First Circuit
Subscribe to First Circuit's Posts

In Good Hands: Compilation of Publicly Available Information Can Still Be a Trade Secret

The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed a district court decision, finding that a compilation of customer-related information, even if publicly available, is a protectable trade secret. Allstate Insurance Co. v. Fougere, Case No. 22-1258 (1st Cir. Aug. 29, 2023) (Gelpi, Lynch, Thompson, JJ.)

Allstate hired two agents—James Fougere and Sarah Brody-Isbill—to sell the company’s auto and casualty insurance products in Massachusetts. In connection with their employment, both agents signed exclusive employment agreements that imposed numerous responsibilities, including an obligation to maintain information identified by Allstate as confidential, an undertaking not to misuse or improperly disclose the information and a promise to return the information to Allstate when their agency relationships terminated. Allstate eventually terminated its agreement with the agents because of noncompliance with Allstate regulations and Massachusetts state law.

After the agreements were terminated, Allstate believed the agents had retained confidential information belonging to Allstate and had been using it to solicit Allstate customers. Allstate ultimately learned that the agents had kept confidential Allstate spreadsheets that contained the names of thousands of Allstate customers, along with their renewal dates, premiums, types of insurance, Allstate policy numbers, driver’s license numbers, home addresses, phone numbers and email addresses.

Allstate filed suit against the former agents, bringing claims under both Massachusetts law and the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA). The agents brought counterclaims under Massachusetts law, alleging that Allstate failed to provide adequate notice before their terminations, misappropriated information that belonged to the agents and wrongfully interfered with the agents’ contractual relations by engaging in bad-faith business practices. On summary judgment, the district court found that the agents misappropriated Allstate’s trade secrets and dismissed the agents’ counterclaims. The agents appealed.

The agents argued that the customer information was available from various publicly available sources and therefore did not constitute a trade secret. The First Circuit disagreed, explaining that the compilation of publicly available information could constitute trade secrets, particularly where attempts to duplicate that information would be “immensely difficult.” The Court also found that the factual record suggested that not all of the customer information was publicly available—and certainly not in the same compilation as it would be from Allstate.

The agents also argued that the customer information had no economic value. In analyzing this argument, the First Circuit looked to the employment agreements between the former agents and Allstate, which specifically stated that the misuse of Allstate’s confidential information would cause “irreparable damages” to Allstate. The employment agreements also provided a mechanism for terminated agents to sell their “economic interest” back to Allstate. The Court also relied on its finding that this sort of information would be valuable to Allstate’s competitors in attempting to market policies to Allstate customers so that the competitor could offer lower pricing. Taken together, the Court found that the customer data had economic value.

The agents next argued that Allstate had not sufficiently protected the customer information. The First Circuit, affirming the district court, found that Allstate had multiple protections in place. [...]

Continue Reading




The Game of Life: Winner Gets Everything Except Attorneys’ Fees

The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit agreed with the trial court regarding the reasonableness of the plaintiff’s legal positions and found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the defendants, as the prevailing party, attorneys’ fees. The First Circuit determined that the positions advanced by the unsuccessful plaintiffs were not objectively unreasonable. Markham Concepts, Inc. v. Hasbro, Inc., Case Nos. 19-1927; 21-1957; -1958 (1st Cir. June 22, 2023) (Kayatta, Lipez, Thompson, JJ.)

The underlying case involved a copyright action concerning ownership rights to The Game of Life, a board game that has been widely popular since its launch in 1960. The Game of Life became the center of a long-standing dispute between its creators, Reuben Klamer and Bill Markham. Klamer, a toy developer, conceived the initial idea for the game and enlisted Markham to design and create the game prototype. Markham believed he deserved greater recognition for his contribution and felt the royalty he received was unfairly low.

In its previous ruling on the merits, the First Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision in favor of the Hasbro defendants (including Klamer). The Hasbro defendants then sought attorneys’ fees, which the district court denied. Hasbro appealed and moved for appellate attorneys’ fees.

Although both the district court and the First Circuit examined various factors, such as Markham’s motivations and the need for compensation or deterrence, the key factor for both courts in determining whether to award legal fees hinged on the reasonableness of Markham’s litigation arguments.

The merits of the underlying case revolved around the termination right provided by the Copyright Act of 1976 (1976 Act), which allows authors to terminate copyright grants after a certain period and thereby disentangle themselves from agreements made before the true value of their work became apparent. This right does not apply to works made for hire. In this instance, the issue of whether The Game of Life qualified as a work made for hire was determined under the Copyright Act of 1909 (1909 Act), as the game was created long before the 1976 Act took effect. Under the 1909 Act, Markham had to meet the “instance and expense” test, which treats contractors as employees of the party commissioning the work, thereby presuming copyright ownership in the latter. The district court held that The Game of Life was a work for hire because it was created at Klamer’s instance and expense.

Markham’s primary argument relied on the 1989 Supreme Court decision in Reid, which interpreted “employee” for purposes of the work-for-hire test as being defined according to “the general common law of agency.” Although Markham acknowledged that Reid was directed to the 1976 Act, he contended that the logic of Reid should extend to the 1909 Act, thereby nullifying the “instance and expense” test in favor of the general common law of agency.

Four years after the Supreme Court’s decision in Reid, however, the First Circuit applied the “instance and expense” test in Forward to a work covered [...]

Continue Reading




First Circuit: Claim Preclusion Shouldn’t Apply to Bar Claims Under VARA

Addressing for the first time whether federal res judicata law recognizes the alternative determinations doctrine, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit determined that a plaintiff’s claims under the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) were not precluded by a previous action in which she brought a federal copyright claim against the defendant. Foss v. Eastern States Exposition, Case No. 22-1313 (1st Cir. May 10, 2023) (Barron, Howard, Montecalvo, JJ.)

Cynthia Foss previously brought a federal copyright action against Eastern States Exposition that was dismissed. The previous action did not involve any claim under VARA. Eastern argued that claim preclusion should apply to bar the claim, and the district court agreed. Foss appealed.

To establish federal claim preclusion, a party must establish that there is a final judgment on the merits in an earlier suit, sufficient similarity between the causes of action asserted in the earlier and later suits, and sufficient identicality between the parties in the two suits. Foss did not dispute that the first and third requirements were satisfied, and thus the First Circuit’s decision turned on whether the second requirement was met.

Foss argued that the “alternative determinations” doctrine should apply. This doctrine strips a dismissal of claim preclusive effect if the dismissal rests on multiple grounds, not all of which would on their own render the dismissal claim preclusive. Whether the doctrine should apply was a matter of first impression in the First Circuit. Foss argued that the previous dismissal was in part based on “her failure to allege that she had satisfied the registration-related precondition to copyright infringement suits under § 411(a),” which was not a merits-based dismissal and therefore had no preclusive effect. Eastern argued that even if the First Circuit adopted the alternative determinations doctrine, the Court should limit the doctrine because the district court “rigorously considered” the merits-based rationale for dismissal in the previous action.

The First Circuit adopted the alternative determinations doctrine and rejected Eastern’s contention that the doctrine should not apply in the instant case because Eastern did not provide support for the contention that the district court in the previous action “rigorously considered” the merits-based grounds for dismissal of Foss’s federal copyright claims. The Court then remanded the case for further consideration, noting that Eastern might argue that the alternative disputes doctrine should be limited in this instance because of Foss’s failure to allege satisfaction of the precondition to suit, which might be prejudicial to Eastern.




Words Matter: Court Sides with Translation Company in Insurance Coverage Dispute

The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit concluded that a company’s general liability insurer was obligated to provide coverage for legal fees incurred in fending off a trade secret and defamation lawsuit brought by a competitor. Lionbridge Tech., LLC v. Valley Forge Ins. Co., Case No. 21-1698 (1st Cir. Nov. 21, 2022) (Kayatta, Selya, Thompson, JJ.)

Lionbridge and TransPerfect are competitors in the language-translation industry. TransPerfect sued Lionbridge for misappropriation of trade secrets and defamation. TransPerfect alleged that Lionbridge concocted a scheme through its corporate owner to feign interest in acquiring TransPerfect and, through this scheme, improperly gained access to TransPerfect’s trade secrets, which could be used to poach TransPerfect’s customers and otherwise undermine TransPerfect’s business.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Lionbridge informed its liability insurance carrier, Valley Forge, about the litigation. Valley Forge initially indicated that it would provide Lionbridge with coverage for legal costs associated with the litigation. Valley Forge subsequently disputed the requested coverage based on both the reasonableness of the fees incurred and the nature of the suit. Lionbridge filed suit against Valley Forge seeking full coverage from Valley Forge for its defense costs. The dispute centered on whether the fees incurred could be considered injury arising out of “[o]ral or written publication, in any manner, of material that slanders or libels a person or organization or disparages a person’s or organizations goods, products, or services,” as provided by Lionbridge’s insurance policy. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Valley Forge, finding that Valley Forge did not owe Lionbridge a duty to defend under the relevant policy provisions and exclusions. Lionbridge appealed.

The First Circuit reversed, explaining that an insurer’s duty to defend depends on whether the allegations in the underlying litigation are reasonably susceptible to an interpretation that the policy provisions apply. The focus of the inquiry is the source of the injury, not any specific theories of liability set forth in the underlying complaint. The Court explained that this inquiry required a comparison of the allegation made in the underlying litigation against the insurance policy provisions.

After analyzing the underlying complaint against the insurance policy, the First Circuit determined that the policy provisions applied because the allegations “roughly sketch[ed]” an injury arising from a defamation claim. TransPerfect’s claims were rooted in alleged reputational harm to its business, which fit within the relevant provision. The Court noted that complete overlap between the policy provisions and the claims was not required.

The First Circuit next considered whether any policy coverage exclusions applied to preclude coverage. The relevant exclusions fell into two buckets:

  • Injuries caused by an insured with direct knowledge that its actions would inflict injury, or injuries arising out of an oral or written publication that the insured knows is false
  • Trade secret misappropriation.

Valley Forge carried the burden of proving that either or both categories of exclusions applied. The Court concluded that the first category did not apply because Valley Forge failed to show that all allegations [...]

Continue Reading




And the Band Played On: Reviewing Rule 54(b) Partial Summary Judgment Based on Who Did What to Whom and When

In a case where the cast of characters on both sides of the v. evolved during the lead-up to the litigation as the litigants negotiated third-party deals and formed new entities, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (characterizing the matter as the “entrepreneurial equivalent of musical chairs”) affirmed a dismissal of a trade secret claim against a foreign defendant but not against the related US entity, and found that the case qualified under Rule 54(b) for the “narrow exception” to the finality rule. Amyndas Pharmaceutical, SA v. Zealand Pharma A/S, Case No. 21-1781 (1st Cir. Sept. 2, 2022) (Barron, Selya, Kayatta, JJ.)

Amyndas is a Greek company with a US affiliate. It is a biotechnology firm that researches and develops therapeutics targeting a part of the immune system known as the complement system. One area of Amyndas’s research deals with “complement inhibitors.”

Amyndas’s research yielded compstatin, a peptide that selectively inhibits the C3 protein (which plays a role in activating the complement system). Amyndas also developed a related peptide (AMY-101) that targets that protein. Amyndas owns trade secrets and confidential information related to this work.

Zealand Pharma, a Danish biotechnology firm, contacted Amyndas about a potential partnership for the development of complement-related therapeutics. The firms entered into a confidential disclosure agreement (CDA) regarding information-sharing “for the purposes of evaluating a possible business/services relationship between the parties and their respective Affiliates.” Amyndas started giving Zealand Pharma access to confidential information (including confidential information about AMY-101). The firms also entered into a second CDA—with added protections—for “the evaluation or formation of a possible business and/or services and/or collaborative relationship.”

Both CDAs included an identical “Governing Law” provision stipulating that the CDAs would “be interpreted and governed by the laws of the country (applicable state) in which the defendant resides” and a forum-selection clause stipulating that “any dispute arising out of th[e CDA] shall be settled in the first instance by the venue of the defendant.”

Zealand Pharma also began its own research program focused on complement therapeutics. It did not inform Amyndas of this initiative. Although negotiations continued, the firms ultimately decided not to collaborate. Amyndas later terminated its information-sharing relationship with Zealand Pharma.

Zealand Pharma later formed Zealand US, a Delaware corporation. Without Amyndas’s knowledge or consent, Zealand Pharma also filed two European patent applications for compstatin analogues and later an international patent application designating the United States and claiming priority to the earlier  EU applications.

After the international applications were published, Amyndas learned that they described “compstatin analogues that are capable of binding to C3 protein and inhibiting complement activation,” which had been the focus of Amyndas’s research and a subject of Amyndas’s confidential information-sharing with Zealand Pharma.

The other defendant, Alexion, is an established player in the complement therapeutics field and a proprietor of Soliris, a complement inhibitor that targets a protein in the complement system. Soliris is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and previously was the only FDA-approved and clinically available [...]

Continue Reading




Can’t Dismiss Lanham Act Claim Based on FDCA Preemption

The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed-in-part and vacated-in-part a district court ruling dismissing claims under the Lanham Act and Massachusetts consumer protection law based on statements on a website regarding compliance with the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). Azurity Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Edge Pharma, LLC, Case No. 21-1492 (1st Cir. Aug. 12, 2022) (Barron, Howard, Thompson, JJ.)

Azurity is a specialty pharmaceutical company that markets a hydrochloride vancomycin drug that received pre-market approval from the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Edge Pharma is a drug compounding company that also markets a hydrochloride vancomycin drug that competes with Azurity’s drug but has not yet received FDA approval. In 2020, Azurity filed suit against Edge in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts under both the Lanham Act and a Massachusetts consumer protection law based on statements that Edge allegedly made on its website. Azurity argued that these statements represented or conveyed the impression that Edge was not in violation of Section 503B of the FDCA, which authorizes drug compounders that meet certain conditions to market their drugs without first obtaining FDA approval. Azurity alleged that these statements were literally false and/or misleading and that other statements holding out Edge’s drug as superior to Azurity’s were similarly false and/or misleading. Edge moved to dismiss Azurity’s claims for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted.

The district court granted Edge’s motion as to Azurity’s Lanham Act claim on the ground that the FDCA precluded Azurity’s claim. The district court stated that the claim would require it to interpret the meaning of Section 503B in a way that would interfere with the FDA’s authority to administer and enforce the FDCA. The district court also ruled that Azurity’s consumer protection claim failed because it was premised on the same allegations as Azurity’s Lanham Act claim. Azurity appealed.

The FDCA requires FDA pre-approval to market any drug. However, there are exemptions for “compounded” drugs and “outsourcing facilities” that manufacture compounded drugs. The FDCA provides registration and compliance requirements to be considered an “outsourcing facility.”

Edge made several statements on its website regarding alleged FDCA compliance, FDCA registration and other commercially available options for its compounded drug. The First Circuit referred to these as compliance statements, registration statements and superiority statements, respectively. With respect to Edge’s compliance and registration statements, the Court did not find that the FDCA precluded Azurity’s claims and instead adopted the framework used by the Ninth and District of Columbia Circuits. The First Circuit noted that those circuits established that, “[a]bsent a clear and unambiguous ruling from a court or agency of competent jurisdiction, statements by laypersons that purport to interpret the meaning of a statute or regulation are opinion statements, and not statements of fact,” and thus, as such, are “not generally actionable under the Lanham Act.” The Court found that Azurity’s reliance on a non-binding FDA guidance document regarding “essentially a copy” provision of Section 503B was not a [...]

Continue Reading




Re-Poster Child for § 230: Immunity under the CDA for Reposting Content of Another

The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed a district court’s decision to dismiss claims for defamation under the Communications Decency Act (CDA), 47 USC § 230, and for copyright infringement under the fair use doctrine. Monsarrat v. Newman, Case No. 21-1146 (Kayatta, Lipez, Gelpí, JJ.).

The parties’ dispute arose from a series of posts on a community message board. Residents of the Davis Square neighborhood in Massachusetts maintained a Live Journal forum for several years. In response to a revision of the Live Journal terms of service in 2017, Ron Newman, a member of the community, copied the entirety of the content from the Live Journal forum to another online platform: Dreamwidth. The copied content included a series of allegedly defamatory posts about Jonathan Monsarrat and a post that Monsarrat had copyrighted. Monsarrat sued Newman for both defamation and copyright infringement. Newman moved to dismiss the defamation claim under the CDA, § 230, and the copyright claim under the fair use doctrine. After the district court granted the motions, Monsarrat appealed.

The First Circuit first addressed the defamation claim under § 230. Newman argued that § 230 provided him immunity from defamation. Specifically, § 230 states “[n]o provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” It also provides a shield from state law claims that would be “inconsistent with this section.” Courts apply a three-part analysis to determine whether a defendant is entitled to immunity under § 230:

  1. Is the defendant a “provider or user of an interactive computer service”?
  2. Is the claim based on “information provided by another information content provider”?
  3. Does the claim treat the defendant “as the publisher or speaker” of that information?

Monsarrat did not challenge the fact that Newman was a “user” under the first prong. Regarding the second prong, the analysis hinged on whether Newman was an “information content provider,” which in turn relied on whether Newman was responsible for the allegedly defamatory content in whole or in part. The factual record showed that Newman did nothing but copy the allegedly defamatory posts that had been created by another. Monsarrat unsuccessfully argued that Newman was responsible because Newman copied the posts from Live Journal to a different digital platform with an allegedly different audience. The First Circuit was not persuaded, ruling that providing essentially the same content on a different platform did not make a defendant responsible for that content under § 230. Regarding the third prong, Monsarrat’s complaint clearly alleged that Newman was acting as a publisher. The Court affirmed the dismissal of the defamation claim under § 230.

Monsarrat’s copyright claim related to a Live Journal post by Monsarrat in the Davis Square forum. He had created a post with a link to Live Journal’s harassment policy, a quotation from the policy and a brief message regarding his attempts to report the abuse he felt he had suffered by other [...]

Continue Reading




Can’t Presume Personal Jurisdiction Exists When Challenged

The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed a district court order dismissing a trademark infringement case for lack of personal jurisdiction, finding that if challenged, personal jurisdiction cannot be assumed into existence. Motus, LLC v. CarData Consultants, Inc., Case No. 21-1226 (1st Cir. Jan. 18, 2022) (Lynch, Selya, McConnell, JJ.)

Motus is a Delaware corporation headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts. CarData is a Canadian corporation with offices in Colorado, New York and Toronto. Both Motus and CarData offer tools for companies to manage employee expense reimbursement. Motus asserted a trademark over the phrase “corporate reimbursement services,” which was present in the meta title of CarData’s website. In November 2019, Motus asked CarData to remove the phrase from its website, and CarData did so within three days.

Motus nevertheless filed a federal lawsuit in the District of Massachusetts asserting Lanham Act claims for trademark infringement, trademark dilution and other state and federal causes of action. CarData moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, among other grounds. The district court granted the motion to dismiss, finding that Motus failed to demonstrate either the existence of personal jurisdiction over CarData or that discovery into CarData’s jurisdictional claims were warranted. Motus appealed.

On appeal, the First Circuit reiterated that Motus bore the burden of demonstrating that the district court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction over CarData was proper, noting that although a plaintiff is not required to plead facts sufficient for personal jurisdiction, “it must—if challenged—ensure that the record contains such facts.” To demonstrate that personal jurisdiction over CarData was proper, Motus had to show that CarData had sufficient “minimum contacts” with the forum that were sufficiently related to the matter at issue and evidenced a “purposeful availment of the privilege of conducting business in the forum,” and also had to show the reasonableness of the exercise of personal jurisdiction in that forum. Motus argued that CarData had sufficient “minimum contacts” with Massachusetts for personal jurisdiction to lie there, primarily because CarData had offices elsewhere in the United States and because CarData maintained a website that was available to serve Massachusetts residents.

Given that Motus’s arguments for personal jurisdiction related primarily to the publicly available nature of CarData’s website to residents of Massachusetts, the First Circuit explained that “[i]n website cases we have recognized that the ‘purposeful availment’ element often proves dispositive.” Here, the Court found nothing in the record suggesting that CarData specifically targeted or did business with Massachusetts residents. The Court rejected Motus’s citation to informational content on the website because it was not specific enough to evidence intentional solicitation of business from any particular state. Nor was there evidence of substantial CarData revenue from Massachusetts. Thus, the Court found that there was no “purposeful availment.”

Finally, the First Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of jurisdictional discovery into CarData’s “minimum contacts” with Massachusetts. The Court found that although Motus mentioned the availability of jurisdictional discovery in a single sentence in a footnote to its opposition to CarData’s motion to [...]

Continue Reading




School’s Out: Trademark Settlement Agreement Enforceable

Addressing issues relating to jurisdiction, contract enforceability and trademarks, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit concluded that two schools that used similar names had a valid and enforceable settlement agreement obligating one school to pay for the other to change its name. The Commonwealth School, Inc. v. Commonwealth Academy Holdings LLC, Case No. 20-1112 (1st Cir. Apr. 14, 2021) (Selya, J.)

It came to the attention of a Boston private school, The Commonwealth School (the School), that a more recently founded private school in Springfield, Massachusetts, was operating under a similar name, Commonwealth Academy (the Academy). In 2016, the School brought suit against the Academy under the federal Lanham Act, claiming that the School had a trademark on its “Commonwealth School” name, and that “Commonwealth Academy” infringed on that trademark. The parties entered into settlement mediation, and agreed that the School would pay the Academy $25,000 and in return the Academy would change its name to “Springfield Commonwealth Academy.”

The district court issued an order that a settlement was reached. Three years passed, and the Academy took steps to change its name in promotional materials and on its website. But the School would not pay the Academy because it claimed the Academy still had the “Commonwealth Academy” name appearing prominently on its students’ basketball jerseys. At a hearing to resolve the dispute, the district court reversed its earlier order: the parties had not actually reached a settlement agreement because there had been no “meeting of the minds” for contract formation, despite the other steps the Academy took to fulfill the agreement. The district court dismissed the case because neither party showed cause to reopen the case. The Academy appealed, arguing that the district court erred in refusing to enforce the settlement agreement.

The First Circuit addressed three main issues on appeal: (1) whether there was appellate jurisdiction to hear the appeal, (2) whether the district court had subject matter jurisdiction to hear the initial settlement agreement dispute, and (3) on the merits, whether the settlement agreement was a validly formed contract.

The First Circuit concluded it had jurisdiction to review the district court’s dismissal order. Generally, under the final judgment rule, only final decisions are appealable. But here, the order at issue was merely interlocutory, meaning it was issued during the course of litigation. The Academy claimed the order was in fact reviewable because the order resulted in the case’s dismissal, and thus it should fall under the merger doctrine exception, where interlocutory orders merge into final judgments. The Court considered this in the context of the School’s failure to prosecute, and whether the order actually fell under an exception to the exception – i.e., where a dismissal is based on a failure to prosecute, it does not fall under the merger doctrine. In its analysis, the Court considered the policy considerations underlying the merger doctrine: to preserve integrity of the final judgment rule by preventing any reward for bad faith tactics. Here, the School, as the [...]

Continue Reading




Fourth Estate Registration Requirement Defeats Pro Se Copyright Infringement Plaintiff

The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed dismissal of a copyright infringement claim for failure to register the copyright, and affirmed summary judgment against plaintiff on related state law claims where the plaintiff was deemed to have admitted statements that undermined its claims. Foss v. Marvic Inc., Case No. 20-1008 (1st Cir. Apr. 12, 2021) (Lynch, J.)

In 2006, sunroom purveyor Marvic contracted with graphic designer Foss to create a marketing brochure. Foss presented a $3,000 estimate, which Marvic paid, and Marvic began using the brochure soon after. In 2018, Foss (pro se) filed suit, demanding $264,000 for alleged copyright infringement on the basis that in 2016, she discovered that Marvic had been using a modified version of the brochure in print and online without asking for or receiving her permission. Foss alleged inaccurately that she had “applied for official U.S. Copyright Registrations” for the brochure.

Marvic moved to dismiss, and Foss filed an amended complaint stating six causes of action, including copyright infringement and five state-law claims. Foss alleged that she had registered the brochure with the US Copyright Office, but in fact she had only applied (after filing the original complaint) for registration. Marvic moved to dismiss the copyright and breach of contract claims. Foss did not oppose, and the district court dismissed the case. Foss then moved to reopen the case, a motion that the district court granted. Foss filed an opposition to Marvic’s earlier motion to dismiss and retained counsel, who first appeared on the day the district court heard Marvic’s motions.

In support of dismissal, Marvic argued that Foss had not established registration of her copyright, noting the then-existing circuit split as to whether mere application or successful registration was required to support a claim of infringement in federal court. The First Circuit stayed the case pending the Supreme Court’s decision in Fourth Estate. After the Supreme Court held that successful registration is required, the district court lifted the stay and dismissed the copyright claim but not the breach of contract claim.

Later, Marvic served a request for admissions, to which Foss’s counsel failed to respond. Marvic moved that the statements in its request be deemed admitted. The district court granted the motion. Two weeks later, Foss’s counsel moved to withdraw, having been suspended from the practice of law.

Foss, pro se again, moved for reconsideration and for more time to respond to the request for admissions, but the district court denied the motions. Marvic moved for summary judgment on the state law claims, which the district court granted, largely relying on Foss’s deemed admissions. Foss appealed.

The First Circuit held that it was not error to dismiss Foss’s copyright claim under Fourth Estate. The Court rejected as waived Foss’s argument that the district court should have stayed the case pending registration since Foss had not sought such relief below. The Court also rejected Foss’s argument that dismissal became improper when the failure to register was cured since the [...]

Continue Reading




BLOG EDITORS

STAY CONNECTED

TOPICS

ARCHIVES