Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Intellectual Property
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GPP employed Le, a scientist, and disclosed to Le the proprietary formula for its trade secret product (a film that preserves lettuce) and the identity of an organic acid used in the product. Le signed a confidentiality agreement. After leaving GPP, Le formed a company and competed with GPP. In 2006, GPP and Le agreed to a stipulated permanent injunction to “fully and finally resolve all existing and potential differences” arising from Le’s use of GPP’s trade secret. In 2016, Le moved to modify or dissolve the stipulated permanent injunction, arguing that newly discovered facts—that citric acid was the previously undisclosed organic acid—demonstrated that GPP’s trade secret did not possess a commercial advantage; that GPP’s trade secret was previously publicly disclosed in a patent; and that the injunction’s language was overly broad and failed to provide adequate notice of the specific actions that were enjoined. The court of appeal affirmed a denial of relief. Le did not meet the requirements of Code of Civil Procedure section 533. There is sufficient evidence to support an implied determination that GPP has a valid trade secret. The injunction did not identify the precise formula or ingredients used in GPP’s trade secret, but its failure to do so did not mean that GPP’s description of its trade secret was not sufficiently clear. View "Global Protein Products, Inc. v. Le" on Justia Law

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This lawsuit stemmed from MGA and Mattel's dispute over ownership of the Bratz line of dolls and claims of copyright infringement. The Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court that, under California law, the same suspicions that allowed MGA to request discovery and plead the unclean hands defense in the federal court in 2007 were sufficient to trigger the statute of limitation on its misappropriation of trade secrets claim which was filed in federal court in 2010. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment on the complaint because it was barred by the statute of limitations. View "MGA Entertainment, Inc. v. Mattel, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case arose from a dispute between the parties over licensing agreements involving the motion picture Gone in 60 Seconds. The trial court entered judgment for Classic and ordered that Eleanor Licensing retain possession of a vehicle identified as "Eleanor No. 1," which had been manufactured by Classic pursuant to a licensing agreement between the parties; quieting title to the vehicle in Eleanor Licensing; directing Classic to perform according to the terms of the licensing agreement and transfered legal title to Eleanor No. 1 to Eleanor Licensing; and awarding damages and attorney fees. The court held that the November 1, 2007 License Agreement was supported by adequate consideration; the contract-based claims, to the extent otherwise valid, were barred by the statute of limitations; the causes of action for return of personal property and quiet title were timely filed; the alter ego finding was not supported by substantial evidence; Jason Engel was properly named as a defendant in the causes of action to quiet title and for return of personal property; Tony Engel was a proper defendant in the quiet title cause of action; and the Engels were not liable for attorney fees. The court reversed in part and affirmed in part the judgment and postjudgment order. View "Eleanor Licensing LLC v. Classic Recreations LLC" on Justia Law

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Cypress sued, alleging that Maxim, had misappropriated a trade secret, or was in the process of doing so, by seeking to hire away specialists in touchscreen technology, a field in which Cypress and Maxim compete. Maxim responded that it was entitled to solicit prospective employment candidates in Cypress’s workforce and that there was no evidence it had acquired, or was seeking to acquire, any trade secret. After failing to secure temporary injunctive relief, and failing to obtain an order placing under seal evidence derived by Maxim from public sources, Cypress dismissed the action. The trial court awarded Maxim attorney fees under Civil Code 3426.4, which authorizes such an award to the prevailing party where a claim for misappropriation of trade secrets is found to have been made in bad faith. The court of appeal affirmed, stating that the finding of bad faith was amply supported by evidence that defendants did no more, and Cypress accused them of no more, than attempting to recruit the employees of a competitor. Cypress dismissed the suit to avoid an adverse determination on the merits. View "Cypress Semiconductor Corp. v. Maxim Integrated Prods., Inc." on Justia Law

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Buckminster Fuller, “Bucky,” a designer, author, and inventor, well known for popularizing the geodesic dome, died in 1983. Beginning around 2009, Maxfield manufactured and distributed products under the Buckyball and related trademarks. According to its press release, Buckyballs, “the world’s best-selling desktoy,” were “inspired and named after famous … inventor, R. Buckminster Fuller.” Buckyballs are round magnets packaged in a cube shape, which can be formed into various shapes. The Big Book of Bucky, which provides instructions, states: Buckyballs were named for Buckminster Fuller. Fuller’s Estate sued, alleging: unfair competition, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a) (Lanham Act); invasion of privacy (appropriation of name and likeness); unauthorized use of name and likeness, Cal. Civil Code 3344.1; and violation of Cal. Business & Professions Code 17200. Alterra had issued an insurance policy to Maxfield, effective June 2010. Alterra agreed to defend under a reservation of rights, then sought a declaration that Alterra’s policy did not provide coverage. The Estate agreed to be bound by the outcome in return for being dismissed. Because of Maxfield’s stipulation to the allegations in the coverage action and acting without leave, the Estate later responded to Alterra’s complaint. The court of appeal affirmed a holding that Alterra had no duty to defend and no duty to indemnify, based on the “intellectual property” exclusion. View "Alterra Excess & Surplus Ins. Co. v. Estate of Buckminster Fuller" on Justia Law