Justia Trademark Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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AcryliCon USA, LLC (“AC-USA”) and Silikal GmbH (“Silikal”) have been fighting for years over a trade secret. The last time they were before this Court, a panel erased some of the relief awarded to AC-USA after a jury trial. On remand, the district court basically entered the same amount of attorney’s fees it had originally awarded. The district court also entered a “permanent” injunction barring the use of the trade secret at issue, concluding that it was obliged to do so.   The Eleventh Circuit found that the district court misread the court’s holdings, including the court’s unambiguous determination in AcryliCon II that no permanent injunction had been entered because the district court’s original final judgment did not include one. The court explained that the district court could not simply “reenter” a permanent injunction against Silikal without first making the appropriate findings pursuant to Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The court further concluded that the district court abused its discretion when it awarded AC-USA nearly its full attorney’s fees even after the court reversed, in AcryliCon II, significant portions of the relief AC-USA had been previously awarded. Thus, the court vacated and remanded. View "Acrylicon USA, LLC v. Silikal GMBH" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs petitioned the United States Patent and Trademark Office for federal registration of the mark “THEEILOVE”. That phrase, “Thee I Love,” comes from the alma mater of Jackson State University. They then sued the University’s licensing agent (Collegiate Licensing Company) and a few of the licensees in charge of producing and selling the University’s merchandise (Anthony Lawrence Collection, Defron Fobb, and Thaddeus Reed, together “the Licensees”). But they did not sue the University itself. Collegiate and the Licensees moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(7). The district court granted the motion and dismissed the suit without prejudice.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the University was a required party under Rule 19(a)(1)(B)(i). And because everyone agrees that the University enjoys sovereign immunity, the question becomes whether the district court abused its discretion in dismissing the case rather than proceeding without the University. Here, the University has a non-frivolous claim here. As a practical matter, this suit would impair or impede its ability to protect its interest in the “Thee I Love” mark. That is enough to require dismissal of the action because “there is a potential for injury to” the University’s “interests as the absent sovereign.” Finally, even setting aside the University’s sovereign status, the balance of Rule 19(b) factors weigh in favor of dismissal. As a result, the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the case. View "Lee, et al v. Anthony Lawrence Collection, et al" on Justia Law

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The Grill Holdings, L.L.C. (Khodr) filed suit in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans seeking a declaratory judgment as to whether CGH (Shwartz) had the right to audit their books and records under the License Agreement. The state district court ruled in CGH’s favor on summary judgment, and the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal denied writ.The parties appealed to the Fifth Circuit. First, the Shwartz parties appealed, arguing that the district court erred in denying the Rooker-Feldman motion to dismiss and in the scope of its permanent injunction. Next, the Khodr parties cross-appealed, arguing that the district court erred in denying the motion for sanctions.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s rulings, including (1) a ruling denying a motion to dismiss; (2) a ruling entering a permanent injunction; and (3) a ruling denying a motion for Rule 11 and Section 1927 sanctions. The court explained that there was no room on remand for reconsideration of the alleged elements that constituted trade dress. Thus, the district court did not abuse its discretion by leaving wait staff attire out of the injunction. Further, the court held that the Rule 11 safe harbor provision requires identicality. Here, as the district court found, the served motion and the filed motion contained substantial differences. The motions were thus not identical, and the district court properly denied the motion and declined to enter sanctions. View "Uptown Grill v. Camellia Grill Holdings" on Justia Law

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NBA Properties owns the trademarks of the NBA and NBA teams. In 2020, a Properties investigator accessed HANWJH’s online Amazon store and purchased an item, designating an address in Illinois as the delivery destination. The product was delivered to the Illinois address. Properties sued, alleging trademark infringement and counterfeiting, 15 U.S.C. 1114 and false designation of origin, section 1125(a). Properties obtained a TRO and a temporary asset restraint on HANWJH’s bank account, then moved for default; despite having been served, HANWJH had not answered or otherwise defended the suit. HANWJH moved to dismiss, arguing that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over it because it did not expressly aim any conduct at Illinois. HANWJH maintained that it had never sold any other product to any consumer in Illinois nor had it any “offices, employees,” “real or personal property,” “bank accounts,” or any other commercial dealings with Illinois.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion to dismiss and the entry of judgment in favor of Properties. HANWJH shipped a product to Illinois after it structured its sales activity in such a manner as to invite orders from Illinois and developed the capacity to fill them. HANWJH’s listing of its product on Amazon.com and its sale of the product to counsel are related sufficiently to the harm of likelihood of confusion. Illinois has an interest in protecting its consumers from purchasing fraudulent merchandise. HANWJH alleges no unusual burden in defending the suit in Illinois. View "NBA Properties, Inc. v. HANWJH" 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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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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Bimbo Bakeries USA, Inc. (“Bimbo Bakeries”) owned, baked, and sold Grandma Sycamore’s Home-Maid Bread (“Grandma Sycamore’s”). Bimbo Bakeries alleged that United States Bakery (“U.S. Bakery”), a competitor, and Leland Sycamore (“Leland”), the baker who developed the Grandma Sycamore’s recipe, misappropriated its trade secret for making Grandma Sycamore’s. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of U.S. Bakery on a trade dress infringement claim. The parties went to trial on the other two claims, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of Bimbo Bakeries on both. After the trial, the district court denied U.S. Bakery’s and Leland’s renewed motions for judgment as a matter of law on the trade secrets misappropriation and false advertising claims. The district court did, however, remit the jury’s damages award. All parties appealed. Bimbo Bakeries argued the district court should not have granted U.S. Bakery summary judgment on its trade dress infringement claim and should not have remitted damages for the false advertising claim. U.S. Bakery and Leland argued the district court should have granted their renewed motions for judgment as a matter of law, and Leland made additional arguments related to his personal liability. The Tenth Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings because the Court found all of Bimbo Bakeries’ claims failed as a matter of law. View "Bimbo Bakeries USA, et al. v. Sycamore, et al." on Justia Law

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This appeal grew out of a dispute over a program (“The Trial Lawyers College”) to train trial lawyers. The College’s board of directors splintered into two factions, known as the “Spence Group” and the “Sloan Group.” The two groups sued each other: The Spence Group sued in state court for dissolution of the College and a declaratory judgment recognizing the Spence Group’s control of the Board; the Sloan Group then sued in federal court, claiming trademark infringement under the Lanham Act. Both groups sought relief in the federal case. The federal district court decided both requests in favor of the Sloan Group: The court denied the Spence Group’s request for a stay and granted the Sloan Group’s request for a preliminary injunction. The Spence Group appealed both rulings. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals determined it lacked jurisdiction to review the district court’s denial of a stay. After the Spence Group appealed the federal district court’s ruling, the state court resolved the dispute over Board control. So this part of the requested stay became moot. The remainder of the federal district court’s ruling on a stay did not constitute a reviewable final order. The Court determined it had jurisdiction to review the grant of a preliminary injunction. In granting the preliminary injunction, the district court found irreparable injury, restricting what the Spence Group could say about its own training program and ordering removal of sculptures bearing the College’s logo. The Spence Group challenged the finding of irreparable harm, the scope of the preliminary injunction, and the consideration of additional evidence after the evidentiary hearing. In the Tenth Circuit's view, the district court had the discretion to consider the new evidence and grant a preliminary injunction. "But the court went too far by requiring the Spence Group to remove the sculptures." View "Trial Lawyers College v. Gerry Spences Trial Lawyers, et al." on Justia Law

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Motus and CarData both provide tools for managing businesses' reimbursement of employee expenses. Motus is a Delaware limited liability company with its principal place of business in Boston.. CarData is a Toronto-based Canadian corporation. Motus sued CarData for trademark infringement and related wrongs for its use of a particular phrase in the meta title of its website, Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1051-1129. Motus argued CarData had "purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the U.S. and Massachusetts" by maintaining numerous offices in the U.S. and marketing itself to and interacting with U.S. and Massachusetts customers through its website.The First Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Motus's suit without prejudice, for lack of personal jurisdiction, and denial of its request for jurisdictional discovery. The purposeful availment requirement was not met because there was not “something more” connecting CarData to the forum state beyond its website which is available to anyone with internet access, in any state. Motus did not act diligently to present facts to the court to show why jurisdiction would be found if discovery were permitted. Motus left the court to guess whether CarData has any Massachusetts customers, receives any revenue from Massachusetts, or has any other business connection with Massachusetts. Jurisdiction cannot be premised on guesswork; the record does not support a finding that the operation of CarData's website and/or its commercial contacts elsewhere in the country constitute purposeful availment with respect to Massachusetts. View "Motus, LLC v. CarData Consultants, Inc." on Justia Law