Justia Trademark Opinion Summaries
Carbon Six Barrels v. Proof Research
Proof Research, Inc. and Carbon Six Barrels, LLC both manufacture carbon-fiber gun barrels. Proof entered the market first and obtained a trademark for the unique appearance of its barrels. When Proof found out that Carbon Six intended to begin manufacturing and selling similar-looking carbon-fiber gun barrels of its own, Proof responded with litigation. However, Proof did not file suit against Carbon Six but rather against McGowen Precision Barrels, LLC, Carbon Six’s sister company. McGowen then initiated separate proceedings to have Proof’s trademark canceled. McGowen was ultimately successful, and Proof’s trademark for its carbon-fiber gun barrels was canceled in 2021. On February 9, 2022, Carbon Six filed this lawsuit against Proof for defamation and violation of the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act stemming from Proof’s efforts to register, renew, enforce, and defend its previously valid trademark. However, Carbon Six brought its claims after the one-year prescriptive period imposed by Louisiana law had run. On Proof’s motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), Carbon Six failed to convince the district court that any of its claims were timely. The district court also held that Carbon Six’s LUTPA claim was legally deficient. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court held that all actions Carbon Six alleged Proof took were discrete rather than ongoing, and each began and ended more than a year before this lawsuit was filed. Carbon Six’s LUTPA claim is therefore prescribed. The court explained even if Carbon Six could do so, Proof’s attempt to enforce a later-invalidated trademark does not violate LUTPA. View "Carbon Six Barrels v. Proof Research" on Justia Law
Bliss Collection, LLC v. Latham Companies, LLC
In 1999, Latham, McLean, and Vernooy formed Bliss to sell children’s clothing under the name “bella bliss.” In 2003, Shannon left Bliss and started Latham to sell her own children’s clothing under the name “little english.” Bliss’s logo is a lowercase “b” drawn out as if stitched in thread. Bliss has registered trademarks for this logo. Bliss has several designs that it claims as signature looks of the bella bliss brand that have “become famous and widely known and recognized as symbols of unique and high-quality garments.” There has been previous litigation between the parties.In 2020, Bliss filed federal claims for copyright, trademark, and trade dress infringement; false designation of origin and misappropriation of source; and unfair competition. The district court dismissed Bliss’s claims and granted Latham attorney’s fees for defending the copyright claim but found that Bliss filed its action in good faith and that the trademark and trade dress claims were not so “exceptionally meritless” that Latham merited a rare attorney’s fees award under 15 U.S.C. 1117. The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part. Bliss stated claims for federal and state trademark infringement but has not stated a claim for trade dress infringement. The district court did not err in denying attorney’s fees to Latham for defending the trademark and trade dress infringement claims. View "Bliss Collection, LLC v. Latham Companies, LLC" on Justia Law
IMPOSSIBLE FOODS INC. V. IMPOSSIBLE X LLC
Impossible X, now a Texas LLC, is a one-person company run by Joel Runyon, a self-described “digital nomad” who for two years operated his business from San Diego. Impossible X sells apparel, nutritional supplements, diet guides, and a consulting service through its website and various social media channels. Impossible Foods sued Impossible X in federal court in California, seeking a declaration that Impossible Foods’ use of the IMPOSSIBLE mark did not infringe on Impossible X’s trademark rights. The district court dismissed the case for lack of personal jurisdiction. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal. The panel held that Impossible X was subject to specific personal jurisdiction in California because it previously operated out of California and built its brand and trademarks there, and its activities in California were sufficiently affiliated with the underlying trademark dispute to satisfy the requirements of due process. First, Impossible X purposefully directed its activities toward California and availed itself of the privileges of conducting activities there by building its brand and working to establish trademark rights there. Second, Impossible Foods’ declaratory judgment action arose out of or related to Impossible X’s conduct in California. The panel did not confine its analysis to Impossible X’s trademark enforcement activities, but rather concluded that, to the extent the Federal Circuit follows such an approach for patent declaratory judgments, that approach is not justified in the trademark context. Third, the panel concluded that there was nothing unreasonable about requiring Impossible X to defend a lawsuit based on its trademark building activities in the state that was its headquarters and Runyon’s home base. View "IMPOSSIBLE FOODS INC. V. IMPOSSIBLE X LLC" on Justia Law
Grubhub, Inc. v. Relish Labs LLC
Since 2013, Home Chef has created and delivered meal kits. In 2014, Home Chef began using its “HC Home Mark,” covered by five federal trademark registrations. Home Chef later merged with Kroger, and now delivers meals directly to customers and offers them for sale in Kroger stores, through Kroger’s website, and through food delivery services.Grubhub, an online food-ordering and delivery marketplace, owns numerous trademark registrations covering the GRUBHUB name and stylized variations. In 2021, Grubhub was acquired by JET, which owns food-delivery brands worldwide and combines its “JET House Mark” with local brand names when conducting business in various countries. JET has used the JET House Mark since 2014. JET had filed an international trademark application for the JET House Mark. A USPTO examiner found the JET House Mark “highly similar” and “confusingly similar” to the HC Home Mark and Home Chef Home Logo. JET withdrew its application. JET later combined the GRUBHUB word mark with the JET House Mark. Grubhub invested millions of dollars in rebranding its print and electronic materials.After receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Home Chef, Grubhub sought a declaratory judgment that its Logo did not infringe Home Chef’s marks. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of Home Chef's motion for a preliminary injunction. The district court did not clearly err in finding that Home Chef failed to meet its burden to show a likelihood of success on the merits of its infringement claim. View "Grubhub, Inc. v. Relish Labs LLC" on Justia Law
Pim Brands Inc v. Haribo of America Inc.
About 20 years ago, PIM introduced a chewy candy, watermelon-flavored, wedge-shaped Sour Jacks Wedges. Its colors match its flavor: a green layer topped by a thin white band with a larger red section. PIM advertised the candy as “The Ultimate Shape of Sour” and told consumers to “Respect the Wedge.” Years later, PIM tried to trademark the wedge shape. The Patent and Trademark Office required PIM to add colors. PIM registered the shape of a wedge, with an upper green section with white speckles, followed by a narrow middle white section, with a lower red section with white speckles. PIM later produced Sour Jacks Wedges in other flavors. Each has a color to match its flavor. The Patent Office granted PIM a supplemental registration for a tricolored wedge with unspecified colors. Haribo recently introduced its own chewy watermelon candy as an elongated watermelon wedge in red, white, and green.PIM sued for trademark and trade-dress infringement, Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1114(1), 1125(a)(1)(A). Haribo countered that PIM’s trade dress was functional and asked the court to cancel PIM’s trademark. The district court granted Haribo summary judgment. The Third Circuit affirmed. PIM may have created the wedge shape to distinguish its product in the market but in doing so, it made a candy reminiscent of a juicy watermelon wedge, which makes the whole trade dress functional when applied to a watermelon candy. The cancellation order should apply to the primary registration. View "Pim Brands Inc v. Haribo of America Inc." on Justia Law
Rex Real Est I v. Rex Real Est
Plaintiff Rex Real Estate I, L.P. sued Defendant Rex Real Estate Exchange for trademark infringement. The district court granted Defendant’s motion for judgment as a matter of law after Plaintiff rested its case. Plaintiff appealed the judgment against its federal infringement claims under the Lanham Act. The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. The court held that a reasonable jury could not find in favor of Plaintiff’s Section 32(1) claim, but it could find in favor of Plaintiff’s Section 43(a) claim. The court explained that while there was strong evidence that the marks are perceived by the public as primarily a personal name, the record does not compel that conclusion. Thus, the district court erred by deciding as a matter of law that Plaintiff’s marks are not inherently distinctive. Moreover, the court explained that Plaintiff also asserts that the numerous calls it received from confused consumers who heard Defendant’s advertisements show that the marks have strong standing in the marketplace because it could mean that the callers assumed that Plaintiff was the sole source of the advertising. This is a plausible inference for a jury to make. The court held that taken together and in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, a reasonable jury could find that this factor weighs in favor of Plaintiff. View "Rex Real Est I v. Rex Real Est" on Justia Law
Valancourt Books, LLC v. Merrick Garland
The Copyright Office sent a letter to Valancourt Books, LLC, an independent press based in Richmond, Virginia, demanding physical copies of Valancourt’s published books on the pain of fines. Valancourt protested that it could not afford to deposit physical copies and that much of what it published was in the public domain. In response, the Office narrowed the list of demanded works but continued to demand that Valancourt deposit copies of its books with the Library of Congress or otherwise face a fine. Valancourt then brought this action against the Register of Copyrights and the Attorney General. Valancourt challenged the application of Section 407’s deposit requirement against it as an unconstitutional taking of its property in violation of the Fifth Amendment and an invalid burden on its speech in violation of the First Amendment. The district court granted summary judgment to the government on both claims. The DC Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in the government’s favor and remanded for the entry of judgment to Valancourt and the award of relief. The court concluded that Section 407, as applied by the Copyright Office in this case, worked an unconstitutional taking of Valancourt’s property. The court explained that the Office demanded that Valancourt relinquish property (physical copies of copyrighted books) on the pain of fines. And because the requirement to turn over copies of the works is not a condition of attaining (or retaining) copyright protection in them, the demand to forfeit property cannot be justified as the conferral of a benefit in exchange for property. View "Valancourt Books, LLC v. Merrick Garland" on Justia Law
ORACLE USA, INC., ET AL V. RIMINI STREET, INC.
This civil contempt dispute is the fallout from the protracted copyright infringement litigation between Oracle USA, Inc. and Rimini Street, Inc.—now in its thirteenth year. In the underlying case, the district court entered a permanent injunction that enjoined Rimini from various infringing practices. Years later, the district court identified ten potential violations of the permanent injunction (“Issues 1– 10”), and ultimately held Rimini in contempt on five. Rimini was ordered to pay $630,000 in statutory sanctions plus attorneys’ fees. On appeal, Rimini argued that the contempt order should be reversed and that the sanctions should be vacated. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and vacated in part the district court’s order. The permanent injunction generally prohibited Rimini from reproducing, preparing derivative works from, or distributing certain Oracle software. The district court identified ten potential violations of the permanent injunction (Issues 1–10) and held Rimini in contempt on five (Issues 1-4, 8). The panel affirmed the district court’s finding of contempt on Issues 1-4. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in holding Rimini in contempt for hosting Oracle files on its computer systems (Issue 1). The panel also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding Rimini in contempt for violating the injunction against the “cross use” of development environments (Issues 2, 3, and 4). Reversing the finding of contempt on Issue 8, the panel held that the district court abused its discretion in holding Rimini in contempt for creating copies of an Oracle Database file on its systems. View "ORACLE USA, INC., ET AL V. RIMINI STREET, INC." on Justia Law
D.H. Pace Company, Inc. v. OGD Equipment Company, LLC
Pace (a company that sells and services garage doors) sued a competitor, Overhead Garage Door (“OGD”) (a company that also offers garage door services), alleging a host of federal and state law violations relating to OGD’s trade practices. Pace and Overhead Door Corporation (a garage door manufacturer that is not a party to this case but that has a name noticeably similar to Defendant OGD, its competition) have a licensing agreement in which Pace is the licensee, and Overhead Door Corporation is the licensor. As part of this agreement, Pace uses Overhead Door Corporation’s marks. The district court granted summary judgment to OGD on all of Pace’s claims, concluding in large part that Pace could not bring suit because Pace was a nonexclusive licensee that lacked sufficient ownership rights in Overhead Door Corporation’s marks and because OGD and Overhead Door Corporation’s settlement agreement extinguished Pace’s claims. Pace timely appealed. The Eleventh Circuit vacated. The court concluded that Pace may bring its federal and state law claims. The court concluded that the licensing agreement, Pace’s status as a nonexclusive licensee, and the settlement agreement do not bar Pace from bringing its claims under the Lanham Act, state law, or common law. The court explained that although the agreement may prevent OGD and Overhead Door Corporation from suing each other, the settlement agreement is “not . . . binding on . . . current and future licensees.” As such, the settlement agreement is not binding on licensees like Pace and does not prevent Pace from suing View "D.H. Pace Company, Inc. v. OGD Equipment Company, LLC" on Justia Law
Dewberry Engineers Inc. v. Dewberry Group, Inc.
Two companies that operate in the real estate development industry have spent years embroiled in a dispute over their shared name: “Dewberry.” Dewberry Engineers sued Dewberry Group to quell the latter’s use of several new insignias it developed as part of its rebrand. Dewberry Engineers owns federal trademark rights to the “Dewberry” mark and claims Dewberry Group’s rebranding efforts infringe that mark and breach an agreement struck between the sparring corporations over a decade ago. The district court sided with Dewberry Engineers in the proceedings below, assessing a nearly $43 million profit disgorgement award against Dewberry Group for its infringement, enjoining it from further breaches of its agreement with Dewberry Engineers, and ordering it to pay attorneys’ fees for forcing Dewberry Engineers to litigate an exceptional case of trademark infringement. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the parties share an identical, arbitrary dominant word and disclaim different suffixes (and prefixes in some cases) in the marks at issue. The record shows they also employ those marks in related, overlapping, and complementary services. Those details go some distance toward creating a likelihood of confusion as to the origin of either party’s “Dewberry” mark. Moreover, the court explained that despite Dewberry Group’s failure to calculate exact figures or provide evidence of deductions from infringement revenues for losses and expenses, the court equitably reduced the requested award by twenty percent to $42,975,725.60. The court finds no error of fact or law suggesting the district court’s conclusions were an abuse of its discretion. View "Dewberry Engineers Inc. v. Dewberry Group, Inc." on Justia Law