Justia Trademark Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Intellectual Property
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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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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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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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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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. 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