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Case Summaries


[12/08] Howeth v. Coffelt
Dismissing an appeal in a case where neighbors who shared a driveway couldn't peacefully enjoy their easement and sued each other, resulting in a settlement agreement that stipulated to the entry of a judgment to resolve the lawsuit and purporting to allow the parties to collect a fine for refusal to comply because the court's determination that it lacked jurisdiction to enforce the fine in a filing made on the original action because a consent judgment, such as occurs pursuant to a settlement agreement, is not appealable.

[12/05] ITV Gurney Holding, Inc. v. Gurney
Reversing the trial court's order reinstating the Gurneys, the producers of Duck Dynasty, to positions managing the day-to-day operations of the plaintiff company that they once owned and are the minority owners of, who had been fired from their roles as CEOs and removed from management, because the very operating agreement the Gurneys said gave them authority to manage actually gave the company, through its board, the ultimate authority and allowed them to remove the Gurneys from management, but affirming the preliminary injunction allowing them to continue as board members and barring the company from infringing their rights in that position.

[12/04] Joyce v. Maersk Line, LTD.
Affirming the decision enforcing a rate of unearned wages set forth in a collective bargaining agreement between a former employee and member of the Seafarers International Union against their prior ship, reversing the circuit's own precedent to hold that a union contract freely entered into by a seafarer will not be reviewed piecemeal by courts unless there is evidence of unfairness in the collective bargaining process.

[11/30] State Farm General Insurance Company v. Watts Regulator Co.
Affirming the trial court's denial of defendant's motion to compel arbitration in a case where the parties had signed an arbitration agreement with a third party many years prior that hadn't included product liability claims at the time, but was amended to include such suits in the intervening period because there was no vested right to arbitration where the parties agreed to the contractual terms and rules determined by a third party.

[11/29] R.W.L. Enterprises v. Oldcastle, Inc.
Reversing a trial court order granting a motion for attorney fees in a breach of contract suit because, although a later agreement between the parties did include an attorney fees provision, the contract that provided the basis for the suit lacked such a clause and the court erred in construing the two instruments together.

[11/28] Hutcheson v. Eskaton Fountainwood Lodge
Affirming the trial court's denial of a motion by a residential care facility to compel arbitration because the attorney-in-fact's decision to admit their ward to an elder care facility was a health care decision that they were not authorized to undertake, rendering the facility's arbitration clause unenforceable.

[11/27] Daewoo Electronics America, Inc. v. Opta Corporation
Reversing the district court dismissal of claims to recover unpaid debt from four entities affiliated with a company that had purchased DVD players from them because a New Jersey summary judgment ruling on a prior breach of contract claim did not preclude the company from bringing alter ego and successor liability claims, New Jersey's res judicata laws did not apply to a claim arising from a different transaction than the one that was the subject of the other suit, and the state's 'entire controversy doctrine' did not bar the claims from being heard in federal court in California.

[11/21] Laboratory Specialists International, Inc. v. Shimadzu Scientific Instruments, Inc.
Affirming the district court's dismissal of a lawsuit pursuant to the forum selection clause in the parties' contract because there was no procedural error and the court did not err in dismissing the plaintiff's tort claims or by refusing to conduct an analysis under discretionary forum non conveniens factors.

[11/16] Best Auto Repair Shop, Inc. v. Universal Insurance Group
Affirming the district court's grant of summary judgment dismissing the plaintiff's claims in the case alleging that insurance companies had unlawfully interfered with the plaintiff's right to make or enforce existing and prospective contracts with their insureds or third party claimants by excluding a repair shop and because the owner is black and Dominican because issues were waived or improperly pleaded.

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Corporation & Enterprise Law

[12/05] ITV Gurney Holding, Inc. v. Gurney
Reversing the trial court's order reinstating the Gurneys, the producers of Duck Dynasty, to positions managing the day-to-day operations of the plaintiff company that they once owned and are the minority owners of, who had been fired from their roles as CEOs and removed from management, because the very operating agreement the Gurneys said gave them authority to manage actually gave the company, through its board, the ultimate authority and allowed them to remove the Gurneys from management, but affirming the preliminary injunction allowing them to continue as board members and barring the company from infringing their rights in that position.

[12/04] In Re Irving Tanning Company
Affirming bankruptcy court and district court rulings that a transaction involving the debt-financed purchase of a family owned leather manufacturer was not a fraudulent conveyance and did not amount to a violation of the fiduciary duties of the company's directors because the factual determinations were not clearly erroneous and supported the court's conclusions.

[11/15] Central Laborers Pension Fund v. McAfee, Inc.
Affirming the trial court's summary judgment as to nine outside directors of McAfee in a class action corporate malfeasance case relating to the company's merger with Intel in which former public shareholders alleged an unfair process contaminated by conflicts that resulted in an undervalued price at sale, but reversing the judgment as to the former CEO and the corporate defendants

[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.

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[11/16] Twentieth Century Fox Television v. Empire Distribution, Inc.
Affirming the district court's summary judgment in favor of Fox, holding that their use of the name 'Empire' was protected by the First Amendment and therefore was outside of the reach of the Lanham Act and their use of the word as a show title did not infringe on a record label's trademark rights.

[10/26] Dan Farr Productions v. San Diego Comic Convention
Ordering the district court to vacate orders prohibiting the petitioner from expressing their views on litigation or republishing public documents over social media platforms, and requiring them to post a disclaimer prohibiting comment on the litigation because this amounted to prior restraint on their First Amendment rights.

[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.

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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

[12/04] Marathon Petroleum Corporation v. Secretary of Finance for the State of Delaware
Reversing the district court's conclusion that private parties cannot invoke federal common law to challenge a state's authority to escheat property, but holding that the case was not ripe for judgment and vacating the prior order of dismissal for its reentry as a dismissal without prejudice to permit the claim's pursuit at a later time, if appropriate.

[12/04] Gonzalez v. City of Norwalk
Affirming the trial court's grant of a demurrer without leave to amend in the case of plaintiffs complaining about a tax applied to phone service because the ordinance did not violate Propositions barring local governments from imposing taxes without voter approval because changes to the law did not impose, extend, or increase tax and only made a technical change.

[11/28] City of Fontana v. California Department of Tax and Fee Administration
Reversing a trial court order reallocating local sales tax that had been remitted to Cities A and B to City C, a decision that had overturned the decision of the State Board of Equalization, because it is within the Board's authority to determine where sales of personal property occur and designate the municipality that will receive any tax collected by the Board and the decision was within the Board's administrative expertise and discretionary authority to make such a determination.

[11/09] San Diegans for Open Government v. Public Facilities Financing Authority of the City of San Diego
Reversing the trial court's dismissal of a plaintiff's complaint because plaintiff taxpayers had standing under Government Code section 1092 to challenge a municipal ordinance authorizing the issuance of bonds to refinance the defendant's obligations with respect to the construction of a baseball park on the grounds that participants in the proposed transaction violated conflict of interest provisions of the law.

[11/09] Hewlett Packard Company and Consolidated Subsidiaries v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue
Affirming the tax court's decision on a petition for redetermination of federal income tax deficiencies that turned on whether an investment by HP could be treated as equity they could claim as foreign tax credits because the tax court did not err in characterizing HP's investment as a debt or in determining that HP's purported capital loss was actually a fee paid for a tax shelter, and was therefore ineligible for deduction.

[11/03] Clemens v. Qwest Corp.
In a labor and employment action, the district court's order denying an adjustment in plaintiff's damages award from a successful discrimination suit, to account for increased tax liabilities from his lump-sum back-pay award, is vacated and remanded where district courts may, at their discretion, 'gross up' a lump-sum payment in employment discrimination suits to account for a prevailing employee's resulting increased tax liability.

[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.

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