Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Intellectual Property
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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Amyndas Pharmaceuticals, S.A.'s claims against Zealand Pharma A/S and vacated the dismissal of Amyndas's claims against Zealand Pharma U.S., Inc., holding that the district court erred in dismissing Amyndas's claims against Zealand Pharma U.S.When Amyndas was considering separate joint ventures with Zealand Pharma and Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. it shared trade secrets before understanding that neither of the joint ventures would materialize. Zealand Pharma and Zealand US, its newly established affiliate, subsequently announced a partnership with Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Amyndas sued for misappropriation of trade secrets and other confidential information. The district court (1) dismissed Amyndas's claims against Zealand Pharma on the ground that Amyndas was required to litigate those claims in Denmark; and (2) dismissed Amyndas's claims against Zealand US for failure to state a claim. The First Circuit vacated in part and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that the district court (1) correctly dismissed Amyndas's claims against Zealand Pharma; and (2) erred in concluding that Amyndas's claims against Zealand US were futile. View "Amyndas Pharmaceuticals, S.A. v. Zealand Pharma A/S" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment to Defendants on all claims asserted against them, including misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of an implied contractual obligation to assign patent rights but vacated the judgment awarding attorneys' fees, holding that a reduction in fees was warranted.REXA, Inc. sued Mark Chester and MEA, Inc. for misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of an implied contractual obligation to assign patent rights, alleging that Chester and MEA incorporated and disclosed confidential designs. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part, holding that the district court (1) properly granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants; but (2) abused its discretion in awarding Chester and MEA approximately $2.357 million in attorneys' fees, which they requested as a sanction for REXA's litigation conduct, where the court did not make specific findings about each of REXA's objections to the fee petition. View "REXA, Inc. v. Chester" on Justia Law

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Cardiovascular Systems, Inc. (“CSI”) brought this action against Cardio Flow, Inc. (“Cardio Flow”), alleging the breach of a settlement agreement that resolved ownership of intellectual property rights related to atherectomy devices. Cardio Flow was not a named party to the settlement, however, and moved for summary judgment on that basis. In response, CSI asserted that principles of equitable estoppel and agency bound Cardio Flow to abide by the agreement.   The district court rejected CSI’s arguments and dismissed its claims and the Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court held that equitable estoppel provides no basis to enforce the settlement agreement against Cardio Flow. The court reasoned that the doctrine of equitable estoppel generally involves some type of misrepresentation. Given the Minnesota Supreme Court’s unequivocal holdings elsewhere that a representation or concealment is essential, the court declined to supplant the usual equitable estoppel elements.   Further, the party who signed the agreement with Plaintiff was not acting as Defendant's agent when she signed the settlement; there was no joint venture between the signer and Defendant, and Defendant did not control the signer's lawsuit against Plaintiff which led to the settlement agreement. View "Cardiovascular Systems, Inc. v. Cardio Flow, Inc." on Justia Law

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Boor and Edson owned Brava, which had intellectual property and technical knowledge related to composite roofing. Wildhawk inquired about purchasing Brava. Boor proposed “an exclusive license for manufacturing current roofing products” with “a right of first refusal on all new product [d]evelopments.” The parties executed asset purchase and license agreements. Wildhawk paid $4 million and obtained an automatic license to “any Improvements” to the technology, whether patentable or not. Before executing the agreement, the parties removed a “New Product” section as required by Wildhawk’s lender but entered into an oral agreement for a right of first refusal. Wildhawk retained Boor and Edson as paid consultants, with non-compete agreements.Boor notified Wildhawk: “As per our handshake agreement” we offer you first right of refusal “on the below products.” The parties entered into a confidentiality and nondisclosure agreement regarding “possible R&D ‘new or enhanced product’ agreements.” They negotiated but failed to reach an agreement. Boor and Edson formed Paragon while Boor was still employed by Wildhawk. Paragon began producing the new products.Wildhawk sued. The district court granted Wildhawk a preliminary injunction, prohibiting Paragon from manufacturing or selling composite roofing. The Eighth Circuit vacated. Wildhawk had a fair chance of proving the defendants violated the agreement but the district court erred in rejecting an equitable estoppel defense. Wildhawk waited until Paragon had been producing the products for 10 months before making its claim, failing to show either reasonable diligence or harm that cannot be compensated by damages. View "Wildhawk Investments, LLC v. Brava I.P., LLC" on Justia Law

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Shinyaku and Sarepta executed an Agreement concerning “a potential business relationship relating to therapies for the treatment of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.” During the Agreement’s term the parties would “not directly or indirectly assert or file any legal or equitable .. claim or otherwise initiate any … form of legal or administrative proceeding against the other Party . . . in any jurisdiction … concerning intellectual property in the field of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy,” including “patent infringement litigations, declaratory judgment actions, patent validity challenges” before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) or Japanese Patent Office, and reexamination proceedings before the PTO. A forum selection, governing intellectual property disputes between the parties after the term’s expiration named the District of Delaware. The term ended in June 2021; the two-year forum selection clause took effect. That same day, Sarepta filed seven Patent Trial and Appeal Board petitions for inter partes review (IPR). Shinyaku filed suit in the District of Delaware asserting breach of contract (alleging that the IPR petitions violated the forum selection clause), declaratory judgment of noninfringement and invalidity concerning Sarepta’s patents, and infringement of Shinyaku’s patents.The Federal Circuit directed that the district court enter an injunction, requiring Sarepta to withdraw the petitions. The plain language of the forum selection clause resolved the dispute. View "Nippon Shinyaku Co., Ltd. v. Sarepta Therapeutics, Inc." on Justia Law

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PlasmaCAM sued CNCElectronics for infringing the 441 patent, for which Plasmacam has an exclusive license. In 2019, the parties notified the district court that they had settled the case. When the parties met to draft a formal agreement, however, it became evident that they interpreted the settlement differently, and further negotiations resulted. The parties eventually advised the district court that they had reached a complete agreement. The district court granted the motion to enforce Plasmacam’s version of that agreement and ordered CNC to execute it. The Federal Circuit reversed after holding that the district court order to execute the settlement agreement constituted either an appealable injunction or a final judgment. The court concluded that CNC’s version of the agreement accurately reflects the parties’ understanding. View "PlasmaCAM, Inc. v. CNCElectronics, LLC" on Justia Law

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McKeon has sold “MACK’S” earplugs to retail consumers since the 1960s. In the 1980s, Honeywell's predecessor began marketing and selling MAX-brand earplugs to distributors. The brand names are phonetically identical. In 1995, McKeon sued. The parties entered a settlement agreement that the district court approved by consent decree. To prevent customer confusion, Honeywell agreed not to sell its MAX-brand earplugs into the “Retail Market” but could continue to sell its earplugs in “the Industrial Safety Market and elsewhere." The agreement and the consent decree never contemplated the internet. In 2017, McKeon complained about sales of MAX-brand earplugs on Amazon and other retail websites.The district court ruled in favor of McKeon. The Sixth Circuit affirmed and remanded. Laches is available to Honeywell as an affirmative defense but does not apply to these facts. Parties subject to consent decrees cannot scale their prohibited conduct over time, using minor undetected violations to justify later larger infringements. Honeywell did not establish that McKeon should have discovered the breaching conduct before Honeywell drastically increased online sales. McKeon’s interpretation of the consent decree is the better reading. Concluding that Amazon is a “retail establishment” makes sense given the parties’ intent. View "McKeon Products, Inc. v. Howard S. Leight & Associates, Inc." on Justia Law

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The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) established many global standards for 3G, 4G, and 5G cellular communications technology. ETSI members that own standard-essential patents must provide “an irrevocable undertaking in writing that [they are] prepared to grant irrevocable licenses on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND)” terms. Ericsson holds patents that are considered essential to the ETSI standards and agreed to grant licenses to other companies to use its standard-essential patents on FRAND terms. HTC produces mobile devices that implement those standards; to manufacture standard-compliant mobile devices, HTC has to obtain a license to use Ericsson’s patents. Ericsson and HTC have previously entered into three cross-license agreements for their respective patents. Negotiations to renew one of those agreements failed.HTC filed suit, alleging that Ericsson had breached its commitment to provide a license on FRAND terms and had failed to negotiate in good faith. The jury found in favor of the defendants. The district court entered a separate declaratory judgment that the defendants had affirmatively complied with their contractual obligations. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the district court’s exclusion of HTC’s requested jury instructions, its declaratory judgment that Ericsson had complied with its obligation to provide HTC a license on FRAND terms, and the exclusion of certain expert testimonial evidence as hearsay. View "HTC Corp. v. Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson" on Justia Law

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Kelley wanted to publish “Hooker to Looker,” to promote her cosmetics business. Di Angelo agreed to publish and distribute Kelley’s then-unwritten Book, with Kelly receiving 50 percent of the net royalties. Kelley provided Di Angelo with a three-page manuscript, detailing her background and outlining the Book’s topics. Di Angelo claims it wrote the Book while “communicating and/or collaborating with Kelley.” The Book Di Angelo distributed lists only Kelley as the copyright holder. Di Angelo sold the initial 1,000-copy print run. Kelley asked Di Angelo for an updated version. Di Angelo alleges that it prepared the updated work, then discovered that Kelley was attempting to work directly with Di Angelo’s printer, in violation of the contract.Kelley sued, claiming that Di Angelo overcharged her and alleging that she “is the sole owner of all copyrights.” Di Angelo counterclaimed for breach of contract. That state court action is pending. Di Angelo filed a federal suit, seeking a declaration that it owns the copyrights. Kelley challenged federal jurisdiction, arguing the claim was premised solely on her alleged breach of the contract, a controversy governed by Texas law. Di Angelo claimed resolution of the authorship dispute required interpretation of federal copyright law, including the definitional and ownership provisions in 17 U.S.C. 101 & 201, which the state court lacks jurisdiction to address. The Fifth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit. Di Angelo’s claim necessarily implicates federal law definitions of “Initial ownership” and “Works made for hire.” View "Di Angelo Publications, Inc. v. Kelley" on Justia Law

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A jury awarded plaintiffs, the adult children and heirs of songwriter Terry Gilkyson, $350,000 based on its finding that Disney, and its music publishing subsidiary Wonderland, had failed to pay contractually required royalties in connection with certain limited uses of "The Bare Necessities" and several other Gilkyson-composed songs in home entertainment releases of Walt Disney Productions's 1967 animated film The Jungle Book. The trial court then awarded an additional $699,316.40 as damages for the period subsequent to the jury's verdict through the duration of the songs’ copyrights. Both parties appealed.The Court of Appeal agreed with Disney that interpretation of its agreements with Gilkyson is subject to de novo review; Gilkyson's right to receive royalties from exploitation of the mechanical reproduction rights in "The Bare Necessities" and other songs he wrote for The Jungle Book was dependent on Wonderland receiving payment for such exploitation; and the express language of the contracts granted Disney sole discretion to decide how to exploit the material, including whether a fee should be charged for Disney's own use of the material in home entertainment releases. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with instructions to enter a judgment in favor of Disney. View "Gilkyson v. Disney Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law