Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Internet Law

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Verisign filed suit against XYZ and its CEO Daniel Negari, alleging that defendants' statements regarding the scarcity of desirable .com domain names violated the Lanham Act's, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a)(1)(B), false advertising provisions. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of XYZ. The court agreed with the district court that Verisign failed to establish the elements of a Lanham Act claim. In regard to XYZ's self-promoting statements, the court held that Verisign failed to produce the required evidence that it suffered an actual injury as a direct result of XYZ’s conduct. Nor can Verisign establish that XYZ’s statements about the availability of suitable .com domain names were false or misleading statements of fact. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "VeriSign v. XYZ.com" on Justia Law

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Beyond Systems, an internet service provider, filed suit against Kraft and Connexus seeking damages under California's and Maryland's anti-spam statutes based upon several hundred e-mails which it alleges were unlawful spam. As a preliminary matter, the court concluded that Beyond Systems had Article III standing by claiming a harm: receiving spam e-mail. On the merits, the court agreed with the district court that Beyond Systems is barred from recovery because it consented to the harm underpinning its anti-spam claims. In this case, Beyond Systems created fake e-mail addresses, solely for the purpose of gathering spam; it embedded these addresses in websites so that they were undiscoverable except to computer programs that serve no other function than to find e-mail accounts to spam; it increased its e-mail storage capacity to retain a huge volume of spam; and it intentionally participated in routing spam e-mail between California and Maryland to increase its exposure to spam and thereby allow it to sue under both states' laws. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Beyond Systems v. Kraft Foods" on Justia Law

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Lavabit, a company that provided encrypted email service, and Ladar Levison, the company's sole and managing member, appealed the district court's order of contempt and imposition of monetary sanctions because Lavabit and Levison failed to comply with the Government's court orders under both the Pen/Trap Statute, 18 U.S.C. 3123-27, and the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. 2701-12, requiring Lavabit to turn over particular information related to a target in a criminal investigation. The court concluded that the district court did not err in finding Lavabit and Levison in contempt once they admittedly violated the order. In view of Lavabit's waiver of its appellate arguments by failing to raise them in the district court, and its failure to raise the issue of fundamental or plain error review, there was no cognizable basis upon which to challenge the order. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.View "United States v. Lavabit, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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Company Doe filed suit to enjoin the Commission from publishing in its online, publicly accessible database a "report of harm" that attributed the death of an infant to a product manufactured and sold by Company Doe. Consumer Groups filed a post-judgment motion to intervene for the purpose of appealing the district court's sealing order as well as its decision to allow Company Doe to proceed under a pseudonym. The court held that Consumer Groups' notice of appeal deprived the district court of jurisdiction to entertain Consumer Groups' motion to intervene, and, therefore, the court vacated the district court's order denying intervention; Consumer Groups were able to seek appellate review of the district court's orders because they met the requirements for nonparty appellate standing and have independent Article III standing to challenge the orders; and, on the merits, the district court's sealing order violated the public's right of access under the First Amendment and the district court abused its discretion in allowing Company Doe to litigate pseudonymously. Accordingly, the court vacated in part, reversed in part, and remanded with instructions.View "Company Doe v. Public Citizen" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs commenced this putative class action alleging that defendants participated in a global Internet conspiracy to sell illegal prescription drugs, in violation of the laws of the United States and Virginia. At issue on appeal was whether the district court erred in dismissing the complaint against four foreign banks for lack of personal jurisdiction. The court concluded that Rule 4(k)(2) did not justify the exercise of personal jurisdiction over the banks because exercising jurisdiction over them would not, in the circumstances here, be consistent with the United States Constitution and laws. Subjecting the banks to the coercive power of the court in the United States, in the absence of minimum contacts, would constitute a violation of the Due Process Clause. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's orders dismissing the complaint against the banks. View "Unspam Technologies v. Chernuk" on Justia Law

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Rosetta Stone appealed from an order granting summary judgment in favor of Google for Rosetta Stone's trademark infringement, contributory and vicarious trademark infringement, and trademark dilution claims. Rosetta Stone also appealed from an order dismissing its unjust enrichment claim under Virginia Law. Rosetta Stone contended that Google's policies concerning the use of trademarks as keywords and in ad text created not only a likelihood of confusion but also actual confusion, as well as misleading Internet users in purchasing counterfeit Rosetta Stone software. The court affirmed the district court's order with respect to the vicarious infringement claim and the unjust enrichment claims. The court vacated, however, the district court's order with respect to Rosetta Stone's direct infringement claim after addressing the likelihood of confusion and the functionality doctrine; contributory infringement claim where the evidence recited by the district court was sufficient to establish a question of fact as to whether Google continued to supply its services to known infringers; and dilution claim where the district court erred by omitting the question of good faith and collapsing the fair-use defense into one question. The court remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Rosetta Stone Ltd. v. Google, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a complaint against defendants, Virtual City Vision, Inc. ("VSV") and Van James Bond Tran ("Tran"), alleging federal, state, and common law claims when defendants' newportnews.com domain name was confusingly similar to plaintiff's Newport News registered trademarks and its newport-news.com domain name. VCV raised numerous issues on appeal: the magistrate judge's failure to recuse; the court's assertion of personal jurisdiction over Tran, the district court's grant of summary judgment to plaintiff on the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act ("ACPA") claim; the district court's denial of VCV's request to file a counterclaim; the district court's award of statutory damages and attorney's fees to plaintiff and sanctions against VCV's counsel; and the district court's finding that VCV was not the prevailing party for purposes of an award of attorneys' fees. The court held that the magistrate judge did not abuse his discretion in finding that the circumstances would not cause a reasonable observer to question his impartiality, the district court found sufficient facts to pierce the corporate veil and exercise jurisdiction over Tran, and the district court's grant of summary judgment on the ACPA claim was proper. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying VCV's motion for leave to file a counterclaim. The court further held that the district court did not clearly err in finding that VCV's infringement was exceptional or abused its discretion in awarding attorneys' fees, that VCV's attempt to profit from plaintiff's mark by creating a website focused on women's fashion was sufficiently egregious to merit the statutory damages award, that the award of sanctions was not an abuse of discretion, and that plaintiff's abandonment claim did not make VCV a prevailing party.