as to plaintiffs’ conversion claim because plaintiffs presented no evidence that defendants prevented plaintiffs access to their written works or to their intangible property – the Model or their research. Plaintiffs remained able at all times to continue their research.
Trade Secret & State Law Claims
The Court held that the Model was not a trade secret because plaintiffs published it in 2001 and 2002. The plaintiffs’ remaining state law claims were also preempted by the Copyright Act.

Continue Reading Mathematical Formula is No Mickey Mouse

The Seventh Circuit instituted a Commission to study the implementation of the ABA Jury Project. The Northern District was heavily represented on the Commission. The following Northern District Judges were members of the Commission: Bucklo, Brown, Coar, Darrah, Denlow, Der-Yeghiayan, Gottschall, Holderman, Kennelly, Lefkow, Moran, Schenkier, St. Eve, and Zagel. The Commission recently published its report — click here to read it. The report describes a two phase analysis. In the first phase, district judges tested the following seven ABA Principles:
1. Twelve-Person Juries;
2. Jury Selection Questionnaires;
3. Preliminary Substantive Jury Instructions;
4. Trial Time Limits;
5. Juror Questions;
6. Interim Trial Statements by Counsel; and
7. Enhanced Jury Deliberations.
Other Principles, such as juror notebooks and allowing jurors to take notes, were already in such widespread use that they were not tested. Click here for the Phase One Project manual detailing the principles, the rationales and authority behind them, and suggested procedures. Phase One resulted in questionnaires from 22 participating federal trial judges, 74 participating attorneys and 303 jurors from 38 trials that used one or more of the seven Principles. Based upon the analysis of Phase One results and questionnaires, the Commission focused Phase Two on the following four Principles:
1. Juror Questions;
2. Interim Trial Statements by Counsel;
3. Twelve-Person Juries; and
4. Preliminary Substantive Jury Instructions.
These Principles were chosen because of Phase One popularity (78% of jurors reported that being able to ask questions increased their satisfaction with the process) and because of a desire to study the Principles more. Click here for the Phase Two manual.
In Phase Two, 108 jurors from 12 trials employing one or more of the Phase Two Principles filled out questionnaires. In addition, 12 attorneys and 4 district judges that participated also filled out questionnaires. The results are interesting, but more importantly create the opportunity to powerfully impact the trial system across the Seventh Circuit in ways that benefit all of the stakeholders in the trial process — the litigants, the jurors, the judge and the judge’s chambers, and the litigators.
All four of the Phase Two Principles showed significant benefits to the trial process. 83% of jurors reported an increased understanding of the facts when allowed to ask written questions through a judge — the questions were reworded to meet evidentiary rules. And 75% of judges and 65% of attorneys thought the questions benefited jurors. Similarly, preliminary substantive jury instructions were found to improve trials by jurors (80%), judges (85%) and attorneys (70%). And the same was true for interim statements to the jury — jurors (80%) and judges (85%). Finally, twelve-person juries were found not to harm efficiency, while increasing juror diversity.
Each of the four Phase Two Principles, as well as several of the additional three Phase One Principles deserve more attention and analysis. So, over the next several weeks I will provide follow up posts discussing the findings of those Principles in greater detail. I will start with the idea of juror questions, which I find particularly important, later this week or early next.

Continue Reading Seventh Circuit American Jury Project

The Northern District has posted the Seventh Circuit’s new proposed pattern jury instructions for patent cases on its website — click here for a copy. The instructions include all of the recent revisions to the patent laws, including KSR and Seagate. The Seventh Circuit requested comments on the instructions be sent to:
Chief Judge Robert L. Miller, Jr.
325 Robert A. Grant Federal Building
204 S. Main St.
South Bend, IN 46601
Comments will be accepted until April 1st. Also, below is my list of IP jury instructions by Northern District judge, I am sure we will start to see some new ones soon in light of the turbulent 18 months patent law has had:

Continue Reading New Patent Pattern Jury Instructions

Recycled Paper Greetings, Inc. v. Davis, No. 08 C 236, __ F. Supp.2d __, 2008 WL 282687 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 1, 2008) (Bucklo, J.).
Judge Bucklo denied plaintiff’s, Recycled Paper Greetings (“RPG”), motion for a temporary restraining order in this trade secret misappropriation action. RPG argued that it was either part of a joint venture or, at least, a confidential relationship with defendant Kathy Davis to develop a signature line of greeting cards. RPG contends that Davis took confidential information regarding the greeting card line to a competitor. Davis countered that she had terminated her contract with RPG pursuant to the contract’s termination provision before working with RPG’s competitor and there was, therefore, no breach or misappropriation. At an initial hearing, the Court suggested that live testimony might be required to fully resolve the motion for the TRO. But both parties told the Court that their respective witnesses would not be available during the necessary time frame to testify. Because no witnesses were available, the Court denied the TRO, holding that it lacked sufficient information to determine that RPG maintained its alleged trade secrets with sufficient secrecy or the nature of the relationship between RPG and Davis.
Practice tip: If you are seeking a TRO, line up commitments from your potential witnesses to be available both flexibly and quickly. Not many judges will grant TROs if plaintiff cannot present requested witnesses.

Continue Reading No Temporary Restraining Order Without Live Witnesses

Morton Grove Pharms., Inc. v. Nat’l. Pediculosis Assoc., __ F. Supp.2d __, 2007 WL 4259422 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 30, 2007) (Bucklo, J.).
Judge Bucklo granted in part defendants Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss and denied defendants’ motion to transfer the case to the Eastern District of Michigan. Plaintiff manufactures a line of lotions and shampoo which are FDA-approved for treating lice and scabies. Defendants are a Michigan non-profit group, Ecology Center, Inc., and related individuals (collectively the “Center”), as well as the National Pediculosis Association. The Center mailed two newsletters related to passage of Michigan legislation to approximately 19,000 addresses of which 44 were in Illinois. 99% of the Center’s donors were from Michigan, with just .23% from Illinois (18 Illinois-based donors total). The Center’s strongest ties to Illinois consisted of two donations totaling $270,000 from an Illinois-based foundation and an interactive website which accepts donations, although none have come from Illinois. The Court previously held that these contacts did not create general jurisdiction.*
The Court held that the Center’s act of sending even the two newsletters with the allegedly misleading and defamatory statements created specific jurisdiction over the Center. But the Court held that there was not specific jurisdiction over individual defendant William Weil. Weil’s name appeared in the newsletter, but he submitted an affidavit stating that he did not participate in mailing the newsletter and had no knowledge that it was being sent to any Illinois residents.
The Court did not transfer the case to the Eastern District of Michigan because the Center did not show that Michigan was clearly more convenient than the Northern District. Each party’s witnesses were in their preferred jurisdiction – the plaintiff’s in Illinois and the Center’s in Michigan – and the interests of justice are served by keeping the case in the Northern District. While median times to trial in both districts were comparable, plaintiff’s related, pending case in the Northern District made the Northern District the correct court to hear the case, even though the Court had severed the related case from this one.
* For discussion of the Court’s previous personal jurisdiction decision in this case, click here.

Continue Reading Two Newsletters to Illinois Residents Create Specific Jurisdiction

Judges Coar, Gettleman, Kennelly and Lefkow are continuing their joint trial call (started in 2007, click here for the Blog’s post about it).* Each judge is contributing cases to the call, apparently at the judge’s discretion. The cases in the call will be tried in order by one of the five judges, although not necessarily the judge originally assigned the case. Each trial is expected to last no longer than five days and the attorneys and parties for a case on the call are expected to be ready for trial, including producing witnesses, on 48 hours notice. So far, I do not believe any IP cases have been put on the joint call. And I suspect that the five day trial limit will remove at least the typical patent case from the joint call, although plenty of trade secret, trademark and copyright cases could end up on it.
* Judge Bucklo was a part of the joint call last year, but is not listed this year.

Continue Reading N.D. Ill. 2008 Joint Trial Call

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.

Continue Reading Conspiracy Claim Based Solely on Trade Secrets Preempted by ITSA