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E.F. Johnson v. Uniden

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Citation Edit

E.F. Johnson Co. v. Uniden Corp. of America, 623 F. Supp. 1485 (D. Minn. 1985) (full-text).

Factual Background Edit

Plaintiff, E.F. Johnson Co. (EFJ), is a Minnesota corporation engaged in the business of manufacturing and selling two-way, land-based communications systems. EFJ's principal place of business is in Waseca, Minnesota. Defendant Uniden Corporation of America (Uniden) is an Indiana corporation, a subsidiary of Uniden Corporation of Japan. Uniden imports and distributes electronic equipment, including land-based communications systems.

In the spring of 1980, EFJ introduced into the market its newly developed “Clearchannel LTR” logic trunked radio system (LTR). A logic trunked radio system is one consisting of mobile radio units, typically installed in motor vehicles such as taxis, police cars, delivery trucks, etc., and “repeaters,” base stations which receive and transmit signals to and from the mobile radio units. The heart of the EFJ LTR system is computer software contained in the mobile radios and repeaters. The computer software, independently developed by EFJ engineers, allows the LTR system to pool radio frequency channels, thereby making all assigned radio channels accessible to all system users, at a significant gain in operational efficiency. The software contained in the EFJ 8700 series mobile radio units are subject to copyright.

In April 1985, defendant Uniden introduced into the market its model FTS 250T two-way 800 MHZ FM trunked mobile radio compatible with LTR-system radios and repeaters. The Uniden mobile radio also contained computer software, which allowed it to receive and transmit messages from and to EFJ's LTR-system radios.

Shortly after the Uniden FTS 250T radios came onto the market, EFJ engineers subjected one of the radios to scrutiny at their Waseca laboratories. Concluding that the software contained in the FTS 250T radio was identical to software contained in the EFJ radios, EFJ commenced litigation, claiming copyright infringement and seeking preliminary injunctive relief.

Trial Court Proceedings Edit

Plaintiff EFJ filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to enjoin Defendant Uniden from manufacturing and distributing its mobile radio system, which was compatible with plaintiff's product, and to impound during the pendency of the action and destroy thereafter, any materials, programs, or other articles of information produced by Uniden that copied EFJ's copyrighted software.

The trial court held that plaintiff had demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of its copyright claim as defendant had access to plaintiff's software and there were substantial similarities between each party's software programs. The trial court recognized that plaintiff had contributed something of its own device to the compilation of programming techniques used to create the software, and defendant's program could not have been independently created. The other prerequisites for injunctive relief were met, so the trial court granted plaintiff's motion, restraining the defendant from publishing, selling, marketing, or otherwise disposing of any copies of its LTR-compatible radio program in any form.

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