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Technology and Intellectual Property

Netflix’s Rights to Stream Limited by Plan Feasibility

By: Gabriella Labita

St. John’s Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff

In In Re Relativity Fashion, LLC, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York held that Netflix was not permitted to stream certain films before they were theatrically released. RML Distribution Domestic, LLC, DR Productions, and Armored Car Productions, LLC (collectively, the “Debtors”) filed for bankruptcy in July 2015 and proposed a Chapter 11 plan of reorganization (the “Plan”), which contemplated the theatrical release of certain movies before Netflix streams them. The Debtors’ release of the films yielded specific financial projections and was a critical factor in the court’s determination that the Plan was feasible as required by the United States Bankruptcy Code. The Debtors petitioned the court to compel Netflix to comply with proposed amendments to Notices of Assignment that were issued under a license agreement between Netflix and the Debtors. The judge’s confirmation order of the Plan approved these amendments, dictating that the payments owed by Netflix under the license agreement were to be assigned to the lenders. Netflix conceded the amendments because the license agreement required compliance as long as the terms did not change Netflix’s rights. Netflix asserted, however, that accordingly to the license agreement it had the right to distribute the films prior to theatrical release.

All Talk, but no Action Leads to the Loss of Ground Breaking Cancer Research

By: Nicholas Marcello

St. John’s Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff

In In re Genesys Research Institute, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts denied motions for reconsideration holding there was no error in approving the sale and disposition of research equipment and biological samples free and clear of liens, claims, and interests.[1] In support of its motion to sell research equipment by public auction and destroy experimental cancers cells, the Trustee of Genesys Research Institute, a debtor, argued that the costs and burdens of maintaining the biological materials warranted the prompt disposition of them.[2] The Trustee noted that no party appeared to take custody and control of the biological materials despite all marketing efforts.[3] The Trustee also represented that he had no ability to reorganize the research lab and that he was required to liquidate the debtor’s assets in furtherance of his duties as a chapter 11 trustee.[4] The Court approved the disposition of the cells and the sale of the equipment free and clear of all interest and liens over the objection of, among others, the Department of Energy (“DOE”).[5] The disposition of the research led to the incineration of (hundreds) of biological samples, backed by thousands of dollars in grants, which were part of vital cancer research.[6] The researcher’s work was considered to be “groundbreaking and paradigm-shifting in the field of cancer biology” because they were able to turn normal human cells into cancer cells.[7]

Noncompetition Agreements Not Subject to §362 Automatic Stay Where Provisions Are Found Not To Be "Claims" Under The Code

By: James Duckham

St. John’s Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff

In In re Hurvitz,[1] the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts granted Blue Grace Franchise (“Blue”) relief from an automatic stay because Blue’s right to enforce the noncompetition and nonsolicitation provisions in its franchise agreement were not claims under section 101(5) of the United States Bankruptcy Code (the “Code”).[2] In February 2015, Blue and Carl Hurvitz entered into a franchise agreement that gave Hurvitz a nonexclusive and limited license to use Blue’s services and technology.[3] This agreement contained restrictive covenants that prohibited Hurvitz from competing or soliciting business away from Blue for two years after the agreement was terminated.[4] In January 2016, Blue terminated the agreement and Hurvitz began to work for Freight Management Company (Freight), a direct competitor of Blue.[5] In April 2016 Blue filed suit in Massachusetts Superior Court, and in May 2016 Blue was granted a temporary restraining order that enjoined Hurvitz from continued employment at Freight and from soliciting or contacting Blue’s former, current, or perspective clients.[6] On May 16, 2016, Hurvitz filed a petition for relief under chapter 7 of the Code, which pursuant to section 362 of the Code, resulted in an automatic stay of the restraining order.[7] Blue then made a motion to the bankruptcy court requesting relief from the automatic stay.[8] Ultimately, the bankruptcy court granted relief from the automatic stay finding that the franchise agreement’s provisions were not considered claims under the Code.[9]

Uncertainty Remains as to How a Rejected Trademark License Agreement will be Treated in the Eighth Circuit

By: Crystal Lawson

St. John’s Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff


In In re Interstate Bakeries Corp.,[i] the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit recently held that a trademark license agreement was not an executory contract because it was part of a larger, integrated sale agreement that had been substantially performed by both parties.[ii] Accordingly, since the debtor could not reject the agreement, the Eighth Circuit did not determine whether the rejection of a trademark-licensing agreement necessarily terminates the licensee’s rights in the trademark.[iii] In 1996, Interstate Brands Corp (“IBC”), a subsidiary of Interstate Bakeries Corporation (“Interstate Bakeries”), transferred two of its brands and certain related assets to Lewis Brothers Bakeries (“LBB”) pursuant to an antitrust judgment.[iv] In connection with the sale, the parties entered into an asset purchase agreement and a trademark license agreement.[v] In 2004, Interstate Bakeries and eight of its subsidiaries, including IBC, filed for bankruptcy under chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code.[vi] After Interstate Bakeries disclosed that it intended to assume the trademark license agreement, LBB commenced an adversary proceeding seeking a declaration that the agreement was not an executory contract under section 365(a) of the Bankruptcy Code and therefore, was not subject to assumption or rejection.[vii] Finding that both parties owed material obligations under the trademark license agreement, the bankruptcy court held that the agreement was executory.[viii] The district court affirmed that decision.[ix] The Eighth Circuit, however, reversed, holding that the trademark license agreement was not executory because it was part of a larger, integrated contract that had been substantially performed.[x]