Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Intellectual Property
Ajaxo, Inc. v. E*Trade Financial Corp.
In 2003, jury found E*Trade liable for trade secret misappropriation and for breach of a mutual nondisclosure agreement with Ajaxo. The jury awarded damages only for the breach of contract after the court granted a nonsuit on the issue of damages for trade secret misappropriation. On remand, in 2008, a jury found no net damages for unjust enrichment and awarded nothing. The court denied Ajaxo’s request to seek a reasonable royalty under the California Uniform Trade Secret Act (Civ. Code 3426-3426.11). On second remand, the court held a bench trial, declined to award any royalty, and awarded E*Trade its costs as the prevailing party.The court of appeal affirmed. The trial court did not abuse its discretion by declining to award any reasonable royalty despite the available evidence from which a reasonable royalty theoretically might have been derived, considering its findings on the evidence, application of apportionment principles from patent law, exclusion of expert testimony and analysis of Ajaxo’s royalty model, and treatment of the “Georgia-Pacific factors” for determining a royalty rate in intellectual property disputes. The trial court did not err in its prevailing party determination and costs award despite the practical effect of Ajaxo having already obtained full satisfaction of what became a separate, final judgment in its favor following the 2006 remittitur from the first appeal, including costs. View "Ajaxo, Inc. v. E*Trade Financial Corp." on Justia Law
Amgen Inc. v. Health Care Services
This case arose when Amgen submitted a price increase notice to CCHCS and other registered purchasers. Reuters News made a request under the California Public Records Act, seeking the price increase notices. Amgen then filed a petition for writ of mandamus blocking disclosure. Amgen also moved for a preliminary injunction, which the trial court granted. While this appeal was pending, the trial court sustained CCHCS's demurrer to the mandamus cause of action with leave to amend, and then Amgen chose to dismiss the action instead.The Court of Appeal held that the appeal was not barred by the mootness doctrine where the issues raised are capable of repetition because there will be future price increase notices. Furthermore, the issues are likely to evade review because a pharmaceutical manufacturer has little reason to continue to prosecute a mandamus action after obtaining a preliminary injunction for the 60-day period before a price increase becomes public.On the merits, the court held that the trial court abused its discretion by concluding that Amgen had sufficiently shown that its price increase notice pursuant to Senate Bill No. 17 was a trade secret despite its disclosure to the registered purchasers. In this case, Amgen failed to explain how its purported trade secret maintained its confidentiality and concomitant value to Amgen when it was disclosed to over 170 purchasers who had the incentive to use the information to their benefit and Amgen's detriment, and were not subject to any restrictions on using or further disseminating the information. Likewise, the court held that the trial court abused its discretion in finding that the balance of harms favored Amgen. Therefore, the court reversed the trial court's order granting a preliminary injunction in favor of Amgen. View "Amgen Inc. v. Health Care Services" on Justia Law
Pott v. Lazarin
Audrie, the Potts’ daughter, was sexually assaulted while unconscious from intoxication. Her assailants distributed intimate photographs of her. Audrie committed suicide. The Potts, as the registered successors-in-interest to “deceased personality” rights for Audrie under Civil Code 3344.1, authorized the use of Audrie’s name and likeness in a documentary. The Potts sued Lazarin under section 3344.1, claiming that Lazarin (who claims to be Audrie’s biological father) had used Audrie’s name and likeness "for the purpose of advertising services” without their consent. Lazarin admitted that he had displayed Audrie’s photograph “to change the law regarding parental rights” but argued that he had not acted to promote “goods or services.” The Potts submitted evidence that Lazarin solicited donations for a suicide prevention group, using Audrie’s name and photograph. Lazarin brought an unsuccessful special motion to strike the complaint under Code of Civil Procedure 425.16.The court of appeal reversed. Lazarin made a prima facie showing that the Potts’ suit was based on his “written or oral statement or writing made in a place open to the public or a public forum in connection with an issue of public interest.” The Potts failed to establish that there was a “probability” that they would “prevail” on their Civil Code section 3344.1 suit; they did not show that Lazarin “misappropriate[ed] the economic value generated by [Audrie’s] fame through the merchandising” of her name or likeness. View "Pott v. Lazarin" on Justia Law
Global Protein Products, Inc. v. Le
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
MGA Entertainment, Inc. v. Mattel, Inc.
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
Eleanor Licensing LLC v. Classic Recreations LLC
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
Cypress Semiconductor Corp. v. Maxim Integrated Prods., Inc.
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
Alterra Excess & Surplus Ins. Co. v. Estate of Buckminster Fuller
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