By Katherine Walecka
First Amendment Protects Peer-Reviewed Publication Regarding Competitor’s Product
In ONY, Inc. v. Cornerstone Therapeutics, Inc., No. 12-2414-cv, (2d Cir. June 26, 2013), the Second Circuit affirmed the District Court for the Western District of New York’s ruling that publishing a scientific article was not tortious. ONY, Inc. (“ONY”) produces Infasurf, a replacement surfactant or lung lining designed to aid breathing in some premature infants. ONY, slip op. at 4. Cornerstone produces a rival product, Curosurf. Id. Cornerstone and its partners paid for a study comparing Infasurf and Curosurf, and researchers found worse mortality outcomes for Infasurf users. Id. at 5. After the findings were published in a peer-reviewed pediatric journal, ONY brought suit alleging that the article was misleading and violated the Lanham Act, which prohibits fraud in advertising. Id. at 9. The Second Circuit ruled in favor of the defendants, finding that the article was not actionable because its conclusions were not misleading. Id. at 17–18. Furthermore, Cornerstone’s right to publish the article was protected by the First Amendment, since the article was academic research, pertained to ongoing scientific debate, and was closer to opinion than fact. Id. at 14. The Second Circuit noted that New York free speech law is particularly protective and added that if researchers had not disclosed their funding or their potential methodological flaws, a different outcome might have been reached. Reuters provides commentary on the case.
Second Circuit Affirms Finding of No Material Mistake in Wiretap Application Against Raj Rajaratnam
The Second Circuit’s recent disposition of the wiretapping issue in United States v. Rajaratnam, No. 11-4416-cr (2d Cir. June 24, 2013), represents a win for federal prosecutors. Wiretap applications submitted by government prosecutors to judges must show probable cause and necessity. Rajaratnam, slip op. at 6. At the district court level, defendant Raj Rajaratnam moved to suppress evidence from the wiretap of his cellular telephone, claiming that the wiretap application had factual mistakes and omissions. Id. at 7. To warrant suppression, a wiretap application must evince disregard for truth and must have material mistakes. Id. at 8. The district court agreed with Rajaratnam that the wiretap application might not adequately show necessity and held a Franks hearing to determine whether to suppress the wiretap evidence. Id. at 9–13. However, Rajaratnam’s suppression arguments ultimately failed. Although the district court found that the application evidenced reckless disregard for the truth by omitting the ongoing SEC investigation of the defendant, this omission and other mistakes were not found to be material. Id. at 14–15. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s conclusion but found that the government’s mistakes did not constitute reckless disregard for the truth. Id. at 23. Rajaratnam suggests that legal wiretap applications can contain omissions and that prosecutors can leave out softening phrases by defendants and conceal ongoing investigations without jeopardizing the instant case. The Wall Street Journal provides comments on the decision, and Bloomberg covers its television interview with the lead prosecutor. The SEC filed a press release regarding Rajaratnam’s charges in March 2013. In a July 2011 article, the New Yorker provided background information on the investigation and prosecution of the case.
High Damages in Peer-to-Peer Distribution Suit Affirmed as Statutory, Not Punitive
For some consumers, illegally downloading music carries a stiff price. In Sony BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum, No. 12-2146, (1st Cir. June 25, 2013), the First Circuit affirmed the trial court jury’s awarding Sony and other recording companies $675,000 for the unlawful downloading and peer-to-peer distribution of thirty songs. Sony, slip op. at 10. The court insisted that these were statutory damages under the Copyright Act rather than punitive damages, id. at 7, and rejected Tenenbaum’s due process claim that the damages’ severity was unconstitutional, id. at 2. Ars Technica comments on the decision. Boston University’s Daily Free Press covers its interview with Tenenbaum and his attorney, Harvard Law School Professor Charles Nesson. JOLT Digest previously commented on the district court case. The Recording Industry Association of America provides a factual background.