Justia Trademark Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Bankruptcy
by
Tempnology licensed Mission to use Tempnology’s trademarks in connection with the distribution of clothing. Tempnology filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and sought to reject its agreement with Mission as an “executory contract” under 11 U.S.C. 365, which provides that rejection “constitutes a breach of such contract.” The Bankruptcy Court approved Tempnology’s rejection, holding that the rejection terminated Mission’s rights to use Tempnology’s trademarks. The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel reversed, holding that rejection does not terminate rights that would survive a breach of contract outside bankruptcy. The First Circuit reinstated the Bankruptcy Court’s decision.The Supreme Court reversed, first holding that the case is not moot. Mission presented a plausible claim for damages, sufficient to preserve a live controversy. A debtor’s rejection of an executory contract under Bankruptcy Code Section 365 has the same effect as a breach of that contract outside bankruptcy and cannot rescind rights that the contract previously granted. A licensor’s breach cannot revoke continuing rights given under a contract (assuming no special contract term or state law) outside of bankruptcy; the same result follows from rejection in bankruptcy. Section 365 reflects the general bankruptcy rule that the estate cannot possess anything more than the debtor did outside bankruptcy. The distinctive features of trademarks do not mandate a different result. In delineating the burdens a debtor may and may not escape, Section 365’s edict that rejection is breach expresses a more complex set of aims than facilitating reorganization. View "Mission Product Holdings, Inc. v. Tempnology, LLC" on Justia Law

by
In 1957, Dominic opened an Italian restaurant, “Dominic’s.” It closed in 2007, but daughter-in-law, Anne, continues to market “Dominic’s Foods of Dayton.” In 2007, Christie, a granddaughter, contracted to operate a restaurant with Powers and Lee, a former Dominic’s chef. In pre-opening publicity, they promised to bring back original Dominic’s recipes. They named the business “Dominic’s Restaurant, Inc.” and registered with the Ohio Secretary of State. Anne brought claims of trademark infringement, trademark dilution, unfair practices, unfair competition, tortious interference with contract, conversion, misappropriation of business property, breach of contract, fraudulent and/or negligent misrepresentation, and breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The district court concluded that defendants had engaged in infringing behavior before and after entry of a TRO. Powers and Lee later closed the restaurant and withdrew registration of the name, but motions continued, arising out of efforts to open under another name. The district court eventually granted default judgment against defendants, rejecting a claim that proceedings were automatically stayed by Powers’ bankruptcy filing. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The stay does not protect a debtor’s tortious use of his property and, while the stay would bar assessment of damages, it would not bar injunctive relief. View "Dominic's Rest. of Dayton, Inc. v. Mantia" on Justia Law

by
XMH sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy relief and obtained permission to sell a subsidiary's assets (11 U.S.C. 363), indicating that a contract between the subsidiary and WG would be assigned to purchasers. WG objected, claiming that the contract was a sublicense of a trademark and could not be assigned without permission. The bankruptcy judge agreed with WG, but allowed XMH to renegotiate so that the subsidiary would retain title to the contract but the purchasers would assume all duties and receive all fees. The district court granted a motion substituting the purchasers for XMH and ruled that the order barring assignment was erroneous. First holding that the order was appealable and that it should exercise jurisdiction despite the absence of the bankruptcy trustee as a party, the Seventh Circuit affirmed. If WG had wanted to prevent assignment, it could have identified the contract as a trademark sublicense to trigger a default rule that trademark licenses are assumed to be not assignable. The contract was not simply a sublicense: WG retained control over "all other aspects of the production and sale of the Trademarked Apparel." Such a designation would have been more effective than a clause forbidding assignment because it would have survived bankruptcy. View "In re XMH Corp. " on Justia Law