Am. Needle, Inc. v. New Orleans Louisiana Saints, __ F. Supp.2d __, 2007 WL 2042764 (N.D. Ill. Jul. 11, 2007) (Moran, J.).
Judge Moran granted defendants, the NFL, NFL Properties and each of the thirty two teams (collectively the “NFL”) as well as Reebok International, Ltd. (“Reebok”), summary judgment on plaintiff’s Sherman Act antitrust claims, finding that the NFL acts through NFL Properties as a single entity for IP licensing purposes. For more than twenty years, NFL Properties licensed plaintiff to use various trademarks on its headwear. Plaintiff filed this suit after NFL Properties entered an exclusive license with Reebok, ending plaintiff’s license rights. Plaintiff argued that the NFL teams collectively, as well as in concert with Reebok, violated the antitrust laws by acting together through NFL Properties to license their collective intellectual property rights exclusively to Reebok (plaintiff argued that the NFL did not violate antitrust laws when it licensed to numerous parties, including plaintiff, through NFL Properties). But the Court held that licensing coordination between the NFL and its teams was equivalent to coordination between a corporation and its wholly-owned subsidiary. Because the Supreme Court treats corporations and their wholly-owned subsidiaries as single entities, there could be no conspiracy and no antitrust violation.

Continue Reading NFL is Single Entity for Sherman Act Purposes

The Northern District and the City of Chicago are working together to provide free wireless access in the Northern District’s Dirksen Federal Courthouse. The wireless connection is not available in any of the courtrooms (although it could be very useful during trials or hearings to have an internet connection), but it is available free of charge in the lobby and the second floor cafeteria. So, next time you arrive early for a hearing, take a few minutes to catch the Blog’s latest post.

Continue Reading Read the Chicago IP Litigation Blog from the Dirksen Building

The Blog previously discussed Judge Pallmeyer’s letter seeking information about the Northern District’s history on behalf of the Northern District’s Historical Association. The Historical Association has now taken the next step, developing a website that includes lots of interesting information. The site includes a history of Northern District judgeships, including biographies for all current and former judges — who knew that the first appointee to the Northern District’s fourth judgeship, Judge Barnes, was a University of Michigan Law graduate and a basset hound breeder for the last years of his life, including some or all of his last two years on the bench. If you are interested in joining the Historical Association, this page provides the necessary contact information.

Continue Reading Northern District of Illinois Court Historical Association

In re AD-II Eng’ing., Inc., Misc. Docket No. 07-852, Slip Op. (Fed. Cir. May 29, 2007).
The Federal Circuit denied defendant AD-II Engineering’s (“AD-II”) writ of mandamus seeking to prevent Judge Gettleman from considering plaintiff SRAM Corp.’s (“SRAM”) motion to amend its complaint to add infringement allegations on a new claim and related summary judgment motion as to infringement of that claim. SRAM sued AD-II alleging infringement of SRAM’s patent for a system of shifting bicycle gears that prevents overshifting. The Northern District Court previously construed the claims of the claim initially asserted by SRAM, found the patent claim valid and entered judgment in favor of SRAM and an injunction against AD-II, a subset of these decisions are set out at SRAM Corp. v. AD-II Eng’ing, Inc., 326 F. Supp.2d 903 (N.D. Ill. 2005). On AD-II’s appeal of that decision, the Federal Circuit overturned the claim construction and, therefore, vacated the final judgments on validity and infringement – SRAM Corp., 465 F.3d 1351 (Fed. Cir. 2006). On remand, SRAM sought to amend its complaint asserting an additional claim and moved for summary judgment of infringement of the claim to be added. At a hearing on SRAM’s motions, the Northern District Court noted that there were problems with SRAM’s late effort to amend its complaint and add infringement allegations, but set a briefing schedule for SRAM’s summary judgment motion. AD-II then filed this writ of mandamus. The Federal Circuit refused to prevent briefing of SRAM’s summary judgment motion, reasoning that AD-II’s writ was premature because the Northern District Court had not yet decided whether to allow SRAM to assert its additional claim.
The Federal Circuit also held that it would be inappropriate for it to enter judgment that SRAM’s originally asserted claim was invalid based upon a third reexamination of SRAM’s patent. AD-II had not made a showing that it could not get the relief requested from the Northern District Court or through an appeal of any decision by the Northern District Court. The extraordinary step of mandamus was, therefore, not proper.

Continue Reading Post-Appeal Addition of Allegation Does Not Warrant Mandamus

Steiner Indus., Inc. v. Auburn Mfg., Inc., No. 07 C 668, 2007 WL 1834176 (N.D. Ill. Jun. 22, 2007) (Darrah, J.).
Judge Darrah denied declaratory judgment defendant Auburn Manufacturing’s (“Auburn”) motion to dismiss. Auburn argued that plaintiff’s (collectively “DJ Plaintiffs”) suit improperly anticipated Auburn’s complaint which alleged Lanham Act claims of false designation and false advertising, as well as related state law claims. Auburn filed its complaint in the District of Maine within a week of DJ Plaintiffs’ filing. Auburn alleged that DJ Plaintiffs’ use of “FM Approved” and “Made in the USA” in their catalogs and website advertising in connection with their welding blankets constituted false designation and false advertising. DJ Plaintiffs were aware of the allegations before they filed suit because, as part of an ongoing negotiation with plaintiffs, Auburn had provided plaintiffs a copy of its complaint. The Court acknowledged its discretion to dismiss the case in favor of Auburn’s later filed complaint, but did not dismiss the case. The two cases mirrored each other, so either could resolve the parties’ dispute. And because both cases were filed in federal courts, there was no concern that the DJ case would cause friction between federal and state courts. The deciding issue was whether the Maine Court could offer a full remedy. DJ Plaintiffs had a motion to transfer or dismiss pending before the Maine Court. In that motion, DJ Plaintiffs argued that the Maine Court lacked personal jurisdiction over two of the three DJ Plaintiffs – Steiner Industries, Inc. and Lab Safety Supply, Inc. DJ Plaintiffs, therefore, asked the Maine Court to transfer the case to the Northern District of Illinois or to dismiss the case. The Court held that if the Maine Court transferred the case to the Northern District or dismissed Steiner and Lab Safety for lack of jurisdiction, those factors would weigh in favor of maintaining the DJ action. If, however, the Maine Court denied DJ Plaintiffs’ motion and held that it had jurisdiction over all DJ Plaintiffs, then the Main Court could more effectively decide the dispute than the Northern District. The Court, therefore, denied the motion to dismiss with leave to refile if the Maine Court finds it has jurisdiction over all DJ Plaintiffs and does not transfer the case to the Northern District.

Continue Reading Pending Motion to Transfer Preserves DJ Complaint

Lexion Medical, LLC v. Northgate Techs., Inc., No. 04 C 5705, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. May 29, 2007).*
Judge Rosenbaum (a visiting judge, who is the chief Judge for the District of Minnesota) granted in part plaintiff’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e) and 60(a) motion to alter or amend the judgment, altering the judgment to include all post-verdict sales of infringing product. The court held a trial in October 2006 resulting in a jury verdict that defendants’ insufflator (a device that blows a powder, gas or vapor into a body cavity) infringed plaintiff’s patent, but that the infringement was not willful. The Court entered judgment in February 2007. Shortly after the judgment, defendant Northgate Technologies (“Northgate”) informed plaintiff that after the verdict, but before the judgment was entered, Northgate sold its remaining inventory. Plaintiff sought damages for the post-verdict sales and argued that the Court should find the post-verdict sales willful and declare the case exceptional. The Court held that the post-verdict sales infringed the patent, but that they were not willful because Northgate received an oral opinion of counsel prior to shipping any post-verdict product. The oral opinion was based upon three factors: 1) a belief that the jury’s verdict was unreasonable; 2) the fact that the Court had not yet entered a permanent injunction; and 3) Northgate’s post-trial arguments that were pending before the Court. The Court noted that the second factor could not support Northgate’s decision. But the remaining justifications were not “so flawed as to alert Northgate to reject [the oral opinion] as ‘obviously bad legal advice.”
But because Northgate’s decision to sell infringing product post-verdict “needlessly multiplied” the case, the Court held that the post-verdict sales were exception and awarded plaintiff’s attorneys fees and costs incurred by the post-verdict sales motion. Additionally, the Court entered a permanent injunction.
*You can read the opinion here.

Continue Reading Post-Verdict Infringing Sales Exceptional, But Not Willful

Fast Food Gourmet, Inc. v. Little Lady Foods, Inc., No. 05 C 6022, 2007 WL 1673563 (N.D. Ill. Jun. 8, 2007) (Cole, J.).
Judge Cole denied plaintiff Fast Food Gourmet, Inc.’s (“FFGI”) motion to compel responses to interrogatories, in this trade secret case involving frozen pizzas (you can read more about this case in the Blog’s archives). FFGI served defendants with an interrogatory seeking information regarding which brands of frozen pizza (aside from the accused DiGiorno Thin Crispy Crust Pizza) defendants baked in the ovens which were allegedly part of FFGI’s trade secret crust-making process for stone hearth oven, thin crust, frozen pizzas. Defendants objected to the interrogatory, which led to a meet and confer between the parties on February 15, 2007, two weeks before the close of fact discovery on March 1. The meet and confer did not resolve the dispute. On April 1, FFGI submitted its expert reports and then, six weeks after the close of discovery, FFGI moved to compel responses to the interrogatories. But FFGI failed to notice the motion until more than one month later on May 18. The Court noted that, while it had discretion to grant the motion, motions to compel filed after the close of fact discovery are generally held to be untimely unless accompanied by a “reasonable and persuasive justification” for the delay. FFGI, however, provided no justification for its delay.
But the Court ultimately denied FFGI’s motion not because it was untimely, but because the evidence lacked evidentiary value. FFGI assured the Court that it would not seek any other discovery after receiving the interrogatory responses. FFGI had also repeatedly taken the position that its trade secrets crust-making process involved the combination of various elements and processes including the ovens that were the focus of FFGI’s interrogatories, but that the ovens alone were not a trade secret. The interrogatory responses alone , therefore, were of no value. They would necessarily require additional discovery to be relevant to the case. For example, it was not enough to know which other pizzas were baked in the ovens. FFGI would need to know how each pizza baked in the oven was prepared in order to determine whether the pizzas were made using the FFGI trade secrets. That would require additional fact discovery, but fact discovery was already closed. The Court, therefore, denied FFGI’s motion to compel.
Practice tip: File your discovery motions on or before the close of discovery. And always explain to the Court why you need documents or interrogatory responses, particularly if you are seeking them after the close of discovery.

Continue Reading Delayed Filing Leads to Half-Baked Motion to Compel

Rosenthal Collins Group, LLC v. Trading Techs. Int’l, Inc., No. 05 C 4088, 2007 WL 1597928 (N.D. Ill. May 16, 2007) (Moran, Sen. J.).
Judge Moran granted declaratory judgment defendant Trading Technologies’ (“TT”) motion to compel documents and things identified by third party declarant Walter Buist during his deposition, despite declaratory judgment plaintiff Rosenthal Collins Group’s (“RCG”) assurances that the documents and things had already been produced. RCG previously filed a motion for summary judgment of invalidity of TT’s patents based upon a declaration by Buist regarding software that he developed, at least partially, more than a year before TT filed its patent applications. In a previous opinion, the Court held that RCG’s motion was “somewhat misleading” and possibly “disingenuous,” but refused to dismiss the case (you can read the Blog’s discussion of that opinion here, as well as more on this case generally in the Blog’s archives).
After RCG filed its motion, TT deposed Buist regarding, among other things, the creation of his declaration and his interactions with RCG’s counsel related thereto. During that deposition, Buist stated, among other things, that various drafts of his declaration were created, that he created a “differences” list and provided it to RCG’s counsel and that he had used various computers during his work related to the case. TT sought all drafts of the declaration, a list of any destroyed drafts, the differences list, any drives or computers used by Buist and all documents reflecting communications between Buist or his associates and RCG and its counsel or associates.
In light of RCG’s statements that it had already produced many of the requested documents and things, the Court ordered RCG to: 1) reproduce all such documents; 2) produce any remaining responsive documents (including the computers requested); and 3) produce documents reflecting relationships between Buist and RCG or its counsel, so long as such documents are not privileged. The Court also required that RCG produce Buist for an additional deposition to answer questions related to the compelled documents, as well as Buist’s relationship with RCG and its counsel, so long as the questioning does not violate Buist’s attorney-client privilege.

Continue Reading Discovery Granted Regarding Drafts of Third Party Declaration

Rowe Int’l Corp. v. Ecast, Inc., No. 06 C 2703, 2007 WL 1498958 (N.D. Ill. May 17, 2007) (Kennelly, J.).*
Judge Kennelly issued this claim construction opinion construing the claims of eight patents related to computer jukeboxes and computer jukebox networks. Of particular note, the Court construed “song selection means” in USPN 5,355,302 (the “‘302 patent”) as a keyboard separate from a display for generating a signal representing a song selected from the set of songs stored in the jukebox. Plaintiffs sought a construction that would include a visual touchscreen, arguing that the Court should consider the following language from an unrelated patent by the same patentee (the “‘398 patent”), that was not part of the patent in suit or its prosecution history: “song selection means displayed on said visual screen.” Plaintiffs argued that this language showed that “song selection means” could include on-screen displays. But the Court held that considering the language was not permissible and that, even if it were, the language only showed that the inventors were capable of claiming an on-screen display, but chose not to in the ‘302 patent.
* You can read more about this case in the Blog’s archives.

Continue Reading Claim Construction Cannot be Expanded Based Upon Language in an Unrelated Patent

Rowe Int’l Corp. v. Ecast, Inc., No. 06 C 2703, 2007 WL 1438370 (N.D. Ill. May 14, 2007) (Kennelly, J.).
Judge Kennelly denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ patent infringement complaint for lack of standing. As to two patents that were not expressly assigned to plaintiffs before the suit was filed (the “Progeny Patents”), the Court used Illinois contract law to interpret the following blanket provision in the assignment agreement regarding the parent patent, which assigned the parent application and any improvements or related applications:
any and all other applications . . . which the undersigned may file . . . on said invention or improvements, and in any and all Letters Patent of the United States and foreign countries, which may be obtained on any of said applications . . . .
The Court held that this provision was unambiguous. Pursuant to this provision, the inventors assigned plaintiffs any related patents or improvements to the original application. Because the Progeny Patents were related to the parent patent, they were assigned to plaintiffs. And, therefore, plaintiffs had standing to file suit. Additionally, the Court noted that the express assignment of the Progeny Patents that plaintiffs received post-filing did not retroactively confer standing upon plaintiffs for this suit.

Continue Reading Progeny Patents Conveyed by Blanket Assignment of Parent