Justia Trademark Opinion Summaries

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Since 2004, Nichino has offered a trademarked pesticide, “CENTAUR.” Valent trademarked a competing product, “SENSTAR,” in 2019, with a similar logo. Both pesticides are used by farmers in the same geographic areas against many of the same insects. SENSTAR is a liquid, a unique combination of two active chemicals. CENTAUR is manufactured as a solid, packed into bags and cases.Nichino sued for trademark infringement, seeking a preliminary injunction. The court applied the newly-effective Trademark Modernization Act of 2020 (TMA) Pub. Law 116-260, which establishes a rebuttable presumption of irreparable harm favoring a plaintiff who has shown a likelihood of success on the merits of an infringement claim. The district court found Nichino narrowly demonstrated its infringement claim would likely succeed, though “there is not an abundance of evidence of likelihood of confusion,” applied a 10-part, non-exhaustive analysis of likely confusion, then denied a preliminary injunction.The Third Circuit affirmed. The TMA’s rebuttable presumption requires courts considering a trademark injunction to assess the plaintiff’s evidence only as it relates to a likelihood of success on the merits. If that evidence does establish likely trademark infringement, the TMA is triggered, and the burden of production shifts to the defendant to introduce evidence sufficient for a reasonable factfinder to conclude that the consumer confusion is unlikely to cause irreparable harm. If a defendant successfully rebuts the TMA’s presumption by making this slight evidentiary showing, the presumption has no effect. View "Nichino America Inc v. Valent USA LLC" on Justia Law

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Miami Velvet operated as a swingers’ nightclub in Miami, Florida. The appellants, in this case, Yorkies and Mrs. Dorfman were Miami Velvet’s managers. Appellants appealed the district court’s final judgment, which awarded over 30 plaintiffs damages for false advertising and false endorsement under the Lanham Act, following the entry of summary judgment on liability and a jury award of damages. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment, set aside the jury’s award of damages to Appellants, and remanded for trial. The court explained that there was not enough evidence to support the entry of summary judgment. Here the advertisements with Plaintiffs’ images were created for and used by Velvet Lifestyles. But Plaintiffs did not just sue Velvet Lifestyles; they also sued Yorkies and Mrs. Dorfman. To prevail on their false advertising and false endorsement claims against Appellants, Plaintiffs had to show that Yorkies itself engaged in or participated in the prohibited conduct along with Velvet Lifestyles (direct liability) or that the corporate veil between Yorkies and Velvet Lifestyles should be pierced (indirect liability).Plaintiffs did not satisfy their burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether Yorkies and Mrs. Dorfman were responsible for the Lanham Act violations. Rather than making the necessary showing in their motion for summary judgment, Plaintiffs simply treated Velvet Lifestyles, Yorkies, and Mrs. Dorfman as one and the same. They exclusively discussed Defendants collectively in the argument section of their motion, presumably operating on the mistaken assumption that if Velvet Lifestyles was liable for violating the Act, so were Yorkies and Mrs. Dorfman. View "Jaime Faith Edmondson, et al. v. Velvet Lifestyles, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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Brothers and Sisters in Christ, LLC (BASIC) allege that Zazzle, Inc. sold a t-shirt that infringed on BASIC’s federal trademark. The district court granted Zazzle’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that BASIC bears the burden of establishing a prima facie showing of jurisdiction. Further, where the applicable federal statute, here the Lanham Act, does not authorize nationwide personal jurisdiction the existence of personal jurisdiction depends on the long-arm statute of the forum state and the federal Due Process Clause.   Here, the court looked to Zazzle’s contacts with Missouri related to BASIC’s claims. Aside from the single t-shirt sale, BASIC fails to allege a connection between Zazzle’s other contacts with Missouri and the underlying suit. BASIC does not allege that Zazzle’s other activities in Missouri involved trademark infringement or that Zazzle sold additional trademark-infringing goods into the state. Further, BASIC has not alleged that Zazzle took such purposeful, targeted action toward Missouri or Missouri consumers. Although Missouri has an interest in this litigation because the allegedly injured plaintiff is a Missouri company, the convenience of the parties is neutral, as Zazzle would be inconvenienced by litigation in Missouri and BASIC would likely be inconvenienced in an alternate forum. In sum, BASIC has failed to allege that Zazzle could reasonably anticipate being haled into court in Missouri. View "Brothers and Sisters in Christ v. Zazzle, Inc." on Justia Law

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In a trademark dispute under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. sections 1114, 1125(a), and New York’s law of trademark and unfair competition, PepsiCo, Inc., the Defendant, which marketed a canned energy drink under the mark “MTN DEW RISE ENERGY,” appealed from a preliminary injunction imposed on it by the district court at the instance of the Plaintiff, RiseandShine Corporation, d/b/a Rise Brewing (“Rise Brewing”), which sells nitro-brewed canned coffee (and also canned tea) under the name RISE. It is undisputed that Plaintiff began using the RISE mark prior to Defendant’s use of its mark. The district court concluded that  Defendant’s conduct in using RISE caused a likelihood of confusion and that  Plaintiff was likely to succeed on the merits.   The Second Circuit vacated the preliminary injunction, finding that the grant of a preliminary injunction was premised on two significant errors. The court wrote that the district court granted Plaintiff a preliminary injunction based in part on the conclusion that Plaintiff was likely to succeed on the merits. This rested in substantial part on the court’s conclusion that Plaintiff’s mark was strong—both in inherent and acquired strength—as well as its determination that the two products were “confusingly similar.” To the extent that Defendant’s use of its marks caused any likelihood of confusion, this was because Plaintiff chose a weak mark in a crowded field. For this reason, the balance of hardships did not favor Plaintiff. Plaintiff did not demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits. View "RiseandShine Corporation v. PepsiCo, Inc." on Justia Law

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Skilken, the owner of Max Rack, Inc., invented a piece of gym equipment that he named the “Max Rack.” For years, his company sold Max Racks through a licensing agreement with Core. When Max Rack’s last patent expired, Core decided to sell an identical machine under a new name, “Freedom Rack.” Max Rack alleged that Core continued to sell “Max Racks” without authorization, and attempted to sell Freedom Racks by free-riding off the “Max Rack” name, Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1114(1), 1117(a), 1125(a)(1)(A). A jury awarded Max Rack $1 million in damages and $250,000 in Core’s profits. The district court doubled the profits award to $500,000, and granted Max Rack attorney’s fees but overturned Max Rack’s damages award.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the $250,000 profits award as supported by sufficient evidence and the court’s rejection of the $1 million damages award, reversing the court’s decision to double the profits award and its decision to grant Max Rack attorney’s fees. This case does not qualify as “exceptional” and Core did not litigate in an “unreasonable manner.” Core’s unauthorized sales ended before trial. View "Max Rack, Inc. v. Core Health & Fitness, LLC" on Justia Law

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Royal Palm Properties, LLC ("Royal Palm") sued Pink Palm Properties, LLC ("Pink Palm)" for trademark infringement and Pink Palm countersued. Both parties ultimately lost on their claims. Pink Palm asserted that it was the prevailing party, and thereby entitled to costs under Rule 54 and “exceptional case” fees under the Lanham Act because it successfully defended the initial infringement claim. The district court ruled that there was no prevailing party because there was a split judgment and both parties lost on their claims. Because it found that neither party could be characterized as the prevailing party, the district court declined to award costs or fees to Pink Palm.   Pink Palm’s appealed the district court’s fee order. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s order. The court wrote that when the parties achieve a “tie,” a district court may find no prevailing party for purposes of costs and fees. While there will be occasional instances, such as this one, where neither party prevails, the court noted that in the majority of cases whether there is a prevailing party and which party prevailed will be easily determined. Further when granting prevailing party status in those instances, however, a district court is limited to naming one, and only one, prevailing party. Here, neither party was the prevailing party, and, because it did not meet the threshold requirement of prevailing party status, Pink Palm was rightly denied costs under Rule 54 and attorney fees under the Lanham Act. View "Royal Palm Properties, LLC v. Pink Palm Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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Coca-Cola distributes a Thums Up cola and Limca lemon-lime soda in India and other foreign markets. Meenaxi has distributed a Thums Up cola and a Limca lemon-lime soda in the United States since 2008 and registered the THUMS UP and LIMCA marks in the United States in 2012. Coca-Cola brought cancellation proceedings under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1064(3), asserting that Meenaxi was using the marks to misrepresent the source of its goods. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board canceled Meenaxi’s marks.The Federal Circuit reversed. Coca-Cola has not established a statutory cause of action based on lost sales or reputational injury. Coca-Cola does not identify any lost sales in the United States but instead relies on testimony that “THUMS UP-branded and LIMCA-branded products are resold in Indian grocery stores around the world, including in the U.S.” Coca-Cola presented no evidence that it sells the Limca soda in the United States and established only that Thums Up cola is “available for purchase as an individual beverage or as part of a tasting tray” at “World of Coca-Cola” and “Coca-Cola Store” locations in Atlanta and Orlando. View "Meenaxi Enterprise, Inc. v. Coca-Cola Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, Wreal, LLC, a pornography company, has been using the mark “FyreTV” in commerce since 2008. Defendant, Amazon.com, Inc., has been using the mark “Fire TV” (or “fireTV”) in commerce since 2012. Wreal contended that Amazon’s allegedly similar mark is causing consumers to associate its mark—“FyreTV”—with Amazon. After the close of discovery, the district court granted summary judgment to Amazon.   The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded the district court’s ruling. The court explained that the case addresses the application of the seven likelihood-of-confusion factors to a reverse-confusion trademark infringement case. Although some of those factors are analyzed and applied in the same way in both reverse-confusion cases and the more familiar forward-confusion cases, there are important differences in how other factors are analyzed and applied that stem from the fact that the harm and the theory of infringement differ between forward and reverse confusion.   Here, the record evidence establishes that Amazon acquired actual knowledge of Wreal’s registered trademark and still launched a product line. The two marks at issue are nearly identical, the commercial strength of Amazon’s mark is consistent with Wreal’s theory of recovery. Furthermore, Wreal has identified two consumers who a reasonable juror could conclude were confused by Amazon’s chosen mark. The court wrote, that there is no mechanical formula for applying the seven factors relating to the likelihood of confusion. But when considering all seven factors as they apply to a theory of reverse confusion and taking all the circumstances of this case into account on the record, it concluded that they weigh heavily in favor of Wreal. View "Wreal, LLC v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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. Until 2008, Lehman Brothers, a large investment bank, owned federal trademark registrations for the standard character mark LEHMAN BROTHERS. Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and sold several of its businesses and other assets to Barclays for $1.5 billion, assigning all of its LEHMAN BROTHERS trademarks and accompanying goodwill. Barclays granted Lehman Brothers a worldwide, non-exclusive license to use the LEHMAN BROTHERS trademarks in connection with continuing businesses and operations. The term of the license was two years for use in connection with investment banking and capital markets businesses and perpetual for use in connection with other operations. Barclays allowed its LEHMAN BROTHERS trademark registrations to expire. In 2013, Tiger Lily, which has no affiliation to Lehman Brothers or Barclays, sought registration of the mark LEHMAN BROTHERS for beer and spirits. A few months later, Barclays applied to register LEHMAN BROTHERS for use in connection with financial services. In 2014, Tiger Lily applied for registration of the LEHMAN BROTHERS mark for bar services and restaurant services. Barclays and Tiger Lily filed Notices of Opposition.The Federal Circuit affirmed the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board in sustaining Barclay’s oppositions against Tiger Lily’s applications and in dismissing Tiger Lily’s opposition to Barclays’ application, noting that Lehman Brothers and Barclays have continued to use the LEHMAN BROTHERS mark since 2008. View "Tiger Lily Ventures Ltd. v. Barclays Capital Inc." on Justia Law

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AK Futures LLC (“AK Futures”), an e-cigarette and vaping product manufacturer, brought suit for trademark and copyright infringement against Boyd Street Distro, LLC, (“Boyd”). According to AK Futures, Boyd has been selling counterfeit versions of its “Cake”-branded e-cigarette and vaping products containing delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (“delta-8 THC”). Boyd contended that AK Futures does not have protectible trademarks for its Cake products because delta-8 THC remains illegal under federal law. The district court held that theAgriculture Improvement Act (the “Farm Act”) legalized the company’s delta-8 THC products, and it granted injunctive relief.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of a preliminary injunction. The court reasoned that the district court’s order properly distinguished between trademark and copyright protection. Further, the court held that the plain and unambiguous text of the Farm Act compels the conclusion that AK Futures’ delta8 THC products are lawful. the court concluded that on the available record, the delta-8 THC in AK Futures’ e-cigarette liquid appears to fit comfortably within the statutory definition of “hemp”—i.e., the liquid is properly understood as a derivative, extract, or cannabinoid originating from the cannabis plant and containing “not more than 0.3 percent” delta-9 THC. The court wrote that because the Farm Act’s definition of hemp is not ambiguous, the court does not consider agency interpretation, and even if it did, the Drug Enforcement Agency’s view of the Farm Act’s plain text aligns with the court’s own. View "AK FUTURES LLC V. BOYD STREET DISTRO, LLC" on Justia Law