Articles Posted in U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Two computer programs hold the registered trademark "CONDOR." After the district court entered summary judgment, the Seventh Circuit concluded that a trial was required on a confusion-in-trade allegation, but held that the state university was immune from federal jurisdiction. On rehearing, the Seventh Circuit reversed itself, citing the doctrine of waiver by litigation conduct and again rejected summary judgment.The state is not entitled to assert sovereign immunity over the counterclaims. View "Bd. of Regents Univ. of WI Sys. v. Phoenix Software Int'l, Inc." on Justia Law

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Two computer programs hold the registered trademark "CONDOR." After the district court entered summary judgment, the Seventh Circuit concluded that a trial was required on a confusion-in-trade allegation, but held that the state university was immune from federal jurisdiction. On rehearing, the Seventh Circuit reversed itself, citing the doctrine of waiver by litigation conduct and again rejected summary judgment.The state is not entitled to assert sovereign immunity over the counterclaims. View "Bd. of Regents Univ. of WI Sys. v. Phoenix Software Int'l, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff claimed that several of defendant's brands of toilet paper infringed on its trademark design. The district court entered summary judgment, holding that toilet paper embossed patterns are functional and cannot be protected as a registered trademark under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1115(b)(8). The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Plaintiff patented the design, claiming it to be functional and can only claim the protection of a patent, not that of a trademark. The "central advance" claimed in the utility patents is embossing a quilt-like diamond lattice filled with signature designs that improves perceived softness and bulk, and reduces nesting and ridging. This is the same essential feature claimed in the trademarks. View "Georgia-Pacific Consumer Prods. v. Kimberly-Clark Corp." on Justia Law

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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

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For many years the owners of the original bridal shop allowed family members to operate similar businesses under the same name. The owners sold one of their own shops and the buyer agreed to pay $75,000 per year for the use of the name and marks. When the agreement expired in 2002, the buyer continued to use the name and marks, without paying. The district court dismissed a 2007 claim under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1117, 1125. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the owners abandoned their mark by engaging in "naked licensing:" allowing others to use the mark without exercising reasonable control over the nature and quality of the goods, services, or business on which the mark is used. It was not enough that the owners had confidence in the high quality of the buyer's operation; they retained no control.

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A German online dating service, serving U.S. customers through a Delaware subsidiary, sued a New Jersey resident for operating an online dating service with a "confusingly similar" name, in violation of Illinois law, the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1114(1), and federal common law. The district court entered default judgment and denied a motion to vacate. The Seventh Circuit reversed for lack of personal jurisdiction. The Lanham Act does not create nationwide jurisdiction and, even discounting a finding that the defendant was not credible, the defendant did not have ties sufficient to establish jurisdiction in Illinois. Beyond operating a website accessible from the state, the defendant took no steps to target the Illinois market; the 20 Illinois residents who created profiles did so unilaterally, having "stumbled upon" the site.