Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Deetz Family, LLC v. Rust-Oleum Corp.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

November 10, 2016

DEETZ FAMILY, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
RUST-OLEUM CORPORATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS (DOCKET NO. 19)

          TIMOTHY S. HILLMAN DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Deetz Family, LLC filed this lawsuit after defendant Rust-Oleum Corporation ceased making payments under the parties' License Agreement for use of Deetz's patented inventions and know-how related to magnetic paint products. Deetz asserts claims for breach of contract (Count I), breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing (Count II), infringement of U.S. Patent No. 5, 609, 788 (Count III), infringement of U.S. Patent No. 5, 843, 329 (Count IV), infringement of U.S. Trademark Registration No. 3, 970, 111 “TINTABLE” (Count V), false designation of origin in violation of 15 U.S.C. §1125(a) (Count VI), and common law trademark infringement and unfair competition (Count VII). Rust-Oleum moves to dismiss Counts II, III and IV pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. For the reasons detailed below, Defendant's motion to dismiss (Docket No. 19) is granted in part and denied in part.

         Background

         Dayton J. Deetz, the sole inventor of U.S. Patent No. 5, 609, 788 (“Magnetic Paint Additive”, issued March 11, 1997) and U.S. Patent No. 5, 843, 329 (“Magnetic Paint or Ink Additive”, issued December 1, 1998), assigned his rights in both patents to Fibron, LLC on January 29, 2001. On April 20, 2005, Rust-Oleum and Fibron entered into a License Agreement that granted Rust-Oleum non-exclusive rights to the patents and related know-how to manufacture, have made, and use and sell, magnetic paint products. The terms of the License Agreement required Rust-Oleum to pay an up front fee of $100, 000 USD and royalties equaling 3% of net sales from April 20, 2005 until March 17, 2015 (the expiration date of the licensed patents), and 2% of net sales from March 18, 2015 until March 17, 2020. The Agreement also provided for payment of a minimum royalty of $20, 000 in 2006, $30, 000 in 2007, and $40, 000 per year for the remaining years of the Agreement, in the event that actual royalties calculated from net sales fell below these thresholds. Section 17 of the License Agreement states that the contract shall be interpreted under Illinois law.

         On February 15, 2006, Fibron assigned and transferred all of its rights in the ‘788 and ‘329 patents, as well as its rights in the License Agreement, to the plaintiff, Deetz Family, LLC. Rust-Oleum made the $100, 000 up front payment and paid at least part of actual royalties from 2006 -2009, but from 2006 - 2010 did not pay the minimum royalties required under the license. Without notifying Deetz of any intent to terminate the License Agreement, Rust-Oleum ceased making payments in 2010, and did not respond to Deetz's demand letters regarding royalty reports and overdue payments in August and September of 2013. On September 27, 2013, Deetz sent a letter notifying Rust-Oleum that the License Agreement would be terminated on October 27, 2013, and followed up with a letter on February 18, 2014 confirming termination of the Agreement.

         Deetz alleges that Rust-Oleum continued making the licensed products after it stopped paying royalties, in breach of the License Agreement (Count I) and in breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing (Count II). In addition, Deetz claims that Rust-Oleum's products directly and indirectly infringed the ‘788 and ‘329 patents from October 27, 2013 (the termination of the License Agreement) until March 17, 2015 (the expiration date of the patents) (Counts III and IV). Deetz contends that a YouTube video provided by Rust-Oleum shows an infringing product, and instructs customers on how to infringe “at least one claim of the ‘788 and ‘329 patents, ” but does not identify which claim(s).[1]

         Deetz is seeking, inter alia, $42, 008, plus interest, it alleges Rust-Oleum still owes to meet the minimum royalty payments due under the Agreement for the period spanning 2006-2010, and an additional $168, 329, plus interest, for royalties due for the period January 1, 2011 - March 17, 2015. Deetz is also seeking to enforce the terms of the Agreement requiring Rust-Oleum to pay 2% of net sales for the period March 18, 2015 - March 17, 2020.

         Discussion

         Count II - Breach of Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing

         Deetz alleges that Rust-Oleum's failure to pay fees due under the License Agreement and its continued use of the patented technology violates Deetz's “reasonable expectations of performance” and breaches the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing that is inherent to all contracts. Rust-Oleum asserts that Illinois law, which governs the Agreement, does not recognize an independent cause of action for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and this court agrees. It is well settled that a breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing does not create an independent cause of action under Illinois law, rather, it is “is merely a basis for a breach of contract action”. LaSalle Bank Nat'l Assoc v. Paramont Properties, 588 F.Supp.2d 840, 853 (N.D. Ill. 2008). See also, Brooklyn Bagel Boys, Inc. v. Earthgrains Refrigerated Dough Prods., Inc., 212 F.3d 373, 381 (7th Cir.2000); Voyles v. Sandia Mortg. Corp., 196 Ill.2d 288, 289 (2001). Accordingly, Rust-Oleum's motion to dismiss Count II is granted.

         Deetz seeks leave to re-allege its breach of the implied covenant of good faith in its existing claim for breach of contract (Count I). However, the proposed amendment submitted with its Opposition does not cure its pleading deficiency.

         “The duty of good faith and fair dealing is implied in every contract and requires a party vested with contractual discretion to exercise it reasonably, and not arbitrarily, capriciously, or in a manner inconsistent with the reasonable expectations of parties.” Seip v. Rogers Raw Materials Fund, L.P., 948 N.E.2d 628, 637 (2011) (emphasis added) (citation omitted). “To establish a breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, the complaining party must show that the contract vested the opposing party with discretion in performing an obligation under the contract and the opposing party exercised that discretion in bad faith, unreasonably, or in a manner inconsistent with the reasonable expectations of the parties.” Hickman v. Wells Fargo Bank N.A., 683 F.Supp.2d 779, 792 (N.D. Ill. 2010) (emphasis added) (citing Beraha v. Baxter Health Care Corp., 956 F.2d 1436, 1443-45 (7th Cir. 1992); Gore v. Indiana Ins. Co., 876 N.E.2d 156, 161-62 (Ill.App.Ct. 2007) (“Disputes involving the exercise of good faith arise when one party is given broad discretion in performing its obligations under the contract. The duty of good faith and fair dealing is a limitation on the exercise of that discretion….” (citations omitted)).

         Even with the proposed amendment, the Complaint fails to allege what, if any, terms of the License Agreement required Rust-Oleum to exercise its discretion, or how it abused that discretion. Rather, the proposed amendment makes the conclusory assertion that Rust-Oleum's actions violated Deetz's “reasonable expectation of performance.” A mere failure to perform is simply a breach of contract, not a breach of the implied duty of good faith. Leave to amend Count I is granted. However, unless the amended Complaint includes facts that would allow the court to infer an actual lack of “good faith” in addition to any straightforward breach of an explicit contract term, that amendment will fail.

         Counts III and IV - ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.