Articles Posted in Business Law

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MOVA technology can capture an actor’s facial performance for use in motion picture special effects and video games; it is secured by trademarks, copyrights, and patents, and is reflected in hardware, source code, and physical assets. VGHL claims that Perlman, the head of Rearden, declined to acquire the MOVA assets from OL2 and proposed OL2 sell to a Rearden employee, LaSalle. Perlman introduced LaSalle to Rearden’s corporate attorney who helped LaSalle establish his own company, MO2, and negotiated with OL2. Perlman later demanded that LaSalle convey the MOVA assets to Rearden and terminated LaSalle’s employment when LaSalle refused. MO2 sold the MOVA assets to SHST, which hired LaSalle, and began selling the technology. The Rearden parties claimed that SHST never obtained ownership and that LaSalle was simply hired to handle the acquisition on Rearden’s behalf. SHST sued, alleging that Rearden had made “false or misleading representations ... concerning the ownership of the MOVA Assets ... to mislead the public and actual and prospective users and licensees” and had falsely recorded assignments of the MOVA patents. During discovery, SHST moved to compel Rearden to produce documents exchanged between MO2 and Rearden’s corporate attorney. The district court granted the request, concluding that Rearden had not shown entitlement to assert attorney-client privilege on behalf of MO2 and that LaSalle waived privilege when he shared documents. The Federal Circuit denied a petition for mandamus. Rearden's arguments failed to carry the high burden required on mandamus to overturn the court’s discovery determination. View "In re: Rearden, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Internal Revenue Service denied Wells Fargo’s claims for refunds based on interest-netting under 26 U.S.C. 6621(d) between interest on tax underpayments and interest on tax overpayments. Section 6621(d) reads: To the extent that, for any period, interest is payable under subchapter A and allowable under subchapter B on equivalent underpayments and overpayments by the same taxpayer of tax imposed by this title, the net rate of interest under this section on such amounts shall be zero for such period. Absent an interest-netting provision , a taxpayer might make equivalent underpayments and overpayments yet owe the IRS interest because corporate taxpayers pay underpayment interest at a higher rate than the IRS pays overpayment interest. The Claims Court granted Wells Fargo partial summary judgment, finding that it satisfied the “same taxpayer” requirement, although the current embodiment of the company is the result of seven mergers. The companies involved in these mergers made tax underpayments and overpayments. The Federal Circuit identified three merger “situations” and concluded that two qualified for interest netting and one did not. The situations involved consideration of the whether the entities had separate identities at the time of the payments at issue and the amount of change in the entity’s identity as a result of the merger. View "Wells Fargo & Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

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SightSound’s patents disclose methods for sale and distribution of digital audio and video signals, requiring: connection, by telecommunications lines, between a party’s memory and a second party’s memory; selling digital signals to the second party for a fee through telecommunications lines; transmitting the signal from the first memory to the second memory by telecommunications lines; and storing the signal in the second memory. Apple sought covered business method (CBM) review under the America Invents Act, 125 Stat. 284, arguing that claims were invalid as anticipated under 35 U.S.C. 102. The Patent Board determined that the patents are CBM patents because they recite an activity that is “financial in nature,” and do not include novel, non-obvious technological features, then determined that there was a reasonable likelihood that the claims were anticipated or obvious by disclosures relating to a 1980s CompuSonics computer system. The petitions did not specifically allege obviousness over CompuSonics. The Board granted SightSound additional time and authorized sur-replies and new declaration testimony on the issue of obviousness, then rejected SightSound’s contention that the term “second memory” is limited to non-removable media and held seven claims invalid as obvious. The Federal Circuit found that it lacked jurisdiction to review the decision to consider issues not explicitly raised in the petitions, but affirmed that the patents are CBM patents and the final decision with respect to claim construction and obviousness. View "Sightsound Techs., LLC v. Apple Inc." on Justia Law

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In 1994, Sukumar began caring for his aging father and noticed that rehabilitation fitness machines used by his father did not adequately suit frail seniors. To learn more about rehabilitation for seniors, he attended trade shows where he met Nautilus representatives. In 1998-1999, Sukumar ordered Nautilus machines and asked for modifications to meet elderly users’ needs. When Nautilus delivered the custom fitness machines, Sukumar was dissatisfied and filed a breach of contract action. In 2004, Sukumar founded Southern California Stroke Rehabilitation Associates (SCSRA) to operate senior rehabilitation facilities in which Sukumar would use modified Nautilus fitness machines. SCSRA has acquired over 100 Nautilus fitness machines and, according to Sukumar, has twice attempted to negotiate a patent license from Nautilus. As of 2010, when Sukumar filed a false marking claim, 35 U.S.C. 292(b), SCSRA had no business plan, no employees, no office space, and no prototype designs. The district court found that many of the patents marked on six Nautilus machines did not cover the machines, but concluded that Sukumar had not suffered “competitive injury” necessary to have standing to assert a claim. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Sukumar had not taken sufficient action to enter the market for fitness machines. View "Sukumar v. Nautilus, Inc." on Justia Law

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Between October 2007 and August 2008, R.T. foods made 24 entries of “Tempura Vegetables” and “Vegetable Bird’s Nests” (frozen tempura-battered vegetable mixtures) from Thailand, 10 through the port of Boston and 14 through the port of Long Beach. United States Customs and Border Protection classified the 10 Boston entries and three of the Long Beach entries under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) subheading 2004.90.85, which carries a duty rate of 11.2%. The remaining 11 entries into Long Beach were liquidated under R.T.’s proposed subheading, HTSUS 2106.90.99, which carries a duty-free preference for products from Thailand. HTSUS 2004.90.85 covers “Other vegetables prepared or preserved otherwise than by vinegar or acetic acid, frozen, other than products of heading 2006: Other vegetables and mixtures of vegetables: Other: Other, including mixtures.” HTSUS 2106.90.99 provides for “Food preparations not elsewhere specified or included: Other: Other: Other: Frozen.” R.T. timely filed and Customs denied protests. The Court of International Trade held it only had jurisdiction over three of the entries, then entered summary judgment in favor of the government. The Federal Circuit affirmed. View "R.T. Foods, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Former GM and Chrysler dealers, whose franchises were terminated in the 2009 bankruptcies of those companies, sued, alleging that the terminations constituted a taking because the government required them as a condition of its providing financial assistance to the companies. The Bankruptcy Code, 11 U.S.C. 363, 365, authorizes certain sales of a debtor’s assets and provides that a bankruptcy trustee “may assume or reject any executory contract or unexpired lease of the debtor.” Debtors-in-possession in chapter 11 bankruptcies, like GM and Chrysler, generally have a trustee’s powers. The Claims Court denied motions to dismiss. In interlocutory appeals, the Federal Circuit remanded for consideration of the issues of the “regulatory” impact of the government’s “coercion” and of economic impact. While the allegations of economic loss are deficient in not sufficiently alleging that the economic value of the franchises was reduced or eliminated as a result of the government’s actions, the proper remedy is to grant to leave to amend the complaints to include the necessary allegations. View "A&D Auto Sales, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Levi Strauss has stitched the back pocket of its jeans with the “Arcuate” design since 1873 and holds multiple trademarks on the design. In 2005, Abercrombie sought to register a “mirror image stitching design” for use on clothing, stating no limitations on the goods’ nature, type, channels of trade, or class of purchasers. Levi Strauss initiated an opposition to the parent application (concerning jackets and seeking Principal Registration). Levi Strauss petitioned to cancel Supplemental Registration of the child application covering other clothing. Abercrombie began selling “Ruehl jeans” with the design. Levi Strauss sued. The PTO stayed proceedings. Abercrombie claimed that its products were sold in different channels, at different prices. A jury found no infringement; the court rejected a claim of dilution by blurring. Levi Strauss did not appeal concerning infringement. The Ninth Circuit remanded, holding that dilution by blurring does not require identity or near identity of marks. Meanwhile, Abercrombie shut down the Ruehl brand, but sought to register its mirror-image design on “clothing, namely bottoms,” disclosing use of the design on denim shorts sold as “Gilley Hicks,” at different prices, and through different channels. Levi Strauss sought to amend to include the Gilley Hicks products. The district court declined and dismissed the dilution claim. The PTO opposition and cancellation proceedings were dismissed on the ground of issue preclusion. The Federal Circuit reversed, reasoning that the registrations at issue in the PTO cover a broader range of uses than were the subject of the litigation. View "Levi Strauss & Co. v. Abercrombie & Fitch Trading Co." on Justia Law

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In 1989, the Department of Commerce determined that U.S domestic industry for ball bearings was being materially injured by sales of ball bearings imported from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Romania, Singapore, Sweden, Thailand, and the U.K. at less than fair value and published an anti-dumping order. Following four remands, the Court of International Trade’s affirmed the Commission’s decisions, issued under protest, to revoke the anti-dumping orders on ball bearings from Japan and the U.K. The Federal Circuit reversed in part and vacated in part, finding that the Commission’s second remand determination was supported substantial evidence and that the Court of International Trade erred in repeatedly remanding the case. View "NSK Corp. v.. FAG Italia, S.P.A." on Justia Law

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Kahrs imports engineered wood flooring panels for distribution to flooring wholesalers. Kahrs classified the products as “assembled parquet panels” under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) subheading 4418.30.00, a duty-free provision for “Builders’ joinery and carpentry of wood, including cellular wood panels and assembled parquet panels; shingles and shakes: parquet panels.” Customs subsequently liquidated Kahrs’ merchandise under HTSUS 4412, which covers “plywood, veneered panels and similar laminated wood,” at a duty rate of eight percent ad valorem. Customs denied a protest and the Court of International Trade found that Customs correctly classified Kahrs’ merchandise as plywood under heading 4412. The Federal Circuit affirmed. View "Kahrs Int'l, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Since 2003, Cummins and TAS have been engaged in three separate actions regarding idle-control technologies for heavy-duty truck engines. Earlier suits concerned breach of a master license agreement between the parties. In a 2009 action, Cummins sought a declaratory judgment that claims of TAS’s 703 and 469 patents are invalid and unenforceable. The district court found that the suit was barred by the doctrine of res judicata in light of a decision in an earlier claim. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Cummins could have pursued claims regarding invalidity and unenforceability of the TAS patents in prior litigation, which featured the same parties, arose from the same group of operative facts, and resulted in a final resolution on the merits so that res judicata bars Cummins’ defenses under 35 U.S.C. 102 and 103. View "Cummins, Inc. v. TAS Distrib. Co., Inc." on Justia Law