Press Releases : US PTO Litigation Alert™

Truth is not always a Complete Defense: an Update on the Press release Case

Scott Daniels | August 22, 2012

Last week we reported on TASER International v. Stinger Systems et al., where Taser has accused its rival Stinger and its lawyer of various acts of unfair competition, including violation of Lanham Act, all centered around a series of press releases allegedly designed to mislead the public and thereby injure TASER.  On Monday Judge Miranda Du denied a motion by Stinger’s lawyer for summary determination, giving us a better glimpse into the dispute.

The motion essentially argued that the defendants were entitled to judgment because the statements in the press releases were accurate.  Judge Du wasn’t buying.  First, she cited the basic case law that the requirement of “falsity within the meaning of the Lanham Act, a plaintiff may show that the statement was literally false, either on its face or by necessary implication, or that the statement was literally true but likely to mislead or confuse consumers.”  (Emphasis added; citation omitted).  Thus, the “literal truth of statements contained in the releases does not defeat the Lanham Act claim.”


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CAN A PRESS RELEASE BE A TORTIOUS ACT?

Scott Daniels | August 8, 2012

Press releases are a common feature of patent disputes, particularly patent disputes involving reexamination proceedings at the Patent Office.  An accused infringer announces that its reexamination request has been granted, that the patent claims have been rejected, or that a rejection has been affirmed by the PTO Board.  Or patent owner announces that its claims have survived reexamination.  Often the author of the press release tells its story in “a favorable light.”  Almost always, a party’s goal in issuing a release is to convince the public that it will ultimately prevail.

But can a press release, by itself, expose its author to potential civil liability?  Yes it can.  A story of such potential liability is now playing out in Taser International v. Stinger, (Case No. 2:09-cv-289 (D. Nev.)).  Taser, the developer of the TASER weapon for use by law enforcement, originally sued Stinger Systems for selling devices that infringed a number of Taser patents.  The infringement action lasted three years and ended with a judgment that Stinger infringed one of the patents and an injunction prohibiting future infringement of that patent.


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