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Just like the verse-chorus-verse structure of classic pop music, federal litigation follows a predictable formula, one that courts don't like litigants rearranging. This point was highlighted in a recent kerfuffle between two karaoke companies, Slep-Tone and Karaoke Kandy Store.
Not only were these two out of pitch with each other -- Slep-Tone accused Karaoke Kandy Store of trademark violations -- they could not get into beat with the courts, as the Sixth Circuit was forced to stay Slep-Tone's appeal for coming in before its cue.
Slep-Tone's Bitter Kandy
Slep-Tone sued Karaoke Kandy Store for allegedly copying Slep-Tone karaoke tracks and selling them without authorization. As the case worked its way through district court, Slep-Tone filed, six days before trial, a "Disclaimer of Damages," stating that it disclaimed all damages and sought only a bench trial. The company also declined to provide voir dire questions or jury instructions.
Unfortunately for Slep-Tone, the district court was less convinced that only a bench trial was necessary and empaneled a twelve-person jury without comment. After four days of trial, the jury found that Karaoke Kandy Store had not violated Slep-Tone's trademarks.
Slep-Tone Gets Ahead of the Beat
When the district court entered judgment the next day, it noted that the jury had been "advisory" under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 39(c)(1). Slep-Tone requested the court enter findings of fact and conclusions of law under Rule 52 and, before the court or Defendants had acted, appealed to the Sixth.
Typically, appeals must be filed within 30 days of the entry of judgment, but this period may be tolled when post-judgment motions are filed. When such post-judgment motions are filed, the notice of appeal becomes effective only after the order disposing of those motions is entered. You know how this song goes -- Slept-Tone's motion for entry of findings of fact and conclusions of law was just such a motion tolling the notice of appeal.
Since Slep-Tone's district court motion has not been resolved, the Sixth ruled that it was forced to sit out this song. The court would only have jurisdiction to hear the appeal after the district court resolves any final motions.