Mullen v. Society of Stage Directors & Choreographers, No. 06 C 6818 (N.D. Ill.) (Coar, J.).
Judge Coar dismissed this case based upon the parties’ settlement in late 2007.* Plaintiffs were the various production heads of the Chicago production of the musical “Urinetown!” (“Chicago Production”). The Chicago Production was performed pursuant to a license from Blue Dog Entertainment, LLC. Despite that license, plaintiffs each received a cease and desist letter from counsel for defendants (the heads of production of the Broadway Urinetown! production (“Broadway Production”) and their unions USA and the Society of Stage Directors & Choreographers (“SSDC”). The letter warned that plaintiffs willfully copied copyrighted aspects of the Broadway Production and attempted to pass off the Chicago Production as the award-winning Broadway Production. Defendants also held a press conference during which they publicly stated that the plaintiffs “plagiarized” the Broadway Production. Plaintiffs responded by filing suit seeking declaratory judgments that the Chicago Production did not infringe any of plaintiffs’ copyrights and that it was not Lanham Act passing off. And based upon the press conference, plaintiffs included a defamation claim.
I am writing about this relatively old settlement because Gordon Firemark has an excellent post at his TheatreLawyer blog — click here to read the post — about the settlement of a similar case filed against an Ohio Urinetown! production at about the same time this case was initiated. Firemark provides excellent advice for productions that license a copyrighted play and consider using elements of a famous production of the play:
The lesson for producers is clear. Obtaining production rights from a publisher (such as Samuel French, Tams-Witmark, Rodgers & Hammerstein, etc.), does NOT include the right to copy all or part of the broadway, off-broadway or other original production. It is incumbent on producers to either (a) obtain such rights separately, or (b) re-imagine the show and create a new, original production from the ground up.

Continue Reading Urinetown Copyright Case Settles

RRK Holding Co. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., No. 04 C 3944, Slip Op (N.D. Ill. May 27, 2007) (Coar, J.).
Judge Coar denied defendant Sears, Roebuck & Co.’s (“Sears”) Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b) motion for judgment as a matter of law and Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(a) motion for a new trial or a remittitur. And the Court granted plaintiff RRK Holding Co.’s (“RRK”) motion for pre-judgment and post-judgment interest. A jury previously returned a verdict finding Sears liable for breach of a nondisclosure agreement and misappropriation of RRK’s trade secret related to its spiral saw – click here for much more on this case in the Blog’s archives. The jury awarded RRK approximately $21M, including $11.6M in actual damages, $1.6M for unjust enrichment and $8M in punitive damages.
First, Sears argued that RRK offered insufficient evidence showing that Sears’ alleged misappropriation caused RRK’s damages. But the Court held that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict. The fact that Sears’s price for its spiral saw was lower than RRK’s explained why customers purchased Sears’s saws over RRK’s, but the trade secret causation was shown by the fact that Sears sold the combination tool instead of selling the components separately.
Second, Sears argued that RRK’s damages should be limited to the traditional “head start” period (an estimate of the time it would take for defendant to develop the trade secret on its own). But the Court held that Illinois law limits injunctive relief to a head start period, but not monetary relief.
Third, the Court held that RRK’s damages expert was sufficiently credible and held that Sears had sufficient opportunity to challenge the expert’s methodologies during cross examination.
Fourth, Sears argued that the jury’s award was in error because it awarded damages based on the entire sales price of the spiral saws, instead of apportioning just that portion of the sales price related to RRK’s trade secrets. But the Court held that a rational jury could have determined that the reason the spiral saw was a success was because of the trade secret and that, therefore, apportionment was not required.
Fifth, Sears argued that RRK’s lost profits damages should have been cut-off when third party competitor Dremel entered the market with a competing spiral saw. But the Court held that it was unclear whether Dremel’s tool was similar enough to RRK’s trade secret to be a substitute for it.
The Court also held that the jury’s award was not excessive. But the Court did find that the jury erred in by using the wrong figure from RRK’s expert for actual lost profits. RRK also conceded that the jury used the wrong number. The Court, therefore, reduced the jury’s actual damages award from $11.6M (the incorrect figure) to $11.2M (the correct figure).
Finally, the Court awarded RRK both pre-judgment and post-judgment interest. Pre-judgment interest, which is awarded on equitable grounds, was appropriate because of the intentional nature of trade secret misappropriation. Additionally, the Court held that pre-judgment interest was appropriate even though RRK was also awarded punitive damages. The Court did, however, suggest that had the punitive damages award been multiples of the actual damages, pre-judgment interest might not have been appropriate. Sears did not challenge RRK’s motion for post-judgment interest.
The Court added $3.7M in pre-judgment interest to the $21M award and assessed post-judgment interest of $1,931.50 per day until the award was paid.

Continue Reading RRK v. Sears: Judge Adds Interest to Jury Award

The Northern District of Illinois and Chicago’s Federal Bar Association chapter are hosting their Ninth Annual Awards for Excellence in Pro Bono and Public Interest Service awards program this Tuesday, May 13 beginning at 3:30 pm in the James Benton Parsons Memorial Courtroom (2525) of the Dirksen United States Courthouse at 219 South Dearborn Street. The program is open to everyone and is free of charge.
The keynote speaker will be William Neukom, the President of the ABA and partner in K&L Gates. Prior to his private practice, Neukom was executive vice president of Law and Corporate Affairs for
Microsoft, where he managed Microsoft’s legal, government affairs and philanthropic
activities.
Seven “Awards for Excellence in Pro Bono and Public Interest Service” and one “Special
Recognition Award for Public Interest Service” will be presented to the following Chicago-area lawyers for their pro bono and public interest work before the Northern District:
Sara C. Arroyo and Rosa M. Tumialán, of Dykema Gossett PLLC (presented by the Judge Coar);
Anthony J. Masciopinto, of Kulwin, Masciopinto & Kulwin, LLP (presented by Judge Manning);
Myron Mackoff, of Richardson & Mackoff (presented by the Chief Judge Holderman and Magistrate Judge Valdez);
Joshua D. Lee and Amy M. Rubenstein, of Schiff Hardin LLP (presented by the
Judge Brown);
Catherine Caporusso and Margot Klein, of the Federal District Court’s Self-Help Assistance Program (presented by Judge Hibbler);
David A. Gordon, Michael B. Nadler, and Kristen R. Seeger, of Sidley Austin LLP (presented
by Magistrate Judge Schenkier);
Lisa R. Kane, of Lisa Kane & Associates, PC (presented by Chief Judge Holderman); and
Richard J. Gonzales, Clinical Professor of Law, Chicago-Kent (presented by Chief Judge Holderman).

Continue Reading Northern District’s Ninth Annual Pro Bono & Public Interest Awards

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.
robert_miller@innd.uscourts.gov
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

Brian Higgins’s Maryland IP Law Blog post about the progeny of In re Seagate, 497 F.3d 1360 (Fed. Cir. 2007), inspired me to do follow up posts identifying Northern District cases discussing recent major IP decisions — click here for my post on injunctions after eBay Inc. v. MercExchange, L.L.C., 126 S.Ct. 1837, 164 L.Ed.2d 641 (2006). There have been a number of obviousness decisions in the Northern District since KSR Int’l Co. v. Teleflex Inc., __ U.S. __, 127 S.Ct. 1727 (2007). Here they are:*
Abbott Labs. v. Sandoz, Inc., No. 05 C 5373, 2007 WL 1549498 (N.D. Ill. May 24, 2007) (Coar, J.). — Holding that the Court’s pre-KSR analysis need not be reconsidered in light of KSR because an element was missing from the prior art, regardless of what standard was used.
Herman Miller, Inc. v. Teknion Corp., No. 05 C 2761, 2007 WL 2230042 (N.D. Ill. Jul. 30, 2007) (Gettleman, J.). — Noting that, in light of KSR, plaintiff issued a statement of non-liability and certain patents were removed from the suit.
Lexion Medical, LLC v. Northgate Techs., Inc., No. 04 C 5705, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jun. 8, 2007). — Holding that the pre-KSR jury’s decision would not have changed if given a KSR obviousness instruction.
These opinions suggest that KSR is not changing obviousness law in the Northern District much. I suspect that is not true. Once we have a larger sample of cases, including more where the initial analysis was not done pre-KSR, we will see more patents held invalid based upon obviousness.
* A brief note on methodology: this was not a thorough study and does not include cases that granted or denied injunctions without discussion. For a more complete list of post-KSR decisions nationwide, go to the Fire of Genius.

Continue Reading Obviousness Post-KSR

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

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

Abbott Labs. v. Sandoz, Inc., No. 05 C 5373, 2007 WL 4287503 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 4, 2007) (Coar, J.).*
Judge Coar granted defendant Sandoz’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss or in the alternative Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings, dismissing plaintiff Abbott’s willfulness claims Abbott alleged that Sandoz willfully infringed Abbott’s patent related to an extended release antibiotic (clarithromycin, an erythromycin derivative which Abbott markets as Biaxin XL). At the time Sandoz entered the market with its generic version of Biaxin XL, the Federal Circuit had issued an opinion based upon an interlocutory appeal of a temporary restraining order, which included statements that Abbott’s patent was susceptible to invalidity and unenforceability argument. The Court held that Sandoz’s reliance on that opinion, regardless of the limited record it was based upon or its non-final nature was objectively reasonable, well above the In re Seagate objective recklessness standard.
* Click here for more on this case and related cases.

Continue Reading Reliance Upon Fed. Cir.’s Cursory Potential Invalidity Statements Avoids Willfulness

Abbott Labs. v. Sandoz, Inc., No. 05 C 5373, 2007 WL 4287501 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 4, 2007) (Coar, J.).*
Judge Coar construed the claims of plaintiff Abbott’s patent related to an extended release antibiotic (clarithromycin, an erythromycin derivative which Abbott markets as Biaxin XL), denied defendant Sandoz’s motion for summary judgment of noninfringement and granted Abbott summary judgment regarding anticipation, obviousness and inequitable conduct. Of particular interest, the Court held that the use of Markush group language – “selected from the group consisting of” – in the specification did not necessarily limit the construction of claim terms. The Court also noted that materiality of a reference in an inequitable conduct analysis was determined from the perspective of a reasonable examiner, not the patentee.
* Click here for more on this case and related cases.

Continue Reading Markush Language in Specification Does Not Limit Claims

Here is some recent Northern District news:
Judge Coar recently updated his case management procedures (click here to read them) to state that pursuant to Local Rule 5.2(e), parties are no longer to provide courtesy copies of electronically filed papers to Judge Coar’s chambers, except for papers pertaining to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 or Local Rule 56.1 (summary judgment papers).
Magistrate Judges Brown (Eastern Division — Chicago) and Mahoney (Western Division — Rockford) are both up for reappointment in early 2008. Pursuant to federal law, the Court has established a citizen’s panel to consider their reappointments. Members of the bar, as well as the general public, are requested to forward comments regarding the reappointments no later than January 18, 2008, to:
Magistrate Judge Advisory Panel
c/o Mr. Michael W. Dobbins
Clerk of Court
U.S. District Court
219 South Dearborn St. — Rm. 2050
Chicago, IL 60604

Continue Reading Northern District News