Bain, et al. v. MJJ Productions, Inc., et al., US DC Cir. (05/13/14)
Raymone Bain and her firm filed suit against Michael Jackson and his production company, MJJ Productions, Inc., claiming to be owed substantial sums for various services rendered. Defendants moved to dismiss, relying principally on a December 2007 release agreement where Bain broadly relinquished any claims against Jackson and his business entities. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of MJJ, holding that the release agreement precluded Bain’s claims. Bain moved for relief from judgment under Rule 60(b)(2) five months later. The “newly discovered evidence” cited by Bain was an April 2008 letter from Jackson to Bain, in which Jackson stated that he had no awareness of, and had never signed, the release agreement on which the district court had grounded its grant of summary judgment. The district court held that a movant’s awareness of evidence automatically precludes relief under Rule 60(b)(2), regardless of the evidence’s availability. The court found that to be an unduly constricted understanding of “newly discovered evidence” for purposes of Rule 60(b)(2). The court concluded, however, that the district court committed no abuse of discretion by looking beyond Bain’s efforts in searching her own files and considering whether she mentioned the letter to the court or sought its assistance in locating the evidence. Because Bain failed to exercise reasonable diligence in seeking out the letter, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.
Bickley v. Dish Network, US 6th Cir. (5/13/14)
Banking, Communications Law, Consumer Law
American Satellite, a third party retailer of Dish Network satellite television services, received a call from a potential customer. A woman, who identified herself as “Dickley,” provided what she claimed to be her social security number. In actuality, the number belonged to a man named Bickley. Dickley was an identity thief. The agent entered Dickley’s name and social security number into an interface that connects to credit reporting agencies. Unable to verify the information, American Satellite informed Dickley that her attempt to open an account was declined. Bickley later received a credit report indicating that Dish had made an inquiry on his name. Dish informed him that someone had attempted to open an account in his name, providing a recording of the conversation between the agent and the identity thief. A year later, despite knowing that the inquiry had prevented the theft of his identity, Bickley filed suit under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. 1681b, alleging request and use of his credit report without a “permissible purpose” and sought emotional distress damages. The district court entered summary judgment for Dish, including a counterclaim for abuse of process. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, referring to the conspicuous underdevelopment of key factual detail in Bickley’s complaint and in briefs as “bordering on deceitful” and to the adage that no good deed goes unpunished.
In re: Geller, US Fed Cir. (5/13/14)
In 2010, Geller and Spence filed an intent-to-use application to register the mark STOP THE ISLAMISATION OF AMERICA in connection with “[p]roviding information regarding understanding and preventing terrorism.” The Examining Attorney refused the application on the ground that the mark may be disparaging to American Muslims under the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. 1052(a). The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board affirmed, considering the likely meaning of the mark, and determining that meaning was likely to disparage “a substantial composite of the referenced group.” The Board found the term “Islamisation,” as used in the mark, had two likely meanings: “the conversion or conformance to Islam” (religious meaning) and “a sectarianization of a political society through efforts to ‘make [it] subject to Islamic law’” (political meaning).The Board determined the mark may be disparaging to American Muslims under both meanings. The Federal Circuit affirmed.
Oracle Am., Inc. v. Google Inc., US Fed Cir. (5/9/14)
Intellectual Property, Patents
Sun developed the Java computer programming platform, released in 1996, to eliminate the need for different versions of computer programs for different operating systems or devices. With Java, a programmer could “write once, run anywhere.” The Java virtual machine (JVM) takes source code that has been converted to bytecode and converts it to binary machine code. Oracle wrote 37 packages of computer source code, “application programming interfaces” (API), in the Java language, and licenses them to others for writing “apps” for computers, tablets, smartphones, and other devices. Oracle alleged that Google’s Android mobile operating system infringed Oracle’s patents and copyrights. The jury found no patent infringement, but that Google infringed copyrights in the 37 Java packages and a specific routine, “rangeCheck.” It returned a noninfringement verdict as to eight decompiled security files. The jury deadlocked on Google’s fair use defense. The district court held that the replicated elements of the 37 API packages, including the declaring code and the structure, sequence, and organization, were not subject to copyright and entered final judgment in favor of Google on copyright infringement claims, except with respect to rangeCheck and the eight decompiled files. The Federal Circuit affirmed as to the eight decompiled files that Google copied into Android and rangeCheck. The court reversed in part, finding that the declaring code and the structure, sequence, and organization of the API packages are entitled to copyright protection, and remanded for consideration of fair use.
Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Reg’l Sch. Dist., Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (5/9/14)
Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Education Law
Plaintiffs filed an action alleging that the practice by which the Nation’s pledge of allegiance is recited each morning in Defendants’ public schools violated (1) Plaintiffs’ equal protection rights under the Massachusetts Constitution because the pledge included the words “under God,” and (2) Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 76, 5, which prohibits discrimination in Massachusetts public school education. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants and the intervenors. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the recitation of the pledge, which no student is required to recite, does not violate the Constitution or the statute.
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