In a decision last week, Judge Cote ruled that the COVID-19 pandemic qualified as a “natural disaster” that fell within the scope of a contractual force majeure clause. The defendant auction house had agreed to auction a painting owned by the plaintiff and pay it a guaranteed minimum price, but invoked its right to terminate the agreement after the auction was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic and related government restrictions.

The force majeure clause applied in the event of “circumstances beyond our or your reasonable control, including, without limitation, as a result of natural disaster, fire, flood, general strike, war, armed conflict, terrorist attack or nuclear or chemical contamination.” Judge Cote held that the pandemic was “a circumstance beyond the parties’ reasonable control” and a “natural disaster”:


Continue Reading Judge Cote: COVID-19 Pandemic is a “Natural Disaster” for Purposes of Contractual Force Majeure Clause

Last week, Judge Cote ruled that a New York’s Penal Law Section 215.50 – a misdemeanor criminal contempt statute that prohibits shouting and display of signage within two hundred feet of a courthouse where that speech concerns a trial ongoing in that courthouse – violated the First Amendment.  The case arose when the defendant distributed pamphlets with information about jury nullification outside the Bronx County Hall of Justice and was arrested after refusing to move outside of the 200-foot perimeter.

Judge Cote found that the act was not sufficiently tailored to meet the state’s purported interest in protecting trial integrity:
Continue Reading Judge Cote Strikes Down New York State Prohibition Against Trial Signage Outside Courthouses, Citing First Amendment

In an opinion yesterday, Judge Cote concluded that a plaintiff’s software patent was not eligible for patent protection because it amounted to an abstract idea.  The patent covered a “method of creating a dynamically adaptable tutorial,” and, in essence, it described a method of linking website elements so as to facilitate, and easily update, online tutorials.  As Judge Cote explained:
Continue Reading Judge Cote: Software for “Dynamic” Tutorials Too Generic to Be Patented

In an opinion today, Judge Cote denied a motion to compel brought by the defendants in an SEC enforcement action relating to one of the SEC’s witnesses.  The defendants claimed that the witness gave inaccurate deposition testimony about having been disciplined at work for having harassed a former romantic partner, and so wanted more documents about the incident, and an additional deposition.  Judge Cote, who chose not to identify the witness by name, emphatically denied the motion:
Continue Reading Judge Cote Rejects SEC Defendants’ Attempt to Delve Into Stale, Highly Personal Affairs of SEC Witness

Yesterday, Judge Cote declined a defendant’s request to disqualify the SEC’s entire trial team on the eve of trial after the SEC received allegedly privileged communications between the defendants and their counsel.  The documents were seized by federal agents during the execution of a search warrant and provided to federal prosecutors, who in turn provided

Last week, Judge Cote granted a motion for summary judgment challenging the copyright for the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.”  Plaintiffs, the We Shall Overcome Foundation, argued that the similarities between the copyrighted song and a 1948 version in the public domain meant that the first verse of the famous song was not sufficiently original to survive a copyright challenge.

Judge Cote agreed, noting the overwhelming evidence of the connection between the copyrighted version of “We Shall Overcome” and older, historical versions:
Continue Reading Judge Cote: First Verse of “We Shall Overcome” Not an Original Work Subject to Copyright

In an opinion yesterday, Judge Cote granted in part and denied in part a motion to dismiss a case challenging the copyright to “We Shall Overcome,” the unofficial anthem of the U.S. civil rights movement.  (See our prior post on the case here.)

The defendant copyright owners argued that the copyrighted song was sufficiently different from songs in the public domain to merit copyright protection as a matter of law, but Judge Cote found that the question was not so clear that it could be resolved on a motion to dismiss.  She also found that there fact questions as to whether the original copyright was obtained by fraud:
Continue Reading Challenge to “We Shall Overcome” Copyright Survives Motion to Dismiss

Last week, the We Shall Overcome Foundation filed a complaint on behalf of a purported class challenging the copyright of “We Shall Overcome,” the unofficial anthem of the U.S. civil rights movement.  The We Shall Overcome Foundation attempted to use the song in a documentary film, and the defendant copyright holders denied the request.  The

On Monday, Judge Cote granted a laser hair removal operator’s request for an injunction (included as part of a summary judgment motion) against another laser hair removal operator that had posted false reviews from fake accounts on internet consumer forums including Yelp.com and CitySearch.com.  Judge Cote found that these reviews represented unfair trade practices under the Lanham Act and granted a permanent injunction, citing the defendants’ “willingness to use deceit to shape the market in which it functioned.”
Continue Reading Judge Cote Grants Permanent Injunction for Fake Internet Reviews About Competitor