Thursday, January 27, 2011, 1/27/2011 10:57:00 AM

Compensated Nuts? Guitar Nut Case Results in Unfair Competition Ruling Under California Law

By Todd

Guitars have a slotted "nut" that the strings go through to reach the tuners. Ernie Ball had a patent on their nut, which was "compensated" to aid in tuning the instrument. They alleged, among other things, that Earvana was infringing on that patent AND they alleged that Earvana had engaged in common law unfair competition. The guitar world was temporarily in discord as the suit progressed. (Pun intended).


Well, the federal court in California ruled that Earvana WAS infringing on the Ernie Ball nut patent. BUT, on the common law unfair competition claim the court held:


"Ernie Ball contends that the Defendant engaged in unfair competition by using Ernie Ball's trade secrets to create competing copy products and selling the products to others. The claim was pled as a common law unfair competition claim, but should have been plead under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. The allegations do not state a claim outside of the UTSA. The claim therefore fails."


Ernie Ball won the more imporant patent claim but the court made clear that (drum roll please) if you're alleging trade secret misappropriation you can't do so without pleading it as a California UTSA claim.

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