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Continental Datalabel, Inc v. Avery Dennison Corporation

December 7, 2012

CONTINENTAL DATALABEL, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
AVERY DENNISON CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Feinerman

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Continental Datalabel, Inc., and Defendant Avery Dennison Corporation are competing manufacturers of self-adhesive address labels. Continental filed this suit against Avery in September 2009, alleging that Avery infringed Continental's patents in violation of federal patent law, engaged in unfair competition through false or misleading advertising in violation of the Lanham Act, and tortiously interfered with Continental's efforts to sell its labels to office supply retailers Staples and Office Depot in violation of Illinois law. In March 2010, the court stayed the patent claims pending a reexamination of Continental's patents by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO"). Doc. 43 (Shadur, J.). Two years later, the parties cross-moved for summary judgment on the Lanham Act and tortious interference claims. Docs. 118, 132, 189. The court granted Avery's motion and denied Continental's motions. Docs. 269, 273; 2012 WL 5467667 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 9, 2012).

Because the court disposed of the Lanham Act and tortious interference claims, and because the patent claims are stayed pending the USPTO's reexamination proceedings, the court requested the parties' views on whether it should enter a partial final judgment on the resolved claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). Doc. 269. The parties have staked out different positions. Doc. 271. Avery urges the court to enter a Rule 54(b) judgment on the tortious interference and Lanham Act claims immediately, while Continental argues that "immediate entry of a Rule 54(b) judgment would be premature, but should be revisited in three to six months." Id. at 2. For the following reasons, the court finds that there is no just reason for delay and that a Rule 54(b) judgment should be entered forthwith.

As relevant here, Rule 54(b) provides as follows:

(b) Judgment on Multiple Claims or Involving Multiple Parties.

When an action presents more than one claim for relief-whether as a claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim-or when multiple parties are involved, the court may direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more, but fewer than all, claims or parties only if the court expressly determines that there is no just reason for delay.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b). "A proper Rule 54(b) order requires the district court to make two determinations: (1) that the order in question was truly a 'final judgment,' and (2) that there is no just reason to delay the appeal of the claim that was 'finally' decided." Gen. Ins. Co. of Am. v. Clark Mall Corp., 644 F.3d 375, 379 (7th Cir. 2011); see also W.L. Gore & Assocs., Inc. v. Int'l Med. Prosthetics Research Assocs., Inc., 975 F.2d 858, 861-62 (Fed. Cir. 1992).

The Supreme Court has described the first step as follows:

A district court must first determine that it is dealing with a "final judgment." It must be a "judgment" in the sense that it is a decision upon a cognizable claim for relief, and it must be "final" in the sense that it is "an ultimate disposition of an individual claim entered in the course of a multiple claims action."

Curtiss-Wright Corp. v. Gen. Elec. Co., 446 U.S. 1, 7 (1980) (quoting Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Mackey, 351 U.S. 427, 436 (1956)). The court's grant of summary judgment to Avery on the Lanham Act and tortious interference claims is a "judgment" that is "final": it is a decision upon two cognizable claims for relief and is an ultimate disposition of those claims-one that leaves nothing further for this court to do with them-and the stayed patent claims remain pending.

At the second step of the Rule 54(b) analysis, the district court must determine whether there is "no just reason for delay" by weighing the equities and judicial efficiency:

Once having found finality, the district court must go on to determine whether there is any just reason for delay. . It is left to the sound judicial discretion of the district court to determine the "appropriate time" when each final decision in a multiple claims action is ready for appeal. This discretion is to be exercised "in the interest of sound judicial administration."

Thus, in deciding whether there are no just reasons to delay the appeal of individual final judgments in a setting such as this, a district court must take into account judicial administrative interests as well as the equities involved. Consideration of the former is necessary to assure that application of the Rule effectively "preserves the historic federal policy against piecemeal appeals." It was therefore proper for the District Judge here to consider such factors as whether the claims under review were separable from the others remaining to be adjudicated and whether the nature of the claims already determined was such that no appellate court would have to decide the same issues more than once even if there were subsequent appeals.

Curtiss-Wright Corp., 446 U.S. at 8 (quoting Sears, Roebuck & Co., 351 U.S. at 435, 437-38). Judicial efficiency and the equities favor the immediate entry of a Rule 54(b) judgment on the Lanham Act and tortious ...


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