Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for ETC in an action brought by InteliClear, alleging that ETC misused its securities trading database. InteliClear alleged claims for trade secret misappropriations under the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) and the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act.The panel held that: (1) there is a triable issue of fact as to whether (a) InteliClear described its alleged trade secrets with sufficient particularity and (b) InteliClear has shown that parts of the InteliClear System are secret; and (2) the district court abused its discretion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d) by issuing its summary judgment ruling before discovery occurred. View "InteliClear, LLC v. ETC Global Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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Oracle, owner of the proprietary Solaris software operating system, filed suit alleging that HPE improperly accessed, downloaded, copied, and installed Solaris patches on servers not under an Oracle support contract. Oracle asserted direct copyright infringement claims for HPE's direct support customers, and indirect infringement claims for joint HPE-Terix customers. The district court granted summary judgment for HPE.The Ninth Circuit held that the copyright infringement claim is subject to the Copyright Act's three year statute of limitations, which runs separately for each violation. The panel explained that Oracle's constructive knowledge triggered the statute of limitations and Oracle failed to conduct a reasonable investigation into the suspected infringement. The panel also held that the intentional interference with prospective economic advantage claim is barred by California's two year statute of limitations. Therefore, the panel affirmed the district court's partial summary judgment for HPE on the infringement and intentional interference claims. The panel also affirmed in part summary judgment on the indirect infringement claims for patch installations by Terix; reversed summary judgment on all infringement claims for pre-installation conduct and on the direct infringement claims for unauthorized patch installations by HPE; and addressed all other issues in a concurrently filed memorandum opinion. View "Oracle America, Inc. v. Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of actor Ashley Judd's sexual harassment claim under California Civil Code section 51.9 against producer Harvey Weinstein. Judd alleged that, in the late 1990s, Weinstein sexually harassed her during a general business meeting and derailed her potential involvement in the film adaptation of "The Lord of the Rings" book trilogy.The panel held that, as alleged, section 51.9 plainly encompasses Judd and Weinstein's relationship, which was "substantially similar" to the "business, service, or professional relationship[s]" enumerated in the statute. The panel explained that the relationship between Judd and Weinstein was characterized by a considerable imbalance of power substantially similar to the imbalances that characterize the enumerated relationships in section 51.9. The panel stated that, by virtue of his professional position and influence as a top producer in Hollywood, Weinstein was uniquely situated to exercise coercive power or leverage over Judd, who was a young actor at the beginning of her career at the time of the alleged harassment. Furthermore, given Weinstein's highly influential and "unavoidable" presence in the film industry, the relationship was one that would have been difficult to terminate "without tangible hardship" to Judd, whose livelihood as an actor depended on being cast for roles. The panel rejected Weinstein's arguments to the contrary and held that Judd sufficiently alleged a claim under section 51.9. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Judd v. Weinstein" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a federal grand jury investigation of the acquisition of one company by another company. The grand jury issued two indictments and subpoenas to a third company, Doe Company ("the Company"), and to Pat Roe, a former officer at the acquired company and a current partner at the Company. The Company appealed the district court's denial of the Company's motion to quash and order of compliance by both the Company and by Pat Roe. After the Company declined to produce the documents, the district court held the Company in contempt.The Ninth Circuit held that it lacked appellate jurisdiction to review the district court's enforcement order directed to Roe. The panel clarified under Perlman v. United States, 247 U.S. 7 (1918), that in seeking interlocutory review of a court order enforcing a grand jury subpoena, an appellant must assert a claim of evidentiary privilege or some other legal claim specifically protecting against disclosure to the grand jury. Because the Company makes no such claim, the panel held that it did not have jurisdiction under Perlman and dismissed in part.After determining that it had jurisdiction to review the district court's enforcement orders directed to the Company and holding the Company in contempt, the panel held that, taken together, the district court's findings adequately support its determination that it had in personam jurisdiction over the Company. Furthermore, service of process on the Company was proper where it was fair, reasonable, and just to imply the authority of the General Counsel to receive service on behalf of the Company. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part. View "United States v. Doe Co." on Justia Law

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A challenge to the timeliness of a partnership proceeding must be raised in the partnership proceeding itself and that failure to do so results in a forfeiture of the argument. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the tax court's dismissal of taxpayers' petition challenging adjustments to a Final Partnership Administrative Adjustment (FPAA) involving taxpayers' partnership. In an earlier appeal, the panel upheld the validity of the partnership proceeding and the adjustments made therein. The panel held that taxpayer's challenges in this case essentially amounted to a collateral attack on the partnership proceeding. In this case, the taxpayers had an opportunity to challenge the FPAA during the partnership proceeding, but elected not to do so. View "Bedrosian v. Commissioner" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit certified the following question of state law to the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware: In a Delaware limited partnership, does a general partner's request to a limited partner for a one-time capital contribution constitute a request for "limited-partner action" such that the general partner has a duty of disclosure, and, if the general partner fails to disclose material information in connection with the request, may the limited partner prevail on a breach-of-fiduciary-duty claim without proving reliance and causation? View "Goodman v. Dohmen" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction in favor of hiQ, a data analytics company, prohibiting LinkedIn, a professional networking website, from denying hiQ access to publicly available LinkedIn member profiles.The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that hiQ currently has no viable way to remain in business other than using LinkedIn public profile data for its Keeper and Skill Mapper services, and that HiQ therefore has demonstrated a likelihood of irreparable harm absent a preliminary injunction. The panel also held that the district court's determination that the balance of hardships tips sharply in hiQ's favor was not illogical, implausible, or without support in the record; hiQ raised serious questions regarding the merits of its tortious interference with contract claim and LinkedIn's legitimate business purpose defense; hiQ also raised a serious question regarding whether state law causes of action were preempted by the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act; and the district court's conclusion that the public interest favors granting the preliminary injunction was appropriate. View "hiQ Labs, Inc. v. LinkedIn Corp." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit certified the following questions to the California Supreme Court: Does section 16600 of the California Business and Professions Code void a contract by which a business is restrained from engaging in a lawful trade or business with another business? Is a plaintiff required to plead an independently wrongful act in order to state a claim for intentional interference with a contract that can be terminated by a party at any time, or does that requirement apply only to at-will employment contracts? View "Ixchel Pharma, LLC v. Biogen, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed a jury verdict finding that he vicariously and contributorily infringed Erickson's copyrighted images by displaying them on his website and did so willfully. This case arose when defendant hired a website developer, Only Websites, to redevelop defendant's company website and three photos taken by Erickson were incorporated on the company site.The panel vacated the jury's vicarious liability verdict because Erickson presented no evidence that could constitute a direct financial benefit as a matter of law. However, the panel affirmed the jury's contributory liability verdict and upheld the judgment against defendant, because the district court did not plainly err in instructing the jury that "knowledge" for contributory infringement purposes includes having a "reason to know" of the infringement. Finally, the panel vacated the jury's willfulness finding and remanded for a determination of whether defendant's infringement was willful on the existing record. View "Erickson Productions, Inc. v. Kast" on Justia Law

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Harmoni, the only zero-duty rate importer of Chinese garlic, filed suit alleging that other importers, jealous of Harmoni's competitive edge, conspired to eliminate or reduce that advantage through two separate unlawful schemes in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The first scheme alleged that Chinese competitors submitted fraudulent documents to U.S. customs officials in order to evade applicable anti-dumping duties and then sold garlic in the United States at less than fair value. The second scheme alleged that Chinese competitors recruited domestic garlic growers to file sham administrative review requests with the U.S. Department of Commerce to determine whether plaintiffs were being subjected to appropriate antidumping duties.The Ninth Circuit held that Harmoni has not adequately alleged proximate cause with respect to the first scheme because the relationship between the importers' conduct and Harmoni's injury were too attenuated. However, Harmoni has adequately alleged proximate cause in the second scheme in regard to damages for expenses incurred in responding to the Department of Commerce's administrative review. The panel held that the district court should have granted leave to amend for the loss sales and harm to business reputation claims, as well as the claims against Huamei Consulting. View "Harmoni International Spice, Inc. v. Hume" on Justia Law