Justia Trademark Opinion Summaries

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In a trademark dispute between two companies that used the word "Punchbowl" in their marks, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's summary judgement in favor of AJ Press, LLC. The court held that AJ Press, LLC's use of the Punchbowl mark was not outside the scope of the Lanham Act under the "Rogers test". The Rogers test, which governs disputes over trademarks that are used in expressive works protected by the First Amendment, does not apply when the accused infringer uses a trademark to designate the source of its own goods. The court found that AJ Press, LLC was using the Punchbowl mark to identify and distinguish its news products. The court reversed the district court's judgement and remanded for further proceedings, instructing the district court to proceed to a likelihood-of-confusion analysis under the Lanham Act. View "Punchbowl, Inc. v. AJ Press, LLC" on Justia Law

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In the case between Vans, Inc., VF Outdoor, LLC (collectively "Vans") and MSCHF Product Studio, Inc. ("MSCHF"), the United States Court of Appeals For the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to grant a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against MSCHF. MSCHF had created a sneaker, the Wavy Baby, which appeared to mimic Vans' Old Skool shoe. Vans sued MSCHF for trademark and trade dress infringement. MSCHF argued that its use of Vans' marks was protected by the First Amendment. However, the Court of Appeals applied the recent Supreme Court decision in Jack Daniel's Properties, Inc. v. VIP Products LLC, which held that special First Amendment protections do not apply when trademarks are used as source identifiers. The Court of Appeals concluded that Vans was likely to prevail in arguing that MSCHF's Wavy Baby shoes used Vans' marks and trade dress as source identifiers, and that there was a likelihood of confusion as to the source of the Wavy Baby shoes. The court also affirmed the district court's decisions requiring MSCHF to escrow its revenues from Wavy Baby sales and not requiring a bond determination because MSCHF never requested security. View "Vans, Inc. v. MSCHF Product Studio, Inc." on Justia Law

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Janssen spent 10 years and over half a billion dollars developing an injectable version of the cancer drug trabectedin and patented some of the manufacturing processes. The data, specifications, and manufacturing methods were kept confidential as trade secrets. In 2015, the FDA approved the drug, Yondelis, for use in certain cancer patients. Two years later, two competitors—a Chinese corporation, and its U.S. subsidiary, eVenus—sought FDA approval to sell a generic version of Yondelis. Janssen sued for patent infringement. During discovery, Janssen obtained documents that indicated the defendants misappropriated trade secrets. Janssen filed another lawsuit under the Defend Trade Secrets Act, 18 U.S.C. 1836 (DTSA), became convinced that the defendants had spoliated evidence, and filed an ex parte application, asking that U.S. Marshals seize eVenus’s network servers and stored data, and certain laptops and cell phones.The district court denied the application, concluding that Janssen had not shown that eVenus was in actual possession of the property or that eVenus’s property was at the location of the proposed seizure. It also found an insufficient showing of immediate and irreparable harm or immediate concern for spoliation and that the seizure would encompass company information not limited to the matters at issue. The Third Circuit dismissed an appeal for lack of jurisdiction. A DTSA seizure order is directed to law enforcement—not a party against whom the order could be enforced by threat of contempt–so the order did not effectively deny an injunction. View "Janssen Products LP v. Evenus Pharmaceuticals Laboratories Inc" on Justia Law

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Great Concepts applied to register “DANTANNA’S” as a mark for a “steak and seafood restaurant.” Its 764 Registration issued in 2005. Chutter’s predecessor-in-interest, Dan Tana, subsequently petitioned the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to cancel the Registration, based on an alleged likelihood of confusion with Tana’s common law “DAN TANA” mark for restaurant services. The cancellation proceeding was suspended during a trademark infringement civil suit. In 2009, the district court granted Great Concepts summary judgment; the Eleventh Circuit affirmed. In December 2010, the Board dismissed Tana’s cancellation proceeding. Meanwhile, in March 2010, Great Concepts’ then-attorney, Taylor, filed with the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) a combined declaration of use and declaration of incontestability, under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1058, 1065, declaring “there is no proceeding involving said rights pending and not disposed of either in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or in the courts.” At the time, both the PTO cancellation proceeding and the Eleventh Circuit appeal were pending.In 2015, Chutter successfully petitioned the PTO for cancellation of Great Concepts’ “DANTANNA’S” mark based on Taylor’s 2010 false affidavit. The Federal Circuit reversed. The statute limits the Board’s authority to cancel registration of a mark to circumstances in which the “registration was obtained fraudulently,” but does not authorize cancellation of a registration when the incontestability status of that mark is “obtained fraudulently.” View "Great Concepts, LLC v. Chutter, Inc." on Justia Law

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Seven years ago, A.D. was hired to create a PVT (“pressure volume temperature”) simulation software program. Sah was hired by A.D. to develop a PVT software program in exchange for a stake in one of A.D.’s companies, IPSS. Eight months later, a product called InPVT hit the market. Plaintiff Calsep started looking into InPVT. In Calsep’s assessment, A.D. didn’t have the technical skills or resources to develop a PVT product. Calsep filed another motion to compel, alleging that A.D. still hadn’t adequately disclosed his source code control system. Although A.D. had “produced [a] purported source code system” in April and July, Calsep claimed that these productions were “undoubtedly incomplete” and “had been manipulated.” Believing the deletions to be intentional, Calsep filed a motion for sanctions. Afterward, A.D. filed a motion for reconsideration based on newly discovered forensic images that “vindicated” him. The magistrate judge recommended denying the motion, and the district court agreed, denying the motion for reconsideration of the sanctions order. A.D. appealed.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision on A.D.'s motion for reconsideration. The court explained that A.D. cannot offer any reason—other than mere forgetfulness—why he couldn’t acquire the images sooner. Further, A.D. hasn’t shown that he acted with diligence during the case to locate these images. Moreover, the court explained that although A.D. argues that the images change the game, Calsep’s expert insists that too much data is still missing from the source code control system, rendering a proper review impossible. The court noted that there was no reason to question the district court’s judgment crediting Calsep’s expert testimony. View "Calsep v. Dabral" on Justia Law

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Defendants Bank of New York Mellon Corporation, LLP and its subsidiary, The Bank of New York Mellon (collectively, “BNYM”), retained Plaintiff as an independent contractor to work on an investment valuation project. Plaintiff developed the so-called Pauwels Model. At various times between 2014 and the end of his working relationship with BNYM in 2018, Plaintiff shared spreadsheets derived from the Pauwels Model with various employees and executives at BNYM. In 2016, BNYM retained Defendants Deloitte LLP, Deloitte Tax LLP, and Deloitte USA LLP (collectively, “Deloitte”) to take over the work that Plaintiff had been performing for BNYM. Plaintiff alleged that Deloitte used the spreadsheets to reverse engineer the Pauwels Model and was using the model to conduct the services it provided to BNYM. Plaintiff brought suit against BNYM and Deloitte, alleging, among other claims, that the Pauwels Model embodied a trade secret that they misappropriated.   The Second Circuit reversed and remanded the district court’s judgment insofar as it dismissed Plaintiff’s unjust enrichment claim. The court affirmed the remainder of the judgment. The court explained that misappropriation is not an element of a claim for unjust enrichment under New York law. Therefore, a plaintiff’s claim for unjust enrichment does not necessarily rise or fall with a claim of trade secret misappropriation. The court explained that because Plaintiff’s theory of liability is distinct from those underpinning Plaintiff’s claim for trade secret misappropriation, his claim for unjust enrichment should not have been dismissed as duplicative of his claim for trade secret misappropriation. View "Pauwels v. Deloitte LLP" on Justia Law

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Proof Research, Inc. and Carbon Six Barrels, LLC both manufacture carbon-fiber gun barrels. Proof entered the market first and obtained a trademark for the unique appearance of its barrels. When Proof found out that Carbon Six intended to begin manufacturing and selling similar-looking carbon-fiber gun barrels of its own, Proof responded with litigation. However, Proof did not file suit against Carbon Six but rather against McGowen Precision Barrels, LLC, Carbon Six’s sister company. McGowen then initiated separate proceedings to have Proof’s trademark canceled. McGowen was ultimately successful, and Proof’s trademark for its carbon-fiber gun barrels was canceled in 2021. On February 9, 2022, Carbon Six filed this lawsuit against Proof for defamation and violation of the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act stemming from Proof’s efforts to register, renew, enforce, and defend its previously valid trademark. However, Carbon Six brought its claims after the one-year prescriptive period imposed by Louisiana law had run. On Proof’s motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), Carbon Six failed to convince the district court that any of its claims were timely. The district court also held that Carbon Six’s LUTPA claim was legally deficient.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court held that all actions Carbon Six alleged Proof took were discrete rather than ongoing, and each began and ended more than a year before this lawsuit was filed. Carbon Six’s LUTPA claim is therefore prescribed. The court explained even if Carbon Six could do so, Proof’s attempt to enforce a later-invalidated trademark does not violate LUTPA. View "Carbon Six Barrels v. Proof Research" on Justia Law

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In 1999, Latham, McLean, and Vernooy formed Bliss to sell children’s clothing under the name “bella bliss.” In 2003, Shannon left Bliss and started Latham to sell her own children’s clothing under the name “little english.” Bliss’s logo is a lowercase “b” drawn out as if stitched in thread. Bliss has registered trademarks for this logo. Bliss has several designs that it claims as signature looks of the bella bliss brand that have “become famous and widely known and recognized as symbols of unique and high-quality garments.” There has been previous litigation between the parties.In 2020, Bliss filed federal claims for copyright, trademark, and trade dress infringement; false designation of origin and misappropriation of source; and unfair competition. The district court dismissed Bliss’s claims and granted Latham attorney’s fees for defending the copyright claim but found that Bliss filed its action in good faith and that the trademark and trade dress claims were not so “exceptionally meritless” that Latham merited a rare attorney’s fees award under 15 U.S.C. 1117. The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part. Bliss stated claims for federal and state trademark infringement but has not stated a claim for trade dress infringement. The district court did not err in denying attorney’s fees to Latham for defending the trademark and trade dress infringement claims. View "Bliss Collection, LLC v. Latham Companies, LLC" on Justia Law

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Impossible X, now a Texas LLC, is a one-person company run by Joel Runyon, a self-described “digital nomad” who for two years operated his business from San Diego. Impossible X sells apparel, nutritional supplements, diet guides, and a consulting service through its website and various social media channels. Impossible Foods sued Impossible X in federal court in California, seeking a declaration that Impossible Foods’ use of the IMPOSSIBLE mark did not infringe on Impossible X’s trademark rights. The district court dismissed the case for lack of personal jurisdiction.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal. The panel held that Impossible X was subject to specific personal jurisdiction in California because it previously operated out of California and built its brand and trademarks there, and its activities in California were sufficiently affiliated with the underlying trademark dispute to satisfy the requirements of due process. First, Impossible X purposefully directed its activities toward California and availed itself of the privileges of conducting activities there by building its brand and working to establish trademark rights there. Second, Impossible Foods’ declaratory judgment action arose out of or related to Impossible X’s conduct in California. The panel did not confine its analysis to Impossible X’s trademark enforcement activities, but rather concluded that, to the extent the Federal Circuit follows such an approach for patent declaratory judgments, that approach is not justified in the trademark context. Third, the panel concluded that there was nothing unreasonable about requiring Impossible X to defend a lawsuit based on its trademark building activities in the state that was its headquarters and Runyon’s home base. View "IMPOSSIBLE FOODS INC. V. IMPOSSIBLE X LLC" on Justia Law

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Since 2013, Home Chef has created and delivered meal kits. In 2014, Home Chef began using its “HC Home Mark,” covered by five federal trademark registrations. Home Chef later merged with Kroger, and now delivers meals directly to customers and offers them for sale in Kroger stores, through Kroger’s website, and through food delivery services.Grubhub, an online food-ordering and delivery marketplace, owns numerous trademark registrations covering the GRUBHUB name and stylized variations. In 2021, Grubhub was acquired by JET, which owns food-delivery brands worldwide and combines its “JET House Mark” with local brand names when conducting business in various countries. JET has used the JET House Mark since 2014. JET had filed an international trademark application for the JET House Mark. A USPTO examiner found the JET House Mark “highly similar” and “confusingly similar” to the HC Home Mark and Home Chef Home Logo. JET withdrew its application. JET later combined the GRUBHUB word mark with the JET House Mark. Grubhub invested millions of dollars in rebranding its print and electronic materials.After receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Home Chef, Grubhub sought a declaratory judgment that its Logo did not infringe Home Chef’s marks. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of Home Chef's motion for a preliminary injunction. The district court did not clearly err in finding that Home Chef failed to meet its burden to show a likelihood of success on the merits of its infringement claim. View "Grubhub, Inc. v. Relish Labs LLC" on Justia Law