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GeoMetWatch Corp. v. Hall

United States District Court, D. Utah

August 2, 2019

GEOMETWATCH CORP., a Nevada corporation, Plaintiff,
ALAN E. HALL, et al., Defendants.



         This matter comes before the court on a motion for summary judgment filed by defendant Tempus Global Data, Inc. (“Tempus”) on April 29, 2019. (ECF No. 860). Plaintiff GeoMetWatch Corporation (“GeoMet”) responded in opposition on May 20, 2019 (ECF No. 883), and Tempus replied on June 10, 2019 (ECF No. 898). For the reasons below, Tempus's motion for summary judgment is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This action followed the collapse of an incipient joint venture between GeoMet and Advanced Weather Systems Foundation (“AWSF”) created for the purpose of constructing and deploying a satellite-hosted weather sensor system and commercially exploiting the data derived therefrom. The operative complaint alleges that Tempus, and associated individuals and entities, colluded with AWSF and others to deprive GeoMet of the business opportunity it had developed.[1]

         On November 27, 2018, this court issued a memorandum decision and order (the “Damages Order”) granting partial summary judgment to Tempus on grounds that GeoMet's damages theories were impermissibly speculative. (ECF No. 811). But the operative complaint also asserted three claims unaffected by the Damages Order under which GeoMet sought only nominal or statutory damages: a Utah Truth in Advertising Act claim, a Utah Unfair Practices Act claim, and a federal false advertising claim under the Lanham Act. Tempus now seeks summary judgment on those claims.


         Summary judgment is appropriate when “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The movant bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the movant has met this burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986) (citation omitted). To do so, the nonmoving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

         When the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, that party must “go beyond the pleadings” and designate specific facts so as to “make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an essential element to that party's case.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. “[T]here is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party.” Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 249. On summary judgment, “courts are required to view the facts and draw reasonable inferences” in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007).

         III. ANALYSIS

         GeoMet does not oppose summary judgment on its Utah Truth in Advertising Act and Utah Unfair Practices Act claims. Thus, Tempus is entitled to summary judgment on those state law claims. That leaves for resolution only Tempus's motion for summary judgment on GeoMet's Lanham Act claim.

         To prevail on a Lanham Act false advertising claim, GeoMet must prove:

(1) that [Tempus] made material false or misleading representations of fact in connection with the commercial advertising or promotion of its product; (2) in commerce; (3) that are either likely to cause confusion or mistake as to (a) origin, association or approval of the product with or by another, or (b) the characteristics of the goods or services; and (4) injure the plaintiff.

Digital Ally, Inc. v. Util. Assocs., Inc., 882 F.3d 974, 978 (10th Cir. 2018); see 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a). Tempus asserts that GeoMet cannot adduce evidence to establish the first, third, and fourth elements. In response, GeoMet points to several emails, a website screenshot, and the deposition testimony of Dr. David Crain-an owner and founder of GeoMet-to argue that factual disputes preclude summary judgment. The court considers each alleged false statement below.[2]

         A. The January 14, 2014 Email

         On January 14, 2014, in response to a query from a business development representative of a prominent American defense contractor about whether Tempus would be “assum[ing] the role of [GeoMet]” in the STORM project, Alan Hall (an owner of Tempus) stated that “yes we are replacing the roles and duties of [GeoMet]. We will own and manage the relationships of all entities in the consortium. We will pay for and own the sensors and the data generated from them. We are building a business that will sell said data products on a globally [sic] basis.” Mr. Hall's ...

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