Justia Trademark Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
Sherman Nealy, et al. v. Warner Chappell Music, Inc., et al.
Plaintiffs in this case—Sherman Nealy and Music Specialist, Inc.—filed this copyright action seeking, among other things, damages for infringement they allege occurred more than three years before they filed this lawsuit. The defendants—Warner Chappell Music, Inc. and Artist Publishing Group, LLC—contend that Plaintiffs cannot recover damages for anything that happened more than three years before they filed suit. The district court certified the following question for interlocutory appellate review: whether damages in this copyright action are limited to a three-year lookback period as calculated from the date of the filing of the complaint. The Eleventh Circuit answered that question in the negative. The court wrote that given that the plain text of the Copyright Act does not support the existence of a separate damages bar for an otherwise timely copyright claim, the court held that a copyright plaintiff with a timely claim under the discovery rule may recover retrospective relief for infringement that occurred more than three years prior to the filing of the lawsuit. View "Sherman Nealy, et al. v. Warner Chappell Music, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
FCOA LLC v. Foremost Title & Escrow Services LLC
FIC was founded and started using FOREMOST branded marks to market and sell its insurance products. After FIC operated independently for several decades, Farmers Insurance Group acquired FIC in 2000. Now a subsidiary of Farmers, FIC continues to sell insurance in the United States and Florida under its FOREMOST-branded marks. At issue is whether parties’ FOREMOST trademarks at issue could confuse consumers into thinking that a relationship exists between the parties. The district court found at summary judgment that there was no likelihood of confusion (and thus no trademark infringement) between the FOREMOST marks of Foremost Insurance Company (“FIC”), a multi-billion dollar insurance company, and Foremost Title and Escrow (“FT&E”), a shell company set up to sell title insurance for a law firm. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment on FIC’s trademark infringement claim. The court explained that while the district court implicitly decided this case under the Nunez framework, it never actually decided whether all the material facts had been “incontrovertibly proved.” A district court may not ignore the traditional summary judgment standard merely by invoking the specter of Nunez. The court wrote, in this case, the parties should have eschewed moving for summary judgment, informed the court that discovery was complete and that the case was ready for trial, and then held a bench trial. Thus because the court held a reasonable factfinder could determine that a likelihood of confusion exists, the court reversed grant of summary judgment as to Count I of FIC’s complaint and remanded the case for trial on the merits. View "FCOA LLC v. Foremost Title & Escrow Services LLC" on Justia Law
MGFB Properties, Inc., et al. v. 495 Productions Holdings LLC, et al.
Plaintiffs sued Defendants, alleging that the title of Defendants’ series, MTV Floribama Shore, infringes on Plaintiffs’ Flora-Bama trademarks. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants. Plaintiffs timely appealed. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment for Defendants. The court explained that the titles are not being used as trademarks to identify and distinguish the source of the artistic works. Plaintiffs have presented no evidence that any of these titles to the third parties’ artistic works have any source-identifying function. Because these titles are not being used as trademarks, this is not a title-versus-title case for purposes of the Rogers footnote. Further, Plaintiffs have not provided any evidence that they own interests in those artistic works as trademarks for Plaintiffs’ own goods or services—the foundation of trademark rights. Indeed, nothing in the record would allow a reasonable jury to conclude that the public views Plaintiffs as the source of these artistic works. Moreover, Plaintiffs’ claims are premised on alleged confusion with Plaintiffs’ commercial establishments, not with any artistic works purportedly owned by Plaintiffs. As Defendants note, Plaintiffs’ complaint did not claim rights in or allege any confusion relating to any artistic work, and Plaintiffs’ cease-and-desist letter did not mention any artistic works. View "MGFB Properties, Inc., et al. v. 495 Productions Holdings LLC, et al." on Justia Law
Acrylicon USA, LLC v. Silikal GMBH
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
Jaime Faith Edmondson, et al. v. Velvet Lifestyles, LLC, et al.
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
Royal Palm Properties, LLC v. Pink Palm Properties, LLC
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
Wreal, LLC v. Amazon.com, Inc.
Plaintiff, Wreal, LLC, a pornography company, has been using the mark “FyreTV” in commerce since 2008. Defendant, Amazon.com, Inc., has been using the mark “Fire TV” (or “fireTV”) in commerce since 2012. Wreal contended that Amazon’s allegedly similar mark is causing consumers to associate its mark—“FyreTV”—with Amazon. After the close of discovery, the district court granted summary judgment to Amazon. The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded the district court’s ruling. The court explained that the case addresses the application of the seven likelihood-of-confusion factors to a reverse-confusion trademark infringement case. Although some of those factors are analyzed and applied in the same way in both reverse-confusion cases and the more familiar forward-confusion cases, there are important differences in how other factors are analyzed and applied that stem from the fact that the harm and the theory of infringement differ between forward and reverse confusion. Here, the record evidence establishes that Amazon acquired actual knowledge of Wreal’s registered trademark and still launched a product line. The two marks at issue are nearly identical, the commercial strength of Amazon’s mark is consistent with Wreal’s theory of recovery. Furthermore, Wreal has identified two consumers who a reasonable juror could conclude were confused by Amazon’s chosen mark. The court wrote, that there is no mechanical formula for applying the seven factors relating to the likelihood of confusion. But when considering all seven factors as they apply to a theory of reverse confusion and taking all the circumstances of this case into account on the record, it concluded that they weigh heavily in favor of Wreal. View "Wreal, LLC v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Patents, Trademark, US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
Boigris v. EWC P&T, LLC
EWC, which runs a nationwide beauty brand European Wax Center and holds the trademark "European Wax Center," filed suit under the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), against defendant, who used GoDaddy.com to register the domain names "europawaxcenter.com" and "euwaxcenter.com." EWC alleged that defendant registered his domain names with a bad faith intent to profit from their confusing similarity to EWC's "European Wax Center" mark.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of EWC, concluding that no reasonable juror could conclude that "europawaxcenter" and "euwaxcenter" are not confusingly similar to "European Wax Center" -- they are nearly identical to the mark in sight, sound, and meaning. View "Boigris v. EWC P&T, LLC" on Justia Law
Pinnacle Advertising and Marketing Group, Inc. v. Pinnacle Advertising and Marketing Group, LLC
This appeal arose out of a trademark dispute between two advertising and marketing companies—both of which operate under the name Pinnacle Advertising and Marketing Group. Pinnacle Illinois filed suit, and then Pinnacle Florida filed a counterclaim seeking to cancel Pinnacle Illinois's trademark registrations under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1119.The Eleventh Circuit concluded that the district court erred by disregarding the jury's findings that Pinnacle Illinois's marks were distinctive and protectable and misapplying the presumption of validity given to registered marks. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded the district court's order cancelling Pinnacle Illinois's registrations. Although the court affirmed the district court's finding that Pinnacle Illinois's claims for monetary damages were barred by laches, the court remanded for the district court to consider whether to grant Pinnacle Illinois injunctive relief to protect the public's interest in avoiding confusion. View "Pinnacle Advertising and Marketing Group, Inc. v. Pinnacle Advertising and Marketing Group, LLC" on Justia Law
Savannah College of Art and Design, Inc. v. Sportswear, Inc.
SCAD filed suit against Sportswear for trademark infringement, unfair competition, false designation of origin, and counterfeiting under the Lanham Act, and for unfair competition and trademark infringement under Georgia common law. The dispute involves Sportswear's use of SCAD's word marks "SCAD" and "SAVANNAH COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN" as well as the college's design mark that includes its mascot, Art the Bee.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment on remand, holding that the district court properly entered summary judgment on two Lanham Act claims and the corresponding permanent injunction enjoining Sportswear from selling products bearing the SCAD marks at issue. The court concluded that its trademark precedents of Boston Prof’l Hockey Ass’n, Inc. v. Dallas Cap & Emblem Mfg., Inc., 510 F.2d 1004 (5th Cir. 1975), Univ. of Ga. Ath. Ass'n v. Laite, 756 F.2d 1535 (11th Cir. 1985), and Savannah College of Art & Design, Inc. v. Sportswear, Inc., 872 F.3d 1256, 1264, 1265 (11th Cir. 2017), require affirmance of the district court's judgment. In this case, the district court correctly found a likelihood of confusion as to Sportswear's use of SCAD's word marks and Bee Design Mark. View "Savannah College of Art and Design, Inc. v. Sportswear, Inc." on Justia Law