Food, Beverage & Agribusiness
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No Bite on Parties’ Unenforceable Agreement to Agree to Sell Apple Trees

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a grant of summary judgment, finding that the option provision in the parties’ contract was an unenforceable agreement to agree. Phytelligence, Inc. v. Wash. State Univ., Case No. 2019-2216 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 27, 2020) (Reyna, J.). Phytelligence is an agricultural biotechnology company that used tissue culture to grow trees for sale to nurseries and growers. In 2012, Phytelligence and Washington State University (WSU) began discussing an arrangement to grow WA 38 apple trees, a new apple cultivar that WSU developed and patented. The parties executed a propagation agreement, which included a provision that granted Phytelligence an option to participate as a provider and/or seller. If WSU’s cultivar became available for licensing, Phytelligence would need to sign a separate contract with WSU or WSU’s agent to exercise the option to become a provider and/or seller. WSU eventually began requesting proposals...

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Trademark Claim for Profit Damages Means No Jury Trial

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a denial of a jury trial demand in a trademark infringement lawsuit where only a claim of disgorgement of profits was at issue. JL Beverage Company, LLC v. Jim Beam Brands Co., Beam Inc., Case No. 18-16597 (9th Cir. May 27, 2020) (Wallace, J.) (Friedland, J., concurring). JL sued Jim Beam for trademark infringement. JL manufactured and sold vodka in bottles featuring stylized depictions of lips. Jim Beam also sells vodka in bottles featuring stylized depictions of lips. JL alleged that consumers would confuse its “Johnny Love Vodka” lip mark with Jim Beam’s Pucker line of flavored vodka products. After JL failed to provide a computation of actual damages during discovery, Jim Beam sought to limit the damages JL could seek at trial. The district court found that JL’s failure prevented Jim Beam from preparing a responsive case and granted Jim Beam’s motion to exclude JL’s claims for actual damages. Jim Beam...

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