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Case Summaries


[09/26] Sargon Enterprises, Inc. v. Browne George Ross LLP
Reversing in part the trial court's confirmation of an arbitrator determination that a legal malpractice claim had been barred by an earlier release of claims entered into by the parties and that the filing of a malpractice action in superior court resulted in a breach of contract because the arbitrator erred in finding that an arbitration agreement included a promise to forego litigation because the plaintiff had a statutory right under the California Arbitration Act to seek a preliminary determination of arbitrability from a court.

[09/25] Mission Beverage Company v. Pabst Brewing Company, LLC
Affirming the trial court's denial of a beer brewer's motion to strike a complaint filed by a distributor who alleged breach of contract in the termination of their distribution agreement because the cancellation of a contract that is expected to be followed by negotiation and possibly arbitration doesn't qualify as protected activity under the anti-strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) statute and the ousted distributor's suit did not lack minimal merit on account of its termination and compensation clauses.

[09/25] Mission Beverage Company v. Pabst Brewing Company, LLC
Affirming the trial court's denial of a beer brewer's motion to strike a complaint filed by a distributor who alleged breach of contract in the termination of their distribution agreement because the cancellation of a contract that is expected to be followed by negotiation and possibly arbitration doesn't qualify as protected activity under the anti-strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) statute and the ousted distributor's suit did not lack minimal merit on account of its termination and compensation clauses.

[09/15] Dowling v. Pension Plan for Salaried Employees of Union Pacific Corporation and Affiliates
Affirming the decision of a retirement plan administrator, affirmed by the district court, interpreting an ambiguous retirement plan who provided the plaintiff with a lower monthly retirement payment than was expected because the ambiguousness of the document granted the administrator the discretion to interpret its terms and the existence of a conflict of interest did not result in a heightened standard of review.

[09/15] Sharp Image Gaming Inc v. Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians
Reversing a decision for the plaintiff after trial in a breach of contract action relating to a deal to develop a casino on tribal lands because the contractual claims were preempted by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction.

[09/14] In Re: J.T. Thorpe
Vacating and remanding the district court's decision to enforce a settlement agreement between a Trust whose agents sought to have an attorney debarred and the attorney when, after executing the settlement agreement, the lawyer decided that it was unlawful and refused to comply with its terms because contractual clauses involving restraints on trade are void pursuant to California Business and Professions Code.

[09/14] In Re: CWS Enterprises
Affirming the judgment of the state court confirming the arbitration award of contingency fees in the case of a party who sought to avoid the judgment by creating spinoff companies and entering into bankruptcy proceedings where the bankruptcy court's use of the lodestar method to determine the reasonableness of the attorney fees claimed because the contract that provided for these fees was not unreasonable or unconscionable.

[09/12] Campidoglio LLC v. Wells Fargo and Company
In a case alleging the miscalculation of interest on loans the court determined that the Home Owners' Loan Act (HOLA) does not preempt common law breach of contract claims, affirmed that summary judgment for the defendant loan provider was appropriate as it related to the use of unapproved indexes because the lenders gave notice to their primary regulators of the intent to change indexes and there was no objection, affirmed the denial of the borrower's motion for discovery sanctions because there was no prejudice resulting from the ruling, and vacated the denial of attorneys' fees pursuant to the HOLA ruling.

[09/11] Zuber v. Boscov's
Reversing and remanding the district court's decision that a Compromise and Release Agreement during the settlement of workers' compensation claims resulted in a waiver of the right to assert claims under the Family and Medical Leave Act and Pennsylvania common law because the plain meaning of the language used in the release suggested that it was not intended to cover such claims.

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Corporation & Enterprise Law

[07/24] Kass v. City of New York
Reversing the district court's denial of the defendant police officer's motion for judgment on the pleadings and dismissing the remainder of the appeal in a case alleging false arrest and imprisonment because there was evidence the officers had probable cause for the arrest and they are entitled to qualified immunity under New York law.

[06/29] DuQuesne Light Holdings, Inc. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue
Affirming the Tax Court's application of the Ilfield doctrine in holding that the double deduction for losses incurred by the subsidiary of a company was improper and disallowing $199 million of those losses.

[06/13] Norman v. Elkin
In a communications company's partnership dispute, arising out of the transfer of partnership assets without compensation, the district court's judgment is: 1) affirmed on alternative grounds the decision to enter summary judgment in defendant's favor on the claim of fraud; and 2) vacated as to judgment in defendant's favor on plaintiff's remaining claims where the District Court erred in concluding that tolling of the statute of limitations is categorically inappropriate when a plaintiff has inquiry notice before initiating a books and records action in the Delaware courts.

[06/07] Seaview Trading, LLC v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue
In a petition challenging a notice of Final Partnership Administrative Adjustment, the Tax Court?s dismissal, for lack of jurisdiction, is affirmed where: 1) because plaintiff contended that his business entity was a small partnership not subject to the audit procedures under the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (TEFRA), entities that are disregarded for federal tax purposes may nevertheless constitute pass-thru partners under 26 U.S.C. section 6231(a)(9), such that the small-partnership exception under section 6231 does not apply and the partnership is therefore subject to the TEFRA audit procedures; 2) resolution of this question iss inextricably intertwined with the contention that plaintiff had standing to file a petition for readjustment of partnership items on behalf of his purported small partnership; and 3) as to standing, because a party other than plaintiff's entity's tax matters partner filed a petition for readjustment of partnership items after the partnership had timely done the same, the Tax Court lacked jurisdiction under 26 U.S.C. section 6226.

[04/25] F5 Capital v. Pappas
In a a shareholder derivative action on behalf of a company, alleging that individual members of the company's board and affiliated entities improperly exploited their control of the corporation in entering into three separate self-dealing transactions, the district court's dismissal of the complaint, concluding that the dilution claim was properly derivative under Delaware law and that plaintiff failed to plead demand futility under Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 23.1(b)(3)(B), as to any of the claims, is affirmed where: 1) plaintiff's dilution claim was properly derivative, not direct; 2) the district court had subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the non-class, derivative claims; and 3) plaintiff did not allege facts sufficient to excuse it from making a pre-suit demand.

[04/12] Applied Medical Corporation v. Thomas
In a corporate governance action, arising from plaintiff corporation's suit over the exercise of its right to repurchase shares of its stock, given to defendant under a stock incentive plan for outside directors on its board, the trial court's grant of summary judgment to defendant is: 1) reversed because plaintiff's conversion claim could be based on either ownership or the right to possession at the time of conversion; and 2) affirmed because plaintiff's fraud claims were not timely under either the discovery rule or relation back doctrine, and thus barred by the statute of limitations.

[04/06] Stein v. AXIS Ins. Co.
In an action against two insurance companies, brought by a plaintiff-insured who was denied coverage under a D&O policy because he was convicted of securities fraud, the trial court's judgment sustaining defendants' demurrer and dismissing the complaint is: 1) affirmed in part where the AXIS demurrer was properly sustained because AXIS was a stranger to the HCC policy and owed no duties connected with it; but 2) reversed in part where the HCC demurrer was improperly sustained because when a policy expressly provides coverage for litigation expenses on appeal, an exclusion requiring repayment to the insurer upon a 'final determination' of the insured's culpability applies only after the insured's direct appeals have been exhausted.

[03/28] Charney v. Standard General
In a suit brought by the former CEO of American Apparel whose employment was terminated following an investigation into allegations that he engaged in various types of misconduct, alleging several causes of action rooted in plaintiff's claim that the press release announcing his termination contained false and defamatory information about him, the trial court's grant of defendant's order granting an anti-SLAPP motion, Code Civ. Proc. section 425.16, is affirmed where plainitiff did not satisfy his burden of showing there was a minimal chance his claims would succeed at trial.

[03/24] Tract No. 7260 Assn. v. Parker
In an action brought by a member of a nonprofit mutual benefit corporation to inspect the corporation's membership list, and other books and records, the trial court's denial of the plaintiff's petition for writ of mandate to compel inspection, on grounds that the member sought the inspection for an improper purpose, unrelated to his interest as a member of the corporation, and findings that the corporation did not timely challenge the request for the membership list as required by statute, and therefore ordered the list disclosed, is affirmed in part and reversed in part where: 1) substantial evidence supports the trial court?s finding that the member sought the information for an improper purpose; and 2) the corporation's challenge to disclosing the membership list was not barred by statute.

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[08/08] In Re I.Am.Symbolic, LLC
Affirming the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board's affirmation of a US Patent and Trademark Office attorney's refusal to register the appellant's trademark on the ground of the likelihood of confusion with registered marks because the Board did not err in its determination of the likelihood of confusion.

[07/27] Earnhardt v. Earnhardt
Vacating and remanding the decision that the trademark in 'EARNHARDT COLLECTION' was not primarily a surname because it was unclear whether the Board applied the reasoning in In re Hutchinson Technology, Inc. case to determine whether the word collection was merely descriptive of the services offered and what the primary significance of the mark as a whole was to the general public.

[07/17] Parks LLC v. Tyson Foods, Inc.
Affirming a summary judgment to the defendant Tyson Foods in a dispute involving their use of the word 'Parks' in reference to hotdogs where the plaintiff once held trademark on this word's use to sell hotdogs until it failed to renew the trademark in the early 2000's.

[07/11] Stone Creek, Inc. v. Omnia Italian Design, Inc.
Affirming that a 1999 amendment to trademark statutes did not eliminate the plaintiff's requirement that they establish wilfulness to justify the award of defendant's profits in a trademark infringement case, but reversing the holding that the defendant's mark was not likely to cause confusion and remanding for inquiry into intent.

[07/07] Marketquest Group, Inc. v. BIC Corp.
Reversing the district court's summary judgment to the defendants in a trademark infringement suit, finding that genuine issues of material fact existed regarding whether defendant's use of 'all-in-one' was protected by the fair use defense and that the district court erred in applying fair use analysis after determining that plaintiff presented no evidence of likely confusion.

[06/19] Matal v. Tam
In a trademark case in which the lead singer of the rock group 'The Slants' chose this moniker in order to 'reclaim' the term and drain its denigrating force as a derogatory term for Asian persons, and then sought federal registration of the mark 'THE SLANTS,' the en banc Federal Circuit's judgment overruling The Patent and Trademark Office (PTO)'s denial of the application under the Lanham Act's disparagement clause, is affirmed where: 1) the disparagement clause applies to marks that disparage the members of a racial or ethnic group; and 2) the disparagement clause violates the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause.

[05/24] Joseph Phelps Vineyards, LLC v. Fairmount Holdings, LLC
In a petition for cancellation of a trademark, brought by the owner of the INSIGNIA mark used to sell wines since 1978 against the registrant of the ALEC BRADLEY STAR INSIGNIA mark used for cigars and cigar products, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board's denial of the petition is vacated and remanded for reconsideration where: 1) the Board erred in its legal analysis, in analyzing the 'fame' of INSIGNIA wine as an all-or-nothing factor, and discounting it entirely in reaching the conclusion of no likelihood of confusion as to source, contrary to law and precedent; and 2) as a result of this error, the Board did not properly apply the totality of the circumstances standard, which requires considering all the relevant factors on a scale appropriate to their merits.

[05/16] Elliot v. Google, Inc.
In an action under the Lanham Act, seeking cancellation of the GOOGLE trademark on the ground that it is generic, the district court's summary judgment in favor of defendant Google is affirmed where: 1) a claim of genericness or 'genericide,' where the public appropriates a trademark and uses it as a generic name for particular types of goods or services irrespective of its source, must be made with regard to a particular type of good or service; 2) the district court thus correctly focused on internet search engines rather than the 'act' of searching the internet; and 3) the verb use of the word 'google' to mean 'search the internet,' as opposed to adjective use, did not automatically constitute generic use.

[05/05] Grayson O Co. v. Agadir Int'l LLC
In a trademark and unfair competition action brought by a haircare product manufacturer and holder of a registered trademark against a competitor haircare product manufacturer, the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant is affirmed where plaintiff failed to show the marks were likely to be confused.

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Trade Secrets

[09/13] Waymo v. Uber
Dismissing the appeal of a district court's denial of an application for writ of mandamus seeking to avoid the production of a report produced at the direction of counsel in a case involving the alleged theft of driverless vehicle technology where attorney-client and work-product privilege were claimed because alternative means of relief were available, the petitioner could not establish a clear and indisputable right to mandamus relief, and the district court properly determined that privilege did not apply to the discovery document at issue.

[06/05] E.J. Brooks Co. v. Cambridge Sec. Seals
In a suit for misappropriation of trade secrets, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment under New York law, the district court's judgment is affirmed as it relates to defendant's liability but deferred pending the resolution of two questions certified to the New York Court of Appeals.

[02/14] Organik Kimya v. Int'l Trade Comm'n
In a case involves trade secrets relating to opaque polymers, which are hollow spheres used as paint additives for interior and exterior paints to increase the paint's opacity, the International Trade Commission's (ITC) decision, imposing default judgment sanctions for spoliation of evidence and entering a limited exclusion order against plaintiff, is affirmed where the Commission did not abuse its discretion in entering default judgment as a sanction for plaintiff's spoliation of evidence and further did not abuse its discretion in entering the limited exclusion order.

[11/24] Richtek USA v. uPI Semiconductor Corp.
In a trademark secrets and employment case arising out of the formation of defendant uPI Semiconductors by employees of plaintiff Richtek, the sustaining of defendants' demurrer is reversed where the trial court improperly took judicial notice of the substantive allegations contained in two 2007 court complaints filed in Taiwan to resolve factual disputes in the case.

[04/28] Cypress Semiconductor Corp. v. Maxim Integrated Products, Inc.
Award of attorney fees to defendant in an underlying action for misappropriation of trade secret by seeking to hire away plaintiff's employees, is affirmed where: 1) the trial court's findings are free of procedural error; 2) the finding of plaintiff's bad faith is amply supported by evidence that defendants did no more than attempting to recruit the employees of a competitor, which they are entitled to do under California state law; and 3) defendant prevailed when plaintiff dismissed the suit to avoid an adverse determination on the merits.

[12/17] ABB Turbo Systems AG v. TurboUSA, Inc.
In this case, plaintiffs allege that defendants violated state-law torts of misappropriation of trade secrets and engaged in conspiracy to misappropriate trade secrets. Dismissal of the complaint for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted is reversed and remanded for further proceedings, where: 1) the district court relied on judgments about the merits that go beyond what is authorized at the complaint stage; and 2) plaintiffs' specific factual allegations of protective measures taken against trade secret misappropriation are enough to survive a motion to dismiss.

[09/25] uPI Semiconductor Corporation v. ITC
Ruling of the International Trade Commission that respondent-intervenor uPI violated the Consent Order as to the imports known as "formerly accused products" is affirmed, the modified penalty is affirmed, and the ruling of no violation as to the post-Consent Order products is reversed, where: 1) substantial evidence does not support the Commission's conclusion that uPI's post-Consent Order products were independently developed; and 2) the United States sale or importation of downstream products, which incorporate uPI's formerly accused upstream products and infringe the '190 patent, constitutes a violation of the Consent Order's knowingly aiding or abetting provision.

[08/27] Parrish v. Latham & Watkins
In this malicious prosecution action brought by plaintiffs against defendant-attorneys, order granting defendants' anti-SLAPP motion and order granting defendant its attorney fees and costs are reversed, where: 1) the Code of Civil Procedure section 340.6 is not the appropriate statute of limitations for a malicious prosecution action; and 2) plaintiffs have presented sufficient evidence that they otherwise have a probability of prevailing.

[05/08] Altavion, Inc. v. Konica Minolta Systems Laboratory
Judgment for plaintiff finding that defendant had misappropriated plaintiff's trade secrets regarding its digital stamping technology (DST), which was disclosed to defendant during negotiations pursuant to Non-Disclosure Agreement, is affirmed, where: 1) plaintiff did not fail to adequately identify its trade secrets; 2) the trial court did not err in its identification of the misappropriated trade secrets; 3) ideas are protectable as trade secrets; 4) design concepts underlying plaintiff's DST constitute protectable "information"; 5) substantial evidence supports the trial court's finding that plaintiff's DST design concepts had independent economic value and the finding that defendant misappropriated plaintiff's trade secrets; 6) the trial court properly based its damages award on the reasonable royalty measure of damages, and did not err in awarding prejudgment interest; and 7) defendant has not demonstrated the trial court abused its discretion in basing its fee award on local hourly rates or shown the hourly rates employed by the trial court were unreasonable.

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Tax Law

[10/10] JetSuite, Inc. v. County of Los Angeles
Affirming the trial court's denial of a writ petition by an air taxi service seeking to avoid tax liability in Los Angeles because it claimed to be based out of Utah despite spending more than 60 percent of their time in Los Angeles because there was substantial evidence supporting the finding that the company failed to prove that any other state had acquired tax situs over the jets.

[09/27] Luz Solar Partners Ltd. III v. San Bernadino County
Affirming the decision of the Assessment Appeals Board of San Bernadino County relating to the assessed value of real property improved with solar energy generating systems for tax purposes.

[09/26] Hyatt v. Yee
Affirming a district court ruling that the Tax Injunction Act prevents it from enjoining, suspending, or restraining the assessment, levy, or collection of a tax under State law where a plain, speedy, and efficient remedy may be had in state court.

[09/20] US v. Brooks
Modifying orders relating to the conviction of a man for multiple counts of securities fraud, mail and wire fraud, obstruction of justice, and tax offenses because the convict's death resulted in the abatement of the counts of conviction, forfeiture, fine, special assessment , and restitution for offenses contested at trail, but the forfeiture of a bail bond did not abate, nor did the convictions and order of restitution imposed on tax counts.

[08/31] In Re DBSI, Inc.
Affirming decisions by the bankruptcy court and district court that the Congress had unambiguously abrogated sovereign immunity as it relates to actions associated with bankruptcy, an abrogation that extends to derivative 'applicable laws' such as Idaho's Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act and the government could not rely on sovereign immunity to prevent the avoidance of the tax payments at issue.

[08/28] California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland
Affirming a Court of Appeals judgment that article XIII C of the California Constitution, limiting the ability of local governments to tax, does not constrain voter constitutional powers to propose and adopt initiatives or raise taxes by such initiatives in the case of a city ordinance banning medical marijuana dispensaries and requiring an annual licensing and inspection fee of $75,000.

[08/07] Russell City Energy Company, LLC v. City of Hayward
Reversing an order sustaining a city's demurrer without leave to amend and dismissing a complaint to the extent that the order denied the plaintiff leave to amend in an action relating to an agreement between an energy company and a city whose terms may have violated the California Constitution because a quasi-contractual restitution claim would be permitted even if the Payments Clause at issue is unconstitutional.

[07/18] The Container Store v. US
Reversing and remanding the final judgment of the United States Court of International Trade case granting summary judgment to the government because the subject modular storage unit imports were improperly classified as mountings and fittings rather than as parts of unit furniture.

[07/05] Matuszak v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue
Affirming that the issue of the failure to file a petition for innocent spouse relief from IRS actions during the statutorily provided period deprives the Tax Court of jurisdiction to review such a claim.

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