Industry-specific trade shows offer manufacturers the opportunity to market their products and keep tabs on trends in their industry. However, these shows also provide an opportunity for manufacturers to identify counterfeit models of its products offered on the market. Bond Manufacturing (“Bond”), which produces outdoor heating units, arrived at the 2013 National Hardware Show in Las Vegas and discovered counterfeit versions of its products being exhibited at a nearby booth. Bond’s president was assisting with setting up the company’s booth when he noticed goods bearing Bond’s trademark at an exhibition booth operated by Bond’s previous business partner, Xiamen Hwaart Composite Material. The counterfeit goods included various products, including patio heaters, fire pits, and fireplaces. Combating counterfeiters is part of the daily routine for manufacturers like Bond, but identifying the sources of counterfeit products is typically challenging in the age of Internet commerce as counterfeiters are rarely bold enough to market their ersatz products out in the open in the light of day, particularly when the counterfeiter is your former business partner.
Blurred Lines: Third Circuit’s Lanham Act Attorneys’ Fees Analysis Follows Recent Supreme Court Ruling in Patent Case
The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently decided that the U.S. Supreme Court’s April decision on attorneys’ fees in a patent case, Octane Fitness, LLC v. Icon Health & Fitness, Inc., should also be applied in trademark cases under the Lanham Act. See Fair Wind Sailing, Inc. v. Dempster, Nos. 13-3305 & 14-1572 (3d Cir. Sept. 4, 2014). Defendant Dempster had successfully moved to dismiss the action under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and was awarded its attorneys’ fees under § 35(a) of the Lanham Act and the Virgin Islands Code. Plaintiff Fair Wind Sailing appealed the fee award. The Third Circuit ultimately vacated the District Court’s fee award and remanded, instructing the court below to utilize an inquiry consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision in Octane Fitness.
While most trade secrets cases are litigated in civil court, one former Microsoft employee learned the hard way that the theft of trade secrets is also a federal crime. Alex A. Kibkalo, a former Microsoft Corp. employee, was being prosecuted for leaking valuable company trade secrets to a blogger for publication. On March 31, 2014, Kibkalo’s counsel and the prosecution advised a district court judge in Washington that the government and Kibkalo had reached a plea agreement. Pursuant to the terms of the agreement, Kibkalo will spend three months in federal prison and pay Microsoft Corp. restitution of $22,500.
On Thursday, multiple federal law enforcement agencies announced that they have seized infringing knock off NFL® merchandise and Super Bowl® tickets valued at more than $20 million. Agents from both the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security, in cooperation with NFL® officials, conducted perhaps the largest Super Bowl® counterfeiting sting ever in what has become an annual tradition.
Like 2013, 2014 promises to be an exciting year for intellectual property law. The United States Supreme Court has at least two noteworthy intellectual property cases slated for the new year. The United States Supreme Court has at least two noteworthy intellectual property cases slated for the new year. As we reported, on December 6, 2013, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int’l. et al., 13-298. The Alice case concerns the patentability of a computer software program used to facilitate financial transactions. Sitting en banc, the Federal Circuit split 5-5 to affirm the district court’s decision and found Alice’s patents ineligible for protection under 35 U.S.C. § 101, a fractured opinion that left lawyers and their clients uncertain about which types of software patents are patentable.
Recently, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) announced a 47-page draft of a bill that proposes various amendments to the Patent Act, Title 35 of the United States Code and the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act. Importantly for IP practitioners, the draft bill would heighten pleading requirements for patent cases under a new 35 U.S.C. § 281A, by requiring detailed information in a complaint, including all the patents alleged to be infringed, an identification of each accused product and information with “detailed specificity” regarding how the product infringes. The proposed revisions would eliminate the current “Form 18,” which is the baseline model for alleging patent infringement.
On June 28th, U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield of the Southern District of New York entered a default judgment in favor of the National Football League® (“NFL®”) against operators of more than 1,997 websites utilizing 1,223 infringing domain names, all of which were offering counterfeit NFL merchandise. In doing so, the District Court awarded the NFL a $273 million judgment against the website operators and injunctive relief.
Last week, in Gary Friedrich Enters., LLC v. Marvel Enters., Inc., the Second Circuit reversed the lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit brought by Gary Friedrich, who created the comic book super hero “Ghost Rider,” ruling that Friedrich could maintain his lawsuit against Marvel Enterprises Inc. regarding his ownership rights in the character.
The Obama Administration recently released a report outlining a new strategy to combat the theft of U.S. trade secrets, by ramping up business, diplomatic, law enforcement and legislative efforts to protect this vital category of intellectual property. The “Administration Strategy on Mitigating the Theft of U.S. Trade Secrets” included inputs from the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, State, Treasury, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Office of the United States Trade Representative.
New Jersey Superior Court Finds the Recently-Enacted New Jersey Trade Secrets Act Does Not Preempt Common Law Claims
In an opinion dated December 7, 2012, a New Jersey Superior Court judge in Bergen County considered an issue of first impression relating to the recently-enacted New Jersey Trade Secrets Act (“NJTSA”). In SCS Healthcare Marketing LLC v. Allergan USA Inc. et al., defendant Allergan sought to dismiss numerous common law claims brought by plaintiff SCS, arguing that SCS’s statutory claim for misappropriation of trade secrets under the NJTSA preempted its common law claims. SCS filed suit alleging that Allergan misappropriated marketing contractors’ trade secrets relating to a proprietary technology portal. Specifically, SCS alleges that Allergan revealed its proprietary and confidential information to a rival health care marketing company, thereby violating state laws relating to unfair competition, disclosure and trade secrets.