Articles Posted in Trademark

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Burford agreed to facilitate the purchase and sale of accounting practices for APS. The parties initially signed a contract assigning Louisiana to Burford. They later orally agreed that Burford should also cover Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky. APS terminated the contract. Burford sued for breach of contract; APS filed a counterclaim under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1051, claiming that Burford started a rival business, “American Accounting Practice Sales,” after APS terminated his contract. APS obtained summary judgment on the contract claim, arguing that the contract was terminable at will. APS voluntarily dismissed its counterclaim with prejudice. As the prevailing party on the Lanham Act claim, Burford sought attorney fees. The district court denied the motion, reasoning that APS’s Lanham Act claim could have been pursued by a rational party seeking to protect its trademark. The Seventh Circuit reversed grant of summary judgment on the contract claim, but affirmed the denial of attorney fees. The contract provided that it could be terminated by APS only if Burford violated the terms of the agreement; even if it was indefinite in duration, the parties contracted around the default rule making such contracts terminable at will. View "Burford v. Accounting Practice Sales, Inc" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts, Trademark

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After leaving Gensler, an architectural firm with projects throughout the world, where he had been a Design Director, Strabala opened his own firm, 2Define Architecture. Strabala stated online that he had designed five projects for which Gensler is the architect of record. Gensler contends that Strabala’s statements, a form of “reverse passing off,” violated section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C.1125(a). The district court dismissed, ruling that, because Strabala did not say that he built or sold these structures, he could not have violated section 43(a), reading the Supreme Court decision Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox (2003), to limit section 43(a) to false designations of goods’ origin. The Seventh Circuit vacated, reasoning that Gensler maintains that Strabala falsely claims to have been the creator of intellectual property.View "M. Arthur Gensler, Jr. & Assocs., Inc. v. Strabala" on Justia Law

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Fortres develops and sells a desktop management program called “Clean Slate” and holds a federally-registered trademark for use of that name to identify “[c]omputer software used to protect public access computers by scouring the computer drive back to its original configuration upon reboot.” When Warner Bros. Entertainment used the words “the clean slate” to describe a hacking program in the movie, The Dark Knight Rises, Fortres experienced a precipitous drop in sales of its software. Fortres sued, alleging that the use of the words “clean slate” in reference to the software in its movie infringed its trademark in violation of Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1114, 1125, and Indiana unfair competition law. The district court dismissed, reasoning that Fortres had not alleged a plausible theory of consumer confusion, upon which all of its claims depend, and that Warner Bros.’ use of the words “the clean slate” was protected by the First Amendment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed without reaching the constitutional question. Juxtaposed against the weakness of all the other relevant factors, the similarity of the marks is not enough to establish confusion. Trademark law protects the source-denoting function of words used in conjunction with goods and services, not the words themselves. View "Fortres Grand Corp. v. Warner Bros. Entm't, Inc." on Justia Law

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Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula Winery began selling a spiced apple wine called “Hallowine” in 1998. Sales were brisk, and Door Peninsula expanded operations to Illinois later that year. Illinois River Winery began selling its own Hallowine in 2005 and sought to register the Hallowine mark in 2006. Door Peninsula initiated opposition proceedings at the PTO. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled in its favor, finding that Door Peninsula had priority in the Hallowine mark. Illinois River continued to sell its Hallowine despite the ruling. Door Peninsula filed suit in 2012, asserting infringement of its common law trademark rights and infringement of unregistered marks under section 43(a) of the Lanham Act. Illinois River asserted 27 affirmative defenses. The district court granted summary judgment, dismissing Illinois River’s affirmative defenses and a finding that Illinois River was liable for trademark infringement damages in the amount of $508,864.26. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that Illinois River only raised arguments that were not before the district court. View "C&N Corp. v. Kane" on Justia Law

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PepperBall is a projectile ball filled with a pepper-spray-like irritant. Police departments, private security firms, and comparable organizations are its primary consumers. Advanced Tactical brought a trademark infringement claim against Real Action and its president, Tran. The district court granted a preliminary injunction. The Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that the district court lacked personal jurisdiction over Real Action, which preserved its objection. There was no evidence that Real Action had the necessary minimum contacts with Indiana to support specific jurisdiction. View "Advanced Tactical Ordnance Sys., LLC v. Real Action Paintball, Inc." on Justia Law

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In the 1990s, Specht founded Android Data Corporation, and registered the “Android Data” trademark. The company ceased principal operations in 2002, but the mark remained registered to it. Five years later, Google Inc. introduced its new Android operating system for mobile phones. Specht sued for infringement. Google counterclaimed that Specht had abandoned the mark after 2002, forfeiting his ability to assert rights to it. The district court entered summary judgment for Google. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that the undisputed evidence established that Specht abandoned the mark. View "Specht v. Google Inc." on Justia Law

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Kraft sued Cracker Barrel Old Country Store for trademark infringement, Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1051, and obtained a preliminary injunction against the sale of food products to grocery stores under the name Cracker Barrel, which is a registered trademark of Kraft. Kraft has been selling cheese in grocery stores under that name for more than 50 years. Kraft did not challenge CBOCS’s right to sell the products under the name Cracker Barrel in CBOCS’s restaurants, in its “country stores” that adjoin the restaurants, or by mail order or online. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting the similarity of the logos, the products, and of the channels of distribution. View "Kraft Foods Grp. Brands LLC v. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc." on Justia Law

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Eastland is the proprietor of the rap duo Phifty-50, which, according to its web site, has to its credit one album (2003) and a T-shirt. Eastland has registered “PHIFTY-50” as a trademark. It also claims a trademark in “50/50” and contends that Lionsgate and Summit infringed its rights by using “50/50” as the title of a motion picture that opened in 2011. The district court dismissed, finding the movie’s title descriptive because the film concerns a 50% chance of the main character surviving cancer. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that the complaint fails at the threshold: it does not allege that the use of “50/50” as a title has caused any confusion about the film’s source, and any such allegation would be too implausible to support costly litigation. The phrase 50/50 or a sound-alike variant has been in use as the title of intellectual property for a long time. If there is any prospect of intellectual property in the phrase 50/50, Eastland is a very junior user and in no position to complain about the 2011 film. View "Eastland Music Grp. LLC v. Lionsgate Entm't Inc." on Justia Law

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Harley-Davidson had a licensing agreement with a subsidiary of DFS and received notice that the companies had merged. Harley-Davidson did not exercise its right to terminate, but later discovered that DFS had sold unauthorized products bearing the trademark to an unapproved German retailer. Harley-Davidon sent an e-mail saying that it believed DFS was in breach of contract and that it was suspending approval of products. DFS responded in kind. Harley-Davidson then attempted to recover unpaid royalties and to secure from DFS information required under the agreement. DFS refused these attempts, but submitted production samples for a new collection. Harley-Davidson reminded DFS of the termination. DFS advised Harley-Davidson that it had “wrongfully repudiated the License Agreement” and that DFS planned to act unilaterally in accordance with its own views of rights and obligations. The district court granted injunctive relief against DFS, which was attempting to litigate the dispute in Greece. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Harley-Davidson made strong showings that DFS was deliberately breaching a licensing agreement and “has tried numerous legal twists and contortions to try to avoid the legal consequences.” The court rejected an argument that the agreement provision consenting to personal jurisdiction in Wisconsin was not binding on DFS. View "H-D MI, LLC v. Hellenic Duty Free Shops, S.A." 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.