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Common Law Trade Dress Suit Re French-Press Coffee Maker, Plus, Labor Law, Criminal & Civil Rights Matters

By FindLaw Staff | Last updated on

Weber v.Universities Research Ass'n, Inc., 08-1957, concerned a challenge to the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant, in plaintiff's suit against her former employer for sex discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII.  In affirming, the court held that plaintiff has waived her discrimination and retaliation arguments under the direct method of proof.  Further, the plaintiff has failed to establish a prima facie case of sex discrimination, because even if she does not have to show that she was meeting defendant's legitimate business expectations, defendant is still entitled to summary judgment as she has failed to show that there were similarly situated men who were treated more favorably than she was.


US v. Taylor, 10-1750, concerned a challenge to the district court's imposition of an enhancement for physically restraining a teller in sentencing defendant to 110-months' imprisonment, in a conviction of defendant for armed bank robbery.  In affirming, the court held that, whether a pointed gun is used to move a person into an unlocked room and keep him there, or used to move a person from one part of the robbery scene to another, the person's freedom of movement is restrained as effectively as by shoving or dragging him into a room and locking the door.  However, the judgment is modified as the district court erred in ordering the defendant to participate in the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program, as the participation is voluntary.

US v. Slaight, 10-1443, concerned a challenge to a conviction of a defendant for receipt and possession of child pornography shipped in interstate or foreign commerce, and a sentence of a mandatory minimum of 15 years by reason of a previous conviction for aggravated sexual abuse of a minor.  In reversing, the court held that defendant's motion to suppress incriminating statements that he had made when questioned by federal officers at a police station should have been granted as facts are incontrovertible and show that the average person in defendant's position would have thought himself in custody, and any other conclusion would leave Miranda in tatters.

US v. Rea, 09-2652, concerned a challenge to the district court's conviction of defendants for conspiracy to distribute in excess of 500 grams of a mixture containing methamphetamine and other related offenses, and their sentences.  The court vacated in part the district court's judgment with respect to one of the defendants because, the government concedes defendant's argument, that the conspiracy alleged in his indictment is a lesser included offense of the continuing criminal enterprise (CCE) and that, along with a special assessment for each, his concurrent sentences thus amount to cumulative punishment not authorized by Congress.

The court affirmed in all remaining aspects where: 1)  the evidence presented against defendant was sufficient to justify his continuing criminal enterprise conviction; 2) district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the statements made by defendant's co-conspirators and any error related to an agent's testimony was harmless; 3) district court did not plainly err by imposing the firearm sentencing enhancement upon the defendant as the government demonstrated that the guns were found in close proximity to drug paraphernalia and that defendant dealt in large quantities of meth on a frequent basis; 4) sufficient evidence supported co-defendant's conviction for conspiracy as  based on the evidence, any reasonable juror could find that the relationship between the defendants exceeded that of a buyer-seller relationship; and 5)  district court's calculation errors did not affect co-defendant's substantial rights.

US v. Hernandez, 10-1374, concerned a challenge to the district court's imposition of a 120-month sentence, in believing that it was required by U.S.S.G. section 5G1.3(c) to impose the sentence as part of the federal sentence, because defendant's state offense (for which defendant had already served 18 months of at the time of his federal sentencing) was unrelated to his federal offense, in a conviction of defendant for distributing more than 50 grams of cocaine base.  In vacating the sentence, the court remanded for resentencing as, section 5G1.3(b) does not apply to this case as the governing statute for these purposes is 18 U.S.C. section 3584(a) which gives a district court the discretion to impose a term of imprisonment either concurrently or consecutively to a prior undischarged term, taking into consideration the factors enumerated in 18 U.S.C. section 3553(a).

Goldhamer v. Nagode, 09-2332, involved plaintiffs' 42 U.S.C. section 1983 suit alleging violations of their rights under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments and under state law, challenging a city ordinance's failure-to-disperse provision of section 8-4-010(d).  In vacating the district court's judgment permanently enjoining the city from enforcing the provision on the ground that it imposes too great a burden on protected free speech and is unconstitutionally vague, the court remanded the matter as, plaintiffs lack standing to challenge the facial validity of the ordinance at issue as they were not even arguably violating the failure-to-disperse provision when they were arrested for demonstrating against military recruitment, and plaintiffs have not shown a reasonable prospect of future arrest for again violating that same provision.

Carlson v. Bukovic, 09-2578, concerned a challenge to the district court's judgment in favor of the defendants, in a plaintiff's civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. section 1983 against an officer for excessive force and the city for failure to train the officer.  In affiirming, the court held that a mere physical contact by an officer, although significant factor, does not automatically qualify an encounter as a Fourth Amendment seizure.  The court held that the district court correctly submitted the question of whether a seizure took place to the jury.  The court also held that the jury was entitled to determine that, at the time the officer touched plaintiff's arm, officer's action was more exhortatory than commanding.  And, because plaintiff's section 1983 Fourth Amendment excessive force claim failed, her failure-to-train claim against the city fails as well.  Lastly, plaintiff's claim that the district judge was biased need not be addressed as recusal was unnecessary in this case.

Bodum USA, Inc. v. La Cafetiere, Inc., 09-1892, involved a suit for common law trade dress of a French-press coffee maker known as the Chambord.  In affirming the district court's judgment in favor of the defendant, the court held that Article 4 of the parties' contract is clear and precise as it allows defendant to sell the coffee maker design anywhere except France - provided that it does not use the Chambord or Melior names and does not use plaintiff's supply channels for four years.

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