Justia U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Intellectual Property
MidlevelU, Inc. v. ACI Information Group
After a blog operator filed suit against a content aggregator for copyright infringement after the aggregator copied and published the blog's content, the jury ruled in favor of the blog operator. At issue is whether the district court should have allowed the jury to decide whether the aggregator had an implied license to copy and publish the blog's content.The Eleventh Circuit concluded that, although the district court employed a too narrow understanding of an implied license, a jury could not have reasonably inferred that the blog impliedly granted the aggregator a license to copy and publish its content. In this case, the district court erred by granting judgment as a matter of law against the aggregator on its implied-license defense; the district court did not err by instructing the jury that it could consider unregistered articles in its calculation of statutory damages; the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying the aggregator's motion for a new trial on the basis of the jury's statutory-damages award; the district court did not err by failing to consult with the register of copyrights about the alleged fraud on the copyright office; and the aggregator is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law on its fair-use defense. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment against the aggregator. View "MidlevelU, Inc. v. ACI Information Group" on Justia Law
Acrylicon USA, LLC v. Silikal GMBH
This appeal involves AC-USA's and Silikal's dispute over a shared trade secret consisting of the formula for 1061 SW, a flooring resin Silikal manufactured and sold (along with other flooring resins). AC-USA filed suit alleging that Silikal breached the agreement by selling 1061 SW without its written permission. A jury awarded AC-USA damages on each of its claims for common law breach of contract and for violation of the Georgia Trade Secrets Act of 1990 (GTSA) for misappropriation of the shared trade secret. The district court also awarded punitive damages on the misappropriation claim. The district court then denied Silikal's post-verdict motion for judgment as a matter of law on the misappropriation and contract claims, entering a final judgment for AC-USA for $5,861,415.The Eleventh Circuit rejected Silikal's argument that the district court lacked jurisdiction over its person, and thus affirmed the district court's denial of Silikal's motion to dismiss. However, the court concluded that AC-USA failed to prove its misappropriation claim because the evidence that Silikal misappropriated the trade secret is insufficient as a matter of law. Furthermore, AC-USA failed to prove that it sustained cognizable damages on its contract claim. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's judgment on the misappropriation claim and vacated the damages awarded on the contract claim. Finally, the court held that AC-USA is entitled to nominal damages and attorney's fees on its contract claim in a sum to be determined by the district court on remand. View "Acrylicon USA, LLC v. Silikal GMBH" on Justia Law
Savannah College of Art and Design, Inc. v. Sportswear, Inc.
SCAD filed suit against Sportswear for trademark infringement, unfair competition, false designation of origin, and counterfeiting under the Lanham Act, and for unfair competition and trademark infringement under Georgia common law. The dispute involves Sportswear's use of SCAD's word marks "SCAD" and "SAVANNAH COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN" as well as the college's design mark that includes its mascot, Art the Bee.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment on remand, holding that the district court properly entered summary judgment on two Lanham Act claims and the corresponding permanent injunction enjoining Sportswear from selling products bearing the SCAD marks at issue. The court concluded that its trademark precedents of Boston Prof’l Hockey Ass’n, Inc. v. Dallas Cap & Emblem Mfg., Inc., 510 F.2d 1004 (5th Cir. 1975), Univ. of Ga. Ath. Ass'n v. Laite, 756 F.2d 1535 (11th Cir. 1985), and Savannah College of Art & Design, Inc. v. Sportswear, Inc., 872 F.3d 1256, 1264, 1265 (11th Cir. 2017), require affirmance of the district court's judgment. In this case, the district court correctly found a likelihood of confusion as to Sportswear's use of SCAD's word marks and Bee Design Mark. View "Savannah College of Art and Design, Inc. v. Sportswear, Inc." on Justia Law
J-B Weld Co., LLC v. The Gorilla Glue Co.
J-B Weld filed suit against Gorilla Glue, alleging claims for trade dress infringement under the Lanham Act, Georgia law, and the common law of unfair competition; trade dress dilution under Georgia law; and false advertising under the Lanham Act and Georgia law.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Gorilla Glue as to the false advertising claims, agreeing with the district court that J-B Weld has not shown that the inclusion of "steel bond epoxy" on GorillaWeld's packaging is material to consumers. However, the court reversed and remanded with respect to the trade dress infringement and trade dress dilution claims. In regard to the trade dress infringement claims, the court held that, although the posture of the case required the district court to view the evidence in the light most favorable to J-B Weld, the district court failed to do so in analyzing the "likelihood of confusion" between J.B. Weld Original's trade dress and GorillaWeld's trade dress. In regard to the trade dress dilution claims, the court held that the district court's abbreviated treatment of this claim leaves it with serious doubt that it applied the correct standard in concluding that J-B Weld was unable to show trade dress dilution. In this case, the district court's remarks about the indistinguishability of the applicable standards indicates that it applied the elements of the trade dress infringement claims to the trade dress dilution claim, thus conflating the two different sets of requirements. View "J-B Weld Co., LLC v. The Gorilla Glue Co." on Justia Law
Compulife Software Inc. v. Newman
Compulife Software, which has developed and markets a computerized mechanism for calculating, organizing, and comparing life-insurance quotes, alleges that one of its competitors lied and hacked its way into Compulife's system and stole its proprietary data. At issue was whether defendants crossed any legal lines—and, in particular, whether they infringed Compulife's copyright or misappropriated its trade secrets, engaged in false advertising, or violated an anti-hacking statute.The Eleventh Circuit vacated the judgment as to copyright infringement and trade-secret misappropriation, remanding for new findings of fact and conclusions of law. The court held that the magistrate judge committed errors of law and made insufficient findings, which tainted his conclusion that Compulife's copyright was not infringed. The court also held that the magistrate judge erred in his analysis of trade-secret misappropriation, both by failing to consider the application of several species of misappropriation and by committing legal error. The court found no reversible error in the magistrate judge's rejection of Compulife's other claims, affirming the remainder of the judgment. View "Compulife Software Inc. v. Newman" on Justia Law
Engineered Tax Services, Inc. v. Scarpello Consulting, Inc.
ETS filed a trademark infringement action against Scarpello over the "Engineered Tax Services" mark under the Lanham Act. The district court held that the mark lacked distinctiveness and granted summary judgment in favor of Scarpello.The Eleventh Circuit reversed, holding that the district court erred in concluding, as a matter of law, that ETS's mark was not suggestive, but merely descriptive—and thus invalid. Furthermore, the district court failed to consider whether the mark might also have acquired any protectible secondary meaning or whether any actionable infringement occurred. The court held that a jury could reasonably find the mark inherently distinctive and remanded for further proceedings. View "Engineered Tax Services, Inc. v. Scarpello Consulting, Inc." on Justia Law
Webster v. Guitars
Plaintiff, a successful guitar maker and technician, designed a lightning storm graphic that originally appeared on the guitar of Darrell Abbott, late guitarist of the heavy-metal band Pantera. This copyright registration action relates to the lightning storm graphic. Plaintiff filed suit against defendant and several others, alleging copyright infringement, unfair competition, and false endorsement.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants, holding that the district court properly concluded that plaintiff's copyright claim, primarily concerning copyright ownership, was time-barred; the district court correctly granted summary judgment in favor of defendants on plaintiff's false advertising and unfair competition claims because the statements he relies on were not false or misleading; and the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of defendants on plaintiff's false endorsement claim, because plaintiff failed to establish a likelihood of consumer confusion, mistake, or deception. View "Webster v. Guitars" on Justia Law
Royal Palm Properties, LLC v. Pink Palm Properties, LLC
Royal Palm Properties filed suit against Pink Palm Properties for infringing its registered service mark on the phrase "Royal Palm Properties." Pink Palm Properties counterclaimed, challenging the validity of the mark.The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court erred by flipping the jury's verdict and by granting judgment as a matter of law on Pink Palm Properties' trademark-invalidation counterclaim. The court held that Pink Palm Properties failed to show that no reasonable jury could have found that it failed to prove grounds for cancelling Royal Palm Properties' mark. In this case, Pink Palm Properties' argument that the service mark lacked distinctiveness, and that the mark was confusingly similar to the "Royale Palms" marks, did not entitle it to judgment as a matter of law on its claim that the "Royal Palm Properties" mark was invalid. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment. View "Royal Palm Properties, LLC v. Pink Palm Properties, LLC" on Justia Law
PlayNation Play Systems, Inc. v. Velex Corp.
The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its considerable discretion in holding Velex and its officers in contempt or in awarding PlayNation's attorneys' fees and costs. In this case, the court had previously upheld the entry of a permanent injunction preventing Velex from infringing on PlayNation's mark. PlayNation later discovered that Velex continued to sell and distribute goods using the infringing mark. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "PlayNation Play Systems, Inc. v. Velex Corp." on Justia Law
Luxottica Group v. Airport Mini Mall, LLC
Plaintiffs, luxury eyewear manufacturers holding registered trademarks, filed a contributory trademark infringement action under the Lanham Act against defendants, owners of a discount mall whose subtenants were selling counterfeit eyewear.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the jury's verdict in favor of plaintiffs, holding that the district court correctly determined that the evidence was sufficient—even under the legal standard the defendants urge the court to adopt—to support the jury's verdict finding defendants liable for contributory trademark infringement; committed no reversible error in instructing the jury; correctly determined that the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's verdict on each defendant's individual liability; and did not abuse its discretion in the challenged evidentiary rulings. View "Luxottica Group v. Airport Mini Mall, LLC" on Justia Law