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Lost and “Found”: Fourth Circuit Interpretation of Discovery in Support of Foreign Litigation Opens Circuit Split

The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that a corporation that is not physically present in a district is not “found” in the district for purposes of the federal statute that authorizes courts to order discovery for use in a foreign tribunal. In re Eli Lilly and Co., Case No. 22-1094 (4th Cir. 2022) (Niemeyer, Diaz, JJ.; Floyd, Sr. J.) The Court rejected the approach of the Second Circuit, which previously had held that a district court’s power to order discovery under 28 USC § 1782 was coextensive with the minimum contacts inquiry of specific jurisdiction.

After acquiring a patent portfolio related to the psoriasis drug Taltz, Novartis AG sued Eli Lilly for patent infringement in several European courts. Eli Lilly requested discovery from Novartis in the Eastern District of Virginia under § 1782, which authorizes a district court “of the district in which a person resides or is found” to “order him to give his testimony or statement or to produce a document or other thing for use in a proceeding in a foreign or international tribunal.” Novartis is based in Switzerland and has no offices or employees in the Eastern District of Virginia.

Following a magistrate judge’s grant of Eli Lilly’s ex parte application for a discovery subpoena, the district court vacated that order. The Fourth Circuit affirmed, substantially echoing the district court’s reasoning.

There was no dispute that Novartis did not “reside” in the district; the only issue was whether Novartis could be “found” there. The Fourth Circuit considered the plain meaning of “found,” Supreme Court precedent interpreting similar statutory language, and the legislative history of the statute, and held “that a corporation is found where it is physically present by its officers and agents carrying on the corporation’s business.”

The Fourth Circuit rejected Eli Lilly’s counterargument that the satisfaction of specific jurisdiction requirements was sufficient for a corporation to be “found” in a district, including Eli Lilly’s reliance on the 2019 Second Circuit decision in In re del Valle Ruiz, which held that a corporation was “found” wherever it could be subject to specific jurisdiction. The Fourth Circuit concluded that In re del Valle Ruiz failed to give “found” its plain meaning, incorrectly ignored Supreme Court precedent and did not give appropriate weight to the legislative history of § 1782.

Even if the Fourth Circuit had disagreed with the district court’s interpretation of § 1782, the Court would still have affirmed based on the deferential abuse-of-discretion standard. Because § 1782 permits, but does not require, an order of discovery, the Court found that the district court’s determination that to “request[ ] [ ] a substantial volume of data and materials located abroad [to] be brought into the United States for subsequent use in proceedings abroad, [would be] a nonsensical result” was well reasoned.

With this decision, the Fourth Circuit broke with the Second Circuit and created a circuit split in the interpretation of § 1782.

Ian Howard, a summer associate in the Washington, DC, office, also contributed [...]

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The Perils of Falling in Love

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit that sought a declaratory judgment on the basis that a notice of termination of copyright assignment under 17 U.S.C. § 203 did not validly terminate a 1983 grant of rights in the copyright. Valentina M. Peretti Acuti, et al. v. Authentic Brands Group, LLC, et al., Case No. 21-2174 (2d Cir. May 4, 2022) (Livingston, C.J.; Lynch, Lohier, JJ.)

Hugo Peretti co-wrote “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” a ballad popularized by Elvis Presley in 1961, and registered the composition with the US Copyright Office the same year. In 1983, Peretti, his wife and his daughters transferred their contingent rights and interest in the renewal term of the copyright to Julian and Jean Aberbach, predecessors-in-interest to Authentic Brands. Under the Copyright Act of 1976 (1976 Act), the renewal rights would not vest until the original term of the copyright expired in 1989 (28 years after the copyright was registered, under the Copyright Act of 1909, which applied to the initial term of the copyright because of its registration in 1961). Peretti died in 1986, before the renewal rights vested. His family registered the renewal of the copyright in 1989.

In 2014, Peretti’s widow and his daughter Valentina served a notice on Authentic Brands to terminate the 1983 assignment under 17 U.S.C. § 203. Section 203 provides for the right to terminate a grant executed by the author at any time during a five-year period beginning at the end of 35 years from the date of execution of the grant. Authentic Brands contested the effectiveness of the termination, and Valentina filed a lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that the termination was properly effectuated. The district court dismissed the claim, holding that Valentina had no right to terminate the assignment because the rights to the renewal term that were transferred were those of Valentina and her mother, which had vested upon expiration of the original copyright term. The district court held that § 203 provides termination rights only to post-1978 grants executed by an author and, therefore, Peretti’s widow and daughter’s rights to the renewal were not subject to termination under that provision. Valentina appealed.

The Second Circuit began with a discussion of § 203 of the Copyright Act, which applies only to grants executed by the author on or after January 1, 1978. The Court noted that the appeal hinged on the meaning of “executed by the author.” The 1976 Act provides that execution of a transfer of a copyright is not valid unless an instrument of conveyance is in writing and signed by the owner of the rights conveyed. Thus, as the Second Circuit explained, a grant “executed by the author” is a grant that is documented in writing, is signed by the author and conveys rights owned by the author.

Turning to the Peretti 1983 assignment, the Second Circuit explained that at the time the assignment was executed, ownership of the copyright in the composition [...]

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#Blessed? Preliminary Injunction Related to Social Media Accounts Vacated

Addressing a dispute between a bridal designer and her former employer regarding the use of the designer’s name and control of various social media accounts, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s preliminary injunction prohibiting the designer from using her name(s) in commerce, vacated the portion of the preliminary injunction granting the employer exclusive control over the social media accounts and remanded the case for further consideration by the district court. JLM Couture, Inc. v. Gutman, Case No. 21-870 (2d Cir. Jan. 25, 2022) (Park, J.) (Newman, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part) (Lynch, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part).

Hayley Paige Gutman worked for JLM Couture from 2011 to 2020, during which time she designed bridal and bridesmaid dresses and developed the Hayley Paige brand. Hayley Paige brand apparel generated hundreds of millions of dollars in sales, and Gutman’s fame (and social media account followers) grew alongside the brand’s sales revenue. Gutman and JLM’s relationship began to break down in 2019. Following the parties’ failed contract negotiations, Gutman locked JLM out of her Instagram account and changed the account bio to indicate that it was a “personal and creative” account.

JLM subsequently sued Gutman for breach of contract, trademark dilution, unfair competition, conversion of social media accounts and trespass to chattels on social media accounts, among other things. The district court agreed with JLM that Gutman had breached the contract but declined to decide “whether JLM had shown a likelihood of success on its conversion and trespass claims or opine on the ‘novel’ and ‘nuanced’ question of who owns the [social media accounts].” The district court granted a temporary restraining order and then a preliminary injunction barring Gutman from changing, using and/or controlling the social media accounts and using the names “Hayley,” “Paige,” “Hayley Paige Gutman,” “Hayley Gutman,” “Hayley Paige” or any derivate thereof (collectively, the designer’s name) in commerce. Gutman appealed.

Gutman argued that the district court erred in concluding that she likely breached the noncompete and name-rights provisions of the employment contract, that JLM’s breach of the contract prohibited it from seeking injunctive relief and that the social media accounts should not have been assigned to JLM. The Second Circuit rejected Gutman’s contract-related arguments and disagreed with the proffered alternative interpretations of the text, concluding that the district court did not err in prohibiting Gutman from any use of the designer’s name in commerce. With respect to the social media accounts, however, the Court held that the preliminary injunction was overbroad because “the character of the district court’s relief—a grant of perpetual, unrestricted, and exclusive control throughout the litigation—sounds in property, not in contract. Yet the district court disclaimed any effort to ground the [preliminary injunction] on its evaluation of the ownership question.” The Court concluded it was “unclear on what basis the district court excluded Gutman from using the Disputed Accounts and granted total control to JLM.” Thus, the Court remanded the case for the district [...]

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Change the Look of the Room: Appeal Transferred to Federal Circuit

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit transferred an appeal of a preliminary injunction enjoining alleged copyright and trademark infringement to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit because the operative complaint included six counts of patent infringement and thus arose under patent law. Hudson Furniture, Inc. et al. v. Lighting Design Wholesalers Inc., Case No. 20-3299 (2d Cir. Dec. 21, 2021) (Livingston, CJ; Kearse, Lee, JJ.) (per curiam).

Hudson filed a complaint against Lighting Design alleging patent, trademark and copyright infringement. The district court granted Hudson’s preliminary injunction and enjoined Lighting Design from alleged infringement of Hudson’s copyrights and trademarks. The district court also denied Lighting Design’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and its motion for reconsideration permitting alternative service of process. Lighting Design appealed the rulings to the Second Circuit.

Hudson asked the Second Circuit to dismiss the appeal, arguing that the appeal arose from a complaint involving patent law claims and thus fell under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal Circuit. Under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1292 and 1295, the Federal Circuit has exclusive jurisdiction over interlocutory appeals involving any action that arises under any act of US Congress relating to patents. An action arises under patent law when a well-pleaded complaint establishes that (1) federal law creates the cause of action or (2) the plaintiff’s right to relief necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question of federal patent law.

The Second Circuit agreed that exclusive jurisdiction rested with the Federal Circuit, explaining that the operative complaint included six counts of patent infringement, and the appeal concerned the district court’s ruling on a motion for injunctive relief involving patent law and non-patent law claims. The Court rejected Lighting Design’s argument that patent law did not constitute a substantial part of the overall success of the case since Hudson failed to secure preliminary injunctive related to the patent law claims. The Court explained that Lighting Design’s argument focused on only the second basis for Federal Circuit jurisdiction (whether the right to relief depends on a “substantial question” related to patent law). The Court found that even if it accepted Lighting Design’s argument, the fact that federal patent law created the cause of action was sufficient to establish Federal Circuit jurisdiction under the first basis of jurisdiction. While the Second Circuit agreed with Hudson, it declined to dismiss the appeal and instead opted to transfer the appeal to the Federal Circuit because the original appeal was timely filed in good faith and transferring the appeal was in the interest of justice.




Oh the Horror: No Work for Hire in Friday the 13th Screenplay

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a summary judgment grant, ruling that an author was an independent contractor when writing the screenplay for a horror film and entitled to authorship rights, and therefore entitled to exercise his copyright § 203 termination right. Horror Inc. v. Miller, Case No. 18-3123 (2d Cir. Sept. 30, 2021) (Carney, J.)

Victor Miller is an author who has written numerous novels, screenplays and teleplays. Sean Cunningham is a producer, director and writer of feature films and is the general partner of Manny Company. Miller and Cunningham were close friends who began working together around 1976 and collaborated on five motion pictures in their first five years working together. Miller was a member of the Writers Guild of America, East (WGA) and was a signatory of their Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA), which was the collective bargaining agreement at the time.

In 1979, the success of the horror film Halloween inspired Cunningham to produce a horror film. Cunningham reached out to Miller and they orally agreed that Miller would write the screenplay for their upcoming project. The two came to an agreement using the WGA standard form. Miller then began developing the screenplay and the two worked closely together in discussing ideas for the film. Miller picked his working hours but was responsible for completing drafts based on the production schedule of the film. Cunningham had no right to assign additional works to Miller beyond the screenplay.

The dispute concerns whether, for Copyright Act purposes, Miller was an employee or independent contractor of Manny Company, of which Cunningham was the general partner. Cunningham argued that he taught Miller the key elements of a successful horror film, that he gave significant contributions and that he had final authority over what ended up in the screenplay. Miller agreed that Cunningham gave notes but stated that Cunningham never dictated what he wrote. The parties agreed that Cunningham did provide the ideas for making the movie killings “personal,” that the killer remain masked and that they kill a major character early. Miller received “sole ‘written by’ credit” as the screenwriter.

Horror Inc. (successor to Georgetown Horror) financed the project and was given complete control over the screenplay and film. Manny assigned its rights in the film and screenplay to Horror, which registered the copyrights. In the registration, Horror was listed as the film’s work made for hire author with a credit given to Miller for the screenplay. The initial film was a huge hit and has spawned 11 sequels.

In 2016, Miller attempted to reclaim his copyright ownership by invoking his termination rights under 17 U.S.C. § 203 and served notices of termination to Manny and Horror. The two responded by suing Miller and seeking a declaration that the screenplay was a “work for hire,” and therefore Miller could not give a valid termination notice. The district court granted summary judgment to Miller, stating that Miller was the author as he did not prepare the screenplay as [...]

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Not on My Watch: Disclosure of Restored Goods’ Source Obviates Consumer Confusion

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a ruling that a defendant’s use of a mark in connection with the sale of used goods did not create consumer confusion, finding that the district court adequately analyzed the relevant Polaroid factors and did not erroneously apply the 1947 Champion Spark Plug case. Hamilton Int’l Ltd. v. Vortic, LLC, Case No. 20-3369 (2d Cir. Sept. 14. 2021) (Cronan, J.)

Vortic is a watchmaker that specializes in the restoration and conversion of antique pocket watches into wristwatches. Hamilton International brought a trademark infringement suit against Vortic based on a watch that Vortic sold called the “The Lancaster.” The Lancaster name pays homage to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which is where the Hamilton Watch Company was originally located. The watch was made with restored “Railroad-Era” movements (the internal mechanism of the watch with the hands and face attached) that were originally produced by Hamilton. The Hamilton mark could be seen both on the antique face of the watch and through the see-through back on the internal workings. Vortic’s mark, as well as “The Lancaster” and a serial number, were located on a ring on the rear of the watch.

The district court focused on the Polaroid factors in its likelihood of consumer confusion analysis and on the issue of disclosure under Champion. The district court found that Vortic’s labeling and disclosure were compliant with Champion, that there was no evidence of actual confusion or bad faith and that the buyers of these antique watches were sophisticated purchasers. The district court found no likelihood of confusion and entered judgment for Vortic on all claims. Hamilton appealed.

The main issue on appeal was whether the district court erred in finding no likelihood of consumer confusion. To show a likelihood of consumer confusion, “[a] plaintiff must show ‘a probability of confusion, not a mere possibility’ affecting ‘numerous ordinary prudent purchasers.’”

The Second Circuit considered the district court’s application of Champion. In that case, the Supreme Court determined that keeping the “Champion” logo on refurbished spark plugs would not mislead consumers as the plugs were originally Champion plugs and had the terms “Repaired” or “Used” stamped on them, which provided full disclosure. The Court explained that the lesson from Champion is that when a refurbished “genuine product” is resold, “the seller’s disclosures and the extent of a product’s modifications are significant factors to consider” in any infringement analysis.

Hamilton argued that the repair of the Hamilton parts that went into The Lancaster was so extensive that Champion should not have been applied. The Second Circuit disagreed, noting that the only modification to the original movement was a replacement lever, and that it was clear to consumers that The Lancaster was an “antique pocket watch modified into a wristwatch rather than an entirely new product.”

Hamilton also unsuccessfully argued that the district court erred by not first using the Polaroid factors before turning to the Champion analysis. The Second Circuit explained that since the plaintiff bears the burden [...]

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Second Circuit: Supreme Court Google Precedent Doesn’t Alter Copyright Law’s Fair Use Analysis

Addressing fair use as an affirmative defense to copyright infringement, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit amended its recent opinion, reversing a district court’s summary judgment in favor of fair use. The Court did not change its original judgment but took the opportunity to address the recent Supreme Court of the United States precedent in Google v. Oracle. The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. v. Lynn Goldsmith, Lynn Goldsmith, Ltd., Docket No. 19-2420-cv (2d Cir., Aug. 24, 2021) (Lynch, J.) (Jacobs, J., concurring).

Lynn Goldsmith and Lynn Goldsmith, Ltd. (collectively, LGL) appealed from a district court judgment that granted summary judgment to The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. (AWF) on its complaint for a declaratory judgment of fair use and dismissing defendants-appellants’ counterclaim for copyright infringement. The Second Circuit reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

In 1984, LGL’s agency licensed her 1981 photograph of Prince to Vanity Fair for use as an artist reference for creating a rendering of Prince to accompany Vanity Fair‘s profile of the artist. What LGL did not learn until more than 30 years later, shortly after Prince’s untimely death, was that the artist commissioned by Vanity Fair to create the Prince drawing was Andy Warhol and that Warhol had used the photograph to create an additional 15 silkscreen prints and illustrations, known as the Prince Series. In 2017, LGL notified AWF, as the successor to Warhol’s copyright in the Prince Series, of her claims of copyright infringement. AWF responded with a lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that the Prince Series works were non-infringing, or, in the alternative, qualified as fair use of LGL’s photograph. LGL countersued for infringement. Relying on the Second Circuit’s 2013 holding in the copyright case Cariou v. Prince, the district court granted summary judgment to AWF, agreeing with its assertion of fair use and considering the Warhol work to be “transformative” of the original.

LGL’s appeal required the Second Circuit to consider the four fair use factors under §107 of the Copyright Act:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.

In its March 2021 opinion, the Second Circuit rejected AWF’s fair use defense, concluding that the Prince Series was not transformative and substantially similar to LGL’s original photograph.

After the Second Circuit’s initial disposition of the appeal, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Google LLC v. Oracle America, Inc., which discussed the four fair use factors as applied to a computer programming language and found that Google’s copying of certain Oracle application programming interfaces (APIs) “to create new products . . . [and] expand the use [...]

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Second Circuit Rejects FTC Challenge of 1-800 Contacts, Highlighting Procompetitive Trademark Policy

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated a final order of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which had found that agreements to refrain from bidding on keyword search terms for internet advertisements violated Section 5 of the FTC Act. The Court made clear that although trademark agreements are not necessarily immune from antitrust scrutiny, they are entitled to significant deference. 1-800 Contacts, Inc. v. Federal Trade Commission, Case No. 18-3848 (2d Cir. June 11, 2021) (Per Curium). The Second Circuit held that the FTC applied an incorrect analytical framework and incorrectly concluded that the agreements were an unfair method of competition under the FTC Act.

1-800 Contacts and its competitors advertise online through search advertising. They bid on search engine keywords, which help display their websites in response to consumer searches. They also bid on negative keywords, which prevent their ads from being displayed when consumers search for specified terms.

Between 2004 and 2013, 1-800 Contacts entered into a series of settlement agreements to resolve trademark disputes with competitors, as well as one commercial agreement with a competitor, all of which included terms prohibiting the parties from using each other’s trademarks, URLs and similar terms as search advertising keywords. The agreements also required the parties to use negative keywords so that a search including one party’s trademarks would not trigger a display of the other party’s ads. 1-800 Contacts enforced these agreements when it believed them to be breached.

The FTC challenged the agreements, alleging that they “unreasonably restrain truthful, non-misleading advertising as well as price competition in search advertising auctions,” violating Section 5 of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. § 45. An administrative law judge (ALJ) subsequently found the agreements to violate Section 5. 1-800 Contacts appealed to the full Commission, which affirmed the ALJ’s decision. 1-800 Contacts appealed.

The Second Circuit vacated the FTC’s decision but noted that the FTC was correct to reject 1-800 Contacts’ argument that trademark settlement agreements are necessarily immune from antitrust scrutiny. Citing the Supreme Court decision in Actavis, the Second Circuit held, “the mere fact that an agreement implicates intellectual property rights does not immunize an agreement from antitrust attack.”

The Second Circuit disagreed with the FTC’s specific antitrust analysis, however. The Court held that the FTC erred by applying an “inherently suspect” analysis—also known as a “quick-look” analysis—rather than the rule of reason. The Court focused on the fact that “the restraints at issue here could plausibly be thought to have a net procompetitive effect because they are derived from trademark settlement agreements,” and the fact that the FTC acknowledged as much by finding that the company’s justifications were “cognizable and, at least, facially plausible.” The Second Circuit also noted that courts have limited experience with these types of agreements. The Court concluded that “[w]hen, as here, not only are there cognizable procompetitive justifications but also the type of restraint has not been widely condemned in our judicial experience . . . . [w]e are bound . . [...]

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Street Art Street Smarts: Second Circuit Applies VARA, Affirms Moral Rights

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed that plaintiffs-appellees’ temporary artwork had achieved appropriate stature to be protected by the rarely invoked Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA), and that an award of statutory damages was warranted for defendants-appellants’ willful unlawful actions. Jonathan Cohen, et al. v. G&M Realty L.P., et al., Case Nos. 18-498, -538 (2nd Cir. Feb. 20, 2020) (Parker, J).

VARA established a structure of moral rights that gives the author of a work of visual art the right to “prevent any destruction of a work of recognized stature,” and provides that “any intentional or grossly negligent destruction of that work is a violation” of VARA. The act also contains specific language prohibiting the removal or destruction of artwork incorporated into a building absent certain written waivers or notice provisions, which are detailed in the statute.

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