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The district court held Early Education in contempt and awarded Rainbow School $60,000, plus attorney's fees and costs, after Early Education violated the terms of a consent judgment and permanent injunction. The Fourth Circuit affirmed and held that the district court did not clearly err in finding multiple violations of the injunction; Early Education's violations harmed the Rainbow School; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by awarding damages and attorney's fees and costs. The court dismissed Early Education's appeal from the order requiring it to undergo an audit based on lack of appellate jurisdiction. The court held that the question of whether Early Education should initially pay for an audit was neither inextricably linked nor a necessary precursor to the issues presented in the appeal from the district court's prior order, which made a determination of contempt and had nothing to do with paying for an audit. View "Rainbow School, Inc. v. Rainbow Early Education Holding LLC" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a dispute between the parties over licensing agreements involving the motion picture Gone in 60 Seconds. The trial court entered judgment for Classic and ordered that Eleanor Licensing retain possession of a vehicle identified as "Eleanor No. 1," which had been manufactured by Classic pursuant to a licensing agreement between the parties; quieting title to the vehicle in Eleanor Licensing; directing Classic to perform according to the terms of the licensing agreement and transfered legal title to Eleanor No. 1 to Eleanor Licensing; and awarding damages and attorney fees. The court held that the November 1, 2007 License Agreement was supported by adequate consideration; the contract-based claims, to the extent otherwise valid, were barred by the statute of limitations; the causes of action for return of personal property and quiet title were timely filed; the alter ego finding was not supported by substantial evidence; Jason Engel was properly named as a defendant in the causes of action to quiet title and for return of personal property; Tony Engel was a proper defendant in the quiet title cause of action; and the Engels were not liable for attorney fees. The court reversed in part and affirmed in part the judgment and postjudgment order. View "Eleanor Licensing LLC v. Classic Recreations LLC" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a dispute between the parties over licensing agreements involving the motion picture Gone in 60 Seconds. The trial court entered judgment for Classic and ordered that Eleanor Licensing retain possession of a vehicle identified as "Eleanor No. 1," which had been manufactured by Classic pursuant to a licensing agreement between the parties; quieting title to the vehicle in Eleanor Licensing; directing Classic to perform according to the terms of the licensing agreement and transfered legal title to Eleanor No. 1 to Eleanor Licensing; and awarding damages and attorney fees. The court held that the November 1, 2007 License Agreement was supported by adequate consideration; the contract-based claims, to the extent otherwise valid, were barred by the statute of limitations; the causes of action for return of personal property and quiet title were timely filed; the alter ego finding was not supported by substantial evidence; Jason Engel was properly named as a defendant in the causes of action to quiet title and for return of personal property; Tony Engel was a proper defendant in the quiet title cause of action; and the Engels were not liable for attorney fees. The court reversed in part and affirmed in part the judgment and postjudgment order. View "Eleanor Licensing LLC v. Classic Recreations LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1961, et seq., challenging the district court's judgment in favor of defendants. In this case, plaintiff alleged that defendants were members of two enterprises that conspired to sue plaintiff for, inter alia, trademark infringement. The Second Circuit held that the alleged litigation activities did not constitute RICO predicate acts. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff leave to amend, plaintiff's motion to disqualify, and defendants' motions for sanctions. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Kim v. Kimm" on Justia Law

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Ariel Investments, based in Illinois and doing business nationally, and Ariel Capital, based in Florida, both manage money for clients. Investments has used its name since 1983; Capital only since 2014. In a suit under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a), the district court found that Capital was infringing Investments’ trademarks. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding that the court lacked jurisdiction. Capital does not have a client, property, or staff in Illinois, does not advertise in Illinois, and never has had an agent even visit Illinois. The Lanham Act does not authorize nationwide service of process, so personal jurisdiction depends on state law. A defendant’s knowledge and intent concerning a resident of a state do not justify compelling that person to defend himself there. A state may assert specific jurisdiction, based on a particular transaction, only if the defendant has “a substantial connection with the forum State” that is of the defendant’s creation. ”No matter how one might characterize the relation between Ariel Investments and Ariel Capital, it is easy to describe the relation between Illinois and Ariel Capital: none.” If infringement happened, it occurred in Florida, or some state where people who wanted to do business with Investments ended up dealing with Capital because of the similar names. View "Ariel Investments, LLC v. Ariel Capital Advisors LLC" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment for Whole Foods in a trademark infringement action. The panel held that the district court impermissibly resolved disputed questions of material fact in favor of the moving party regarding Whole Foods' affirmative defenses of laches and acquiescence. Therefore, the panel vacated the district court's reasonableness finding and remanded for further proceedings. On remand, the district court should reevaluate the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party—i.e., as if ERF delayed filing suit because it was trying to settle its claims against Whole Foods. If the district court determined on remand that ERF delayed unreasonably in filing suit and this delay prejudiced Whole Foods, it must consider the extent and reasonableness of Whole Foods' reliance on ERF's affirmative representations before it reaches a finding on acquiescence. View "Eat Right Foods Ltd. v. Whole Foods Market, Inc." on Justia Law

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Leapers makes rifle scopes, textured with “knurling,” allowing users to grip the products more easily and to make fine-tuned adjustments. Knurling can be found on many items, including door handles, coin edges, and bottle lids. Leapers asserts that its unique knurling pattern is distinctly “ornamental” and allows consumers to recognize Leapers as the item's source. Leapers had an exclusive manufacturing contract with the Nantong factory in China, which agreed to never disclose information related to the products. Leapers ended that relationship. The factory agreed to stop using technical specifications, product design and packaging design documents related to Leaper and to destroy parts, accessories, and attachments related to Leaper’s products. Factory manager Shi formed a company (Trarms) and began selling rifle scopes and manufacturing rifle scopes for other sellers, including Defendant. Leaper’s sued, alleging trade dress infringement of the knurling design under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 105. Shi refused to testify, asserting the Fifth Amendment. Trarms refused to provide an alternate witness. The court granted Defendant summary judgment, reasoning that Leapers could not prove essential elements: nonfunctionality and secondary meaning, regardless of Shi 's testimony. The Sixth Circuit vacated. A jury could reasonably conclude that the design is purely ornamental and nonfunctional; that it does not represent a technological advancement; and that exclusive use of Leaper’s design would not put competitors at a significant, non-reputation related disadvantage. View "Leapers, Inc. v. SMTS, LLC" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a dispute over the ownership of the mark "The Commodores." Defendant appealed an order granting judgment as a matter of law to CEC and converting a preliminary injunction into a permanent one against defendant and his corporation, Fifth Avenue. The Eleventh Circuit held that it lacked jurisdiction to review the denial of the motion to dismiss and that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding expert testimony from an attorney who proffered only legal conclusions; when defendant left the band, he left behind his common-law rights to the marks and those rights remained with CEC; the scope of the injunction was not impermissibly broad; defendant's arguments about the validity of the federal registration of the marks were irrelevant to this determination; and defendant did not establish any affirmative defenses. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Commodores Entertainment Corp. v. McClary" on Justia Law

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Brunetti owns the clothing brand “fuct.” In 2011, individuals filed an intent-to-use application for the mark FUCT for items of apparel. The applicants assigned the application to Brunetti, who amended it to allege use of the mark. The examining attorney refused to register the mark under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1052(a), finding it comprised immoral or scandalous matter because FUCT is the past tense of “fuck,” a vulgar word, and is therefore scandalous. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board affirmed. The Federal Circuit reversed. While substantial evidence supports the Board’s findings and it did not err concluding the mark comprises immoral or scandalous matter, section 2(a)’s bar on registering immoral or scandalous marks is an unconstitutional restriction of free speech. The bar is a content-based restriction on speech; trademark registration is not a government subsidy program that could justify such a bar. Nor is trademark registration a “limited public forum,” in which the government can more freely restrict speech. The bar survives neither strict nor intermediate scrutiny. Even if the government had a substantial interest in protecting the public from scandalous or immoral marks, the regulation does not directly advance that interest because section 2(a) does not directly prevent applicants from using their marks. View "In re: Brunetti" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Fox and held that Fox's use of the name "Empire" was protected by the First Amendment and was outside the reach of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125. At issue was a Fox television show entitled Empire, which portrays a fictional hip hop music label named "Empire Enterprises" that was based in New York. The panel applied a test developed by the Second Circuit in Rogers v. Grimaldi, 875 F.2d 994 (2d Cir. 1989), to determine whether the Lanham Act applied. The panel held that Fox's expressive work sufficiently satisfied the first prong of the Rogers test where the title Empire supported the themes and geographic setting of the work and the second prong of the Rogers test where the use of the mark "Empire" did not explicitly mislead consumers. View "Twentieth Century Fox Television v. Empire Distribution" on Justia Law