Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Trademark

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Plaintiff owned AIA-LOGO! Promotions, LLC and defendant owned Insignia Marketing, Inc. Plaintiff filed suit against defendant, claiming breach of a partnership agreement, and defendant counterclaimed for breach of the same partnership agreement. Insignia then initiated a separate suit against plaintiff and Logo Promotions for trademark infringement, copyright infringement, cyber piracy, false advertising, and civil conspiracy. The jury found that plaintiff, but not defendant, had breached the partnership agreement, and awarded $60,000 in damages; found, however, that neither plaintiff nor Logo Promotions had infringed Insignia's trademark; found that Insignia had obtained registration of the "Communicat-R" trademark through fraud, that the mark was not in use on the day it was registered, and that Insignia had abandoned the mark after registration, all supporting cancellation of the registration; and found plaintiff and Logo Promotions liable for false advertising, but not cyber piracy or civil conspiracy. The trial court subsequently denied plaintiff attorneys' fees and reaffirmed its finding of waiver and, in the alternative, that the case was not "exceptional" enough to warrant such an award under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1051 et seq. Defendant moved for a partial new trial and plaintiff moved for a renewed judgment as a matter of law, both of which the trial court denied. The court affirmed the denial of defendant's motion for a new trial to the extent that the motion was based on errors in the trial and jury instructions; affirmed the denial of defendant's motion for a new trial to the extent that the motion challenged the jury’s verdict as against the great weight of the evidence; affirmed the denial of plaintiff's renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law; affirmed the trial court's equal division of the interpleaded funds; and affirmed the denial of attorneys' fees. View "Vetter v. McAtee" on Justia Law

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SnoWizard and Southern Snow, sellers of flavored shaved ice confections, have been involved in litigation for the past ten years in state court, federal district court, and before the Patent and Trademark Office in the Federal Circuit. In this appeal, Southern Snow challenges the district court’s dismissal of its claims under Rule 12(b)(6) and SnoWizard cross-appeals the district court’s denial of its motions for sanctions against Southern Snow. Because the claims against SnoWizard are precluded, and because the claims against Morris and Tolar fail to satisfy the requirements for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, or malicious prosecution, the court affirmed the dismissal of all the claims. Given that Southern Snow advanced arguments that, although creative, were not “ridiculous,” the court affirmed the district court’s denials of sanctions. View "Snow Ingredients, Inc. v. SnoWizard, Inc." on Justia Law

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OMSJ filed suit against defendant alleging, inter alia, trademark infringement in violation of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1051 et seq., and the Texas Business and Commerce Code. Defendant created two websites to deconstruct the OMSJ's alleged misrepresentation of the effects of HIV and AIDS and allegedly false research that the OMSJ promulgated on its “HIV Innocence Group” webpage. The district court dismissed the Lanham Act claim, declined to exercise pendent jurisdiction over the state law claims, and denied defendant’s subsequent request for an award of attorney’s fees stemming from the allegedly frivolous trademark claims. In light of recent Supreme Court precedent, Octane Fitness, LLC v. Icon Health and Fitness, Inc., which expanded the standard under which a lawsuit presents an “exceptional case” meriting the award of attorney fees, the court reversed and remanded for reconsideration. The court merged Octane Fitness’s definition of “exceptional” into its interpretation of section 1117(a) of the Lanham Act and construe its meaning as follows: an exceptional case is one where (1) in considering both governing law and the facts of the case, the case stands out from others with respect to the substantive strength of a party’s litigating position; or (2) the unsuccessful party has litigated the case in an “unreasonable manner.” The district court must address this issue “in the case-by-case exercise of their discretion, considering the totality of the circumstances.” View "Baker v. Deshong" on Justia Law

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Michael Shwartz and his family owned and operated the Camellia Grill restaurant, which was originally located on Carrollton Avenue in New Orleans. Shwartz formed and wholly-owned CGH. After Hurricane Katrina, Shwartz agreed to sell the business to Hicham Khodr. Shwartz, Camellia Grill, Inc., and CGH were collectively the “Seller” in the transaction, and Uptown Grill was the “Purchaser.” In this appeal, the parties dispute the ownership of the trademarks associated with Camellia Grill. The district court subsequently granted summary judgment to Uptown Grill, determining that it is the owner of all the Camellia Grill trademarks. Determining that federal subject matter jurisdiction exists, the court concluded that Uptown Grill may not be punished for failing to assert the Bill of Sale in prior litigation, and laches is inapplicable. On the merits, the court concluded that the Bill of Sale clearly and unambiguously transfers to Uptown Grill the trademarks within or upon the Carrollton Avenue location. While CGH may be bound by a mis-drafted Bill of Sale, the district court must consider whether Uptown Grill should be bound by its pleadings, representations in court, and practice with respect to a License Agreement for which its affiliate, Grill Holdings, paid a million dollars. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings to determine the appropriateness of any further relief. View "Uptown Grill, LLC v. Shwartz" on Justia Law
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Michael Shwartz and his family owned and operated the Camellia Grill restaurant, which was originally located on Carrollton Avenue in New Orleans. Shwartz formed and wholly-owned CGH. After Hurricane Katrina, Shwartz agreed to sell the business to Hicham Khodr. Shwartz, Camellia Grill, Inc., and CGH were collectively the “Seller” in the transaction, and Uptown Grill was the “Purchaser.” In this appeal, the parties dispute the ownership of the trademarks associated with Camellia Grill. The district court subsequently granted summary judgment to Uptown Grill, determining that it is the owner of all the Camellia Grill trademarks. Determining that federal subject matter jurisdiction exists, the court concluded that Uptown Grill may not be punished for failing to assert the Bill of Sale in prior litigation, and laches is inapplicable. On the merits, the court concluded that the Bill of Sale clearly and unambiguously transfers to Uptown Grill the trademarks within or upon the Carrollton Avenue location. While CGH may be bound by a mis-drafted Bill of Sale, the district court must consider whether Uptown Grill should be bound by its pleadings, representations in court, and practice with respect to a License Agreement for which its affiliate, Grill Holdings, paid a million dollars. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings to determine the appropriateness of any further relief. View "Uptown Grill, LLC v. Shwartz" on Justia Law
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The parties in these consolidated appeals are involved in a decade-long dispute regarding the TESTMASTERS trademark. The district court granted both parties’ motions for summary judgment, denying nationwide registration to both. Before the court is another appeal from a different district court's order finding one of the parties and his attorney to be in contempt, and ordering the attorney to be briefly jailed. The court vacated the contempt findings as to the Daniel Sheehan, concluding that there was no clear and convincing evidence upon which to find that Sheehan violated the injunction’s requirements. The court affirmed in all other respects. View "Test Masters Educ. Serv., Inc. v. Robin Singh Educ. Serv., Inc." on Justia Law

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Haydel Enterprises appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Nola Spice Designs and Raquel Duarte on claims of trademark infringement, unfair competition, trademark dilution, copyright infringement, and unfair trade practices. Haydel Enterprises owns Haydel’s Bakery in New Orleans, which makes and sells pastries and cakes, including a popular king cake. In 2008, Haydel commissioned an artist to design a mascot, which was named “Mardi Gras Bead Dog.” On October 13, 2009, and December 1, 2009, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) issued two trademark registrations to Haydel for, respectively, the phrase “MARDI GRAS BEAD DOG” and its bead dog design. Both registrations cover king cake pastries, jewelry, and clothing. Haydel sold these items in its New Orleans store, online, and through a licensee. In September 2012, Haydel obtained a certificate of copyright registration for its work titled “Bead Dog” in “photograph(s), jewelry design, 2-D artwork, sculpture.” In May 2012, Raquel Duarte formed Nola Spice Designs, which sold jewelry and accessories, including necklaces and earrings featuring bead dog trinkets. Haydel learned of Duarte’s bead dogs through Haydel’s customers. In August 2012, Haydel sent Nola Spice Designs a letter noting Haydel’s trademark and copyright in “the bead dog design,” and demanding, inter alia, that Nola Spice Designs “remove from [its] website all display, mention of or reference to the bead dog design,” and “cease any and all promotion, sale, and/or use” of materials incorporating the bead dog design. In October 2012, Nola Spice Designs filed a complaint against Haydel seeking: (1) a declaratory judgment that Nola Spice Designs’s activities do not violate the Lanham Act or any other trademark law; (2) the cancellation of Haydel’s trademarks; and (3) damages for unfair trade practices under the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act (“LUTPA”). Haydel asserted counterclaims against Nola Spice Designs and filed a third-party complaint against Duarte, seeking injunctive relief and damages. The parties also filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The district court granted summary judgment to Nola Spice on its claim for a declaratory judgment that it was not infringing Haydel’s trademarks, and the court cancelled those trademarks as unprotectable, but it denied Nola Spice’s motion for summary judgment on its LUTPA claims. The district court also granted summary judgment to Nola Spice on Haydel’s claims of trademark infringement, unfair competition, trademark dilution, copyright infringement, and unfair trade practices. Haydel timely appealed the district court’s order. Nola Spice did not appeal the district court’s dismissal with prejudice of its LUTPA claim. Upon review, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Nola Spice on its claim for a declaratory judgment of non-infringement of Haydel’s trademarks, and affirmed the district court’s cancellation of those trademarks. The Court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Nola Spice on Haydel’s claims of trademark infringement, unfair competition, and trademark dilution under the Lanham Act; trademark dilution under Louisiana law; copyright infringement under the Copyright Act; and unfair trade practices under LUTPA. View "Nola Spice Designs, L.L.C., et al v. Haydel Enterp" on Justia Law
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This dispute over a commercial relationship stemmed from an agreement between Pennzoil and Miller Oil where Pennzoil agreed to loan Miller Oil equipment for use at Pit Stop. After Pennzoil discovered that Pit Stop was using mislabeled bulk oil that Pit Stop claimed was a Pennzoil product, Pennzoil filed a trademark infringement lawsuit. The district court concluded that Pennzoil's marks are valid and protectable, and that there was a likelihood of confusion between Miller Oil's marks and Pennzoil's marks, such that the use of the latter by defendants constituted trademark infringement. The district court considered Miller Oil's affirmative defense of acquiescence and ruled that Pennzoil had implicitly and explicitly assured Pit Stop that the use of the Pennzoil trademarks and trade dress were allowed, and that Miller Oil relied upon Pennzoil's assurances. The court concluded that, given Miller Oil did not establish undue prejudice, the district court's legal conclusion that Pennzoil had acquiesced was error. Allowing Miller Oil to continue to display Pennzoil's marks in light of an unchallenged determination of trademark infringement would be the type of "unjustified windfall" the court previously condemned. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's finding of acquiescence and vacated the elements of the injunction allowing Miller Oil to use Pennzoil's marks. View "Pennzoil-Quaker State v. Miller Oil and Gas" on Justia Law

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WWE seeks ex parte seizure and temporary restraining orders against unnamed defendants under the ex parte seizure provision of the Trademark Counterfeiting Act, 15 U.S.C. 1116. WWE alleged that defendants work as "fly-by-night" counterfeiters, setting up shop near WWE events and cannibalizing WWE's merchandise sales by purveying unauthorized products. The district court denied relief and certified its order for interlocutory appeal. The court concluded that, in this case, the persons against whom seizure would be ordered are readily identifiable as any non-affiliated person purporting to sell WWE merchandise at or near a live WWE event; WWE has met its burden under section 1116(d), and the orders sought here should issue; and the court did not address the validity of a provision of the proposed order purporting to deputize private citizens, leaving it to the district court to address in the first instance. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "World Wrestling Entertainment v. Unidentified Part" on Justia Law

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BCN filed suit against Catalina and three of its individual officers or employees, alleging deceptive trade practices, trademark violations, and related fraud and tort claims. BCN's claims stemmed from defendants' creation of CouponNetwork.com, a website and business "remarkably similar" to BCN's existing business, BrandCouponNetwork.com. The court vacated the district court's judgment to the extent that it dismissed BCN's claims under Rule 12(b)(6) as time barred because the district court erred in considering evidence outside the pleadings and a genuine issue of material fact appeared to exist regarding the timeliness of BCN's claims which would preclude summary judgment. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the individual defendants where BCN failed to preserve its claims where BCN did not present it to the district court and BCN's claims were conclusional. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Brand Coupon Network, L.L.C. v. Catalina Marketing Corp., et al." on Justia Law