Monday, May 29, 2006

9th Circuit decision regarding rejecting state attempt to claim ownership of private party's trademarks

The Ninth Circuit recently decided a trademark case that, while interesting, involves a fact pattern unlikely to pop up again anytime soon. Department of Parks and Recreation v. Bazaar del Mundo Inc., No. 05-02244-JTM (May 24, 2006), concerned a dispute over the marks CASA DE BANDINI and CASA DE PICO. These two marks were being used by the party that for decades had the concession for restaurants it ran under the same name in San Diego's Old Town State Historic park. Before giving the concession to the defendant, the California Department of Parks and Recreation ("Parks Dept") hadn't used these marks for restaurants or as trademarks for anything else. The Parks Dept argued that it had previously used the names in brochures for the park, but the 9th Circuit held that these were only historic references, not uses as trademarks. The 9th Circuit also held that the Parks Dept's concession agreement with the defendants was merely a standard leasing arrangement, not a trademark license, thus rejecting the Parks Dept's argument that it MUST have owned trademark rights -- or else why would it have purported to license them?

The Parks Dept was apparently upset with the defendant because, after the concession expired and the Parks Dept re-bid it and wanted to award it to someone else, it found out that the defendant (the prior concessionaire) had registered the marks years before, and had taken the position that not only could the new concessionaire not use them, but also that the old concessionaire could continue to use them in another location.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Second Circuit decision on copyright "fair use"

The Second Circuit recently issued a opinion discussing whether use of a few shrunk-down images of copyrighted concert posters in a historical coffee table book about the Grateful Dead violated copyright law.

In Bill Graham Archives v. Doris Kindersley Ltd., No. 05-2514-cv (2d Cir. May 9, 2006), the plaintiff noticed the use of its images in the book, which it found HARD TO HANDLE. It sued the defendant, and said THE RACE IS ON. Its complaint tried to take the book's publishers to SHAKEDOWN STREET using the copyright laws, but the defendant claimed fair use, and that was THE RUB. And once the district court analyzed the fair use factors, it said it LOOKS LIKE RAIN for the plaintiff, who was told on summary judgment to BEAT IT ON DOWN THE LINE, and ended up the LOSER in the district court.

At the Second Circuit, the EYES OF THE [copyright] WORLD were upon the court. Of the four "fair use factors" in 17 U.S.C. § 107, the Second Circuit focused primarily on "the purpose and character" of the defendants' use. The court held that the defendants' use of the work was "transformative," in that it used only a few images, in much-reduced size, and integrated them into a historical timeline and provided historical information about the concerts depicted in the posters. The court also noted that the plaintiff's works constituted only a very small portion of the challenged book, and that the defendants hadn't used the works in the advertising for the book. This was the most important factor, in the Second Circuit's view, and it had a RIPPLE effect on the THE OTHER ONEs (fair use factors, that is).

AROUND & AROUND the arguments went on the other three fair use factors. While the plaintiff got some GOOD LOVIN' on the creative nature of its work (the second fair use factor), the court held that its significance amounted to JACK STRAW in light of the importance of the first factor. The court also found that the "amount and substantiality" of the work copied was small, and that plaintiff's use of thumbnails didn't eat into the market for or value of the originals, which were not ever licensed in such a way.

Concluding that only a SHIP OF FOOLS would side with the plaintiff on this one, the Second Circuit said, IT'S ALL OVER NOW, leaving the plaintiff in the COLD RAIN AND SNOW. Its copyright claim looking like a BROKEDOWN PALACE, the plaintiff had to say, YOU WIN AGAIN, and ultimately ended up GOIN' DOWN THE ROAD FEELIN' BAD.

Since the court thought its legal analysis should NOT FADE AWAY, this opinion will be published.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

"Advice of Counsel" Defense and Scope of Waiver of Privileges

When a defendant in a patent case (or a trademark case, for that matter) introduces evidence of communications or documents otherwise falling within some privilege in defense of a charge of willful infringement, then quite obviously that privilege is waived. The question is, how far does the waiver extend? The Federal Circuit recently issued a very clear explanation of its view concerning the scope of the waiver that necessarily flows from a defendant's disclosure that he relied on advice given by counsel.

In In re Echostar Communications Corp., Misc. Nos. 803, 805 (Fed. Cir. May 1, 2006), defendant Echostar asserted, in response to a charge of willful infringement, that it had relied on the advice given by its in-house counsel. Echostar later got additional advice from an outside law firm, but elected not to rely on it. The plaintiff, however, moved to compel and got a district court order that, because Echostar was relying on its in-house counsel's advice as a defense, it waived attorney-client privilege and attorney work-product immunity as to all communications from any counsel on that subject, whether or not it was communicated to Echostar. That last italicized bit is important, because, remember, the "advice of counsel" defense goes to the defendant's state of mind. So the district court's ruling, in essence, said that even information not communicated to the client is relevant to the client's state of mind. Yikes!

The Federal Circuit had problems with it too. They focused on work-product doctrine, since they viewed the scope of a work-product waiver as being narrower than a waiver of the attorney-client privilege. Specifically, waivers of privilege are for all privileged materials on the same subject, but a work product waiver extends only to "factual" or "non-opinion" work product on the same subject matter.

The court then broke down the scope of the work product waiver into three categories: (1) documents that themselves are a communication, like a letter or e-mail; (2) documents that discuss or memorialize a communication between the lawyer and the client, but aren't themselves communicated to the client; and (3) documents that analyze the law, the facts, trial strategy, or anything else that reflect the attorney's mental processes, but aren't sent to the client. The court explained that categories (1) & (2), since they either embody or discuss a communication to the client, do inform the client's state of mind, and are discoverable. But category (3) documents, since they aren't communication to the client, don't and aren't.

Seems about right to me. And I see no reason why this reasoning ought not to apply to trademark cases as well. Overall, a good, sensible opinion from a circuit that (at least on trademark matters), I frequently disagree with.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Two interesting decisions on injunctive relief and on discriminatory state food labeling laws

The following two decisions raise what I think are interesting, if not common, issues.

In Lakeview Technologies, Inc. v. Robinson, No. 05-4433 (7th Cir. May 1, 2006), the defendant, an individual, stole plaintiff's trade secrets, and the plaintiff sought a preliminary injunction against defendant's use of the secrets. The district court denied the injunction for various reasons, one of which was that, since a damage award could be calculated, the plaintiff had an adequate remedy at law. The Seventh Circuit said that the ability to calculate damages could potentially make the legal remedy adequate, but not if the defendant couldn't pay it. In such a case, a defendant could only avoid the preliminary injunction if he put up an adequate bond or other good security in lieu of the injunction (Judge Easterbrook's opinion called it a "non-injunction bond").

Piazza's Seafood World, LLC v. Odom, No. 05-30098 (5th Cir. May 4, 2006) involved a suit by a seller of Chinese farm-raised catfish under the CAJUN BOY and CAJUN DELIGHT marks to enjoin enforcement of two Louisiana statutes: The "catfish statute" prohibited sales of any non-American catfish as "catfish," even if it was biologically the same species; the "Cajun statute" prohibited labeling food from outside Louisiana as "Cajun" or "Creole" unless the food was "substantially transformed by processing in Louisiana." The Fifth Circuit held that the "catfish statute" violated the dormant foreign commerce clause of the Constitution because it facially discriminated against foreign commerce, and the state gave no good reason for it. The Court enjoined the "Cajun statute" because it failed the 4-part test for permissible regulation of commercial speech set forth in Central Hudson Gas v. Public Service Commission, 447 U.S. 557 (1980). Important to the court's decision was that use of the CAJUN BOY and CAJUN DELIGHT marks was not actually or inherently misleading as to Chinese-raised fish, as required by Central Hudson, but only "potentially" misleading, in light of the fact that the plaintiff clearly labeled its packages "Product of China."