Los Angeles, CA – Patent attorneys for Big J & J filed a patent infringement lawsuit at the Central District of California (Los Angeles Division), accusing Novelty Distributors of patent infringement and California statutory and common law unfair competition. U.S. Design Patent No. D533,683, entitled “Piezoelectric Lighter” was duly issued by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office on December 12, 2006. The ‘683 patent generally relates to the aesthetic design of a pocket lighter.
The complaint alleges that Defendant Novelty previously purchased the subject pocket lighters from Plaintiff, but stopped such purchases in 2007. Defendant is then accused of intentionally copying the design of the patented lighter – thereby explaining the cessation of purchases. As a result, Plaintiff alleges that Novelty’s infringement is willful and deliberate. The complaint also incorporates by reference the patent infringement allegations as a basis for its California statutory (Cal. Bus. Prof. Code § 17200) and common law unfair competition causes of action. The case is titled Big J & J Int’l Corp. v. Novelty, Inc. dba Novelty Distributors, Inc., CV 08-5280 AHM (Central District of California 2008).
PRACTICE NOTE: It appears that the unfair competition claims are merely based on the patent infringement claim and should be dismissed as they are preempted. “Federal patent and copyright laws limit the states’ ability to regulate unfair competition.” Summit Mach. Tool Mfg. Corp. v. Victor CNC Systems, Inc., 7 F.3d 1434, 1439 (9th Cir. 1993). A plaintiff’s state law claim must be “qualitatively different from a copyright or patent infringement claim” or else it is preempted. Id. at 1440.