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

Articles Posted in Trademark

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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

Posted in: Trademark

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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

Posted in: Trademark

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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

Posted in: Legal Ethics, Trademark

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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

Posted in: Copyright, Trademark

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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

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DHS sued VHS for misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract, and trademark violations. DHS engaged VHS to market and sell the drug Provasca. After that relationship ended, VHS began to manufacture, market, and sell Arterosil, a product similar in many respects to Provasca. The court held that the district court granted DHS's request for a preliminary injunction after making sufficient findings of fact to support each element of the analysis and applying the correct legal standard to those facts. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's grant of the preliminary injunction in full and lifted the stay of the injunction. The court remanded and directed the district court to expedite the trial on the permanent injunction and to attempt to narrow the breadth of its preliminary injunction. View "Daniels Health Sciences, L.L.C v. Vascular Health Sciences, L.L.C." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, doing business as Paddle Tramps, appealed the district court's order granting a partial preliminary injunction against his use of trademarks belonging to 32 Greek Organizations. The Greek Organizations cross-appealed. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in instructing the jury that to prove unclean hands, the Greek Organizations had to show that plaintiff knowingly and intentionally infringed upon the marks with the bad faith intent to benefit from or capitalize on the Greek Organization's goodwill by confusing or deceiving buyers; the evidence was legally sufficient to allow a jury to find for plaintiff on the unclean hands issue because it supported a showing of plaintiff's lack of bad faith; the district court did not abuse its discretion in its instruction to the jury on the lack-of-excuse element of laches and on undue prejudice; and the jury's finding of undue prejudice was supported by the evidence. Therefore, the district court correctly denied the Greek Organization's motion for judgment as a matter of law. The court also held that the district court properly balanced the equities in resolving this dispute and did not abuse its discretion in fashioning injunctive relief. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Abraham v. Alpha Chi Omega, et al" on Justia Law

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This case arose when Ford sent a cease-and-desist letter to NBFP, demanding that NBFP pay damages and refrain from using Ford's trademarks on its websites. NBFP sued Ford in Texas state court, seeking a declaratory judgment that its online printing operations did not infringe Ford's trademark rights. NBFP subsequently appealed the district court's partial grant of summary judgment for Ford; the district court's final judgment holding NBFP liable for trademark infringement; and the district court's order denying NBFP's motion to amend its complaint. Ford cross-appealed from the district court's final judgment, disputing that court's findings on infringement, dilution, and attorney's fees. The court held that the district court's grant of partial summary judgment to Ford was affirmed. Because there was no likely threat of consumer confusion as to NBFP's sale of products bearing the Ford marks to three independent used car dealers, the court reversed the district court's judgment finding that NBFP's sale of these products amounted to trademark infringement, the court remanded to the district court with instructions to enter judgment for NBFP on this category of products. The court affirmed the district court's judgment in all other respects.