Indiana Copyright Litigation: ABRO Sues for Infringement of Product Packaging

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South Bend, Indiana – Indiana copyright attorneys for ABRO Industries, Inc. of South Bend, Indiana sued in the Northern District of Indiana alleging that 1 New Trade, Inc. of Baltimore, Maryland (“New Trade”), Quest Specialty Coatings, LLC of Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin (“Quest”), Igor Zorin and Boris Babenchick and Vadim Fishkin, infringed copyright protections associated with ABRO’s carburetor and choke cleaner package, pending U.S. Copyright Application Case No. 1-1845314781, which is currently under review with the U.S. Copyright Office.

ABRO markets and sells various automotive, industrial and consumer products throughout the world. It claims ownership of an extensive portfolio of intellectual property rights in more than 165 countries. ARBO indicates that, since at least 1992, it has continuously sold and distributed a carburetor and choke cleaner, the packaging of which is the subject of this intellectual property lawsuit.

In this copyright litigation, ABRO alleges that New Trade, under the direction and control of Zorin, Babenchik and Fishkin, is unfairly competing with ABRO by obtaining products from an affiliate of an ABRO supplier in the United States and then distributing the products in containers nearly identical to ABRO’s containers used with identical products, in the same markets, and to the same customers.

Defendants Zorin, Babenchick, Fishkin and New Trade are accused of having reproduced ABRO’s packaging work by using “nearly identical” packaging for New Trade’s competing carburetor and choke cleaning product. Defendants Zorin and Babenchick are the principal owners of Defendant New Trade. Defendant Fishkin is New Trade’s general manager. Defendant Quest is accused of supplying the carburetor and choke cleaning product.

In its complaint, filed by Indiana copyright lawyers, ABRO lists the following claims:

• Count I: Copyright Infringement

• Count II: Personal Liability and/or Vicarious Liability for Copyright Infringement -Zorin, Babenchik, and Fishkin

In its complaint, filed by Indiana copyright lawyers, ABRO asks for the following:

A. Judgment on all counts against each of the Defendants individually and jointly and severally and in favor of ABRO;

B. A preliminary and permanent injunction enjoining and restraining Defendants, their agents, and all persons who act in concert and participation with them who learn of the injunction through personal service or otherwise:

(1) From further acts of infringement; and

(2) From copying, using, distributing, publishing by any means or creating a derivative work of the Work under 17 U.S.C. §502;

C. An award of actual damages caused by and any profits obtained by Defendants attributable to infringement of the Work pursuant to 17 U.S.C. §504(b);

D. For infringement of the Work occurring after registration thereof, an award of statutory damages or alternatively actual damages caused by and any profits obtained by Defendants attributable to the infringement pursuant to 17 U.S.C. §§504(b) and 504(c);

E. Impoundment and destruction of all products, catalogs, advertisements, promotional materials or other materials in Defendants’ possession, custody or control found to have been made or used in violation of ABRO’s copyrights pursuant to 17 U.S.C. §503;

F. An award of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs pursuant to 17 U.S.C. §505; and

G. An award of prejudgment and post-judgment interest.

Practice Tip:

This is an interesting complaint. Plaintiff makes what, at first glance, appears to be a case of trademark/trade-dress infringement, including allegations such as “intent to capitalize on ABRO’s goodwill and well-known reputation,” which are normally found in a trademark complaint. ABRO also refers in its complaint to its “extensive anti-counterfeiting program throughout the world… [which has] has resulted in countless raids, product seizures, arrests and jail terms for counterfeiters.” Yet this lawsuit is styled as a copyright case.

Copyright law in the United States is founded on the Constitutional goal of “promot[ing] the Progress of Science and useful Arts” by providing exclusive rights to creators. Protection by copyright law gives creators incentives to produce new works and distribute them to the public. In doing so, the law strikes a number of important balances in delineating what can be protected and what cannot, determining what uses are permitted without a license, and establishing appropriate enforcement mechanisms to combat piracy.

The law of copyright is generally thought of as affording protection to works that are typically thought of as art – books, paintings, music and the like. Nonetheless, works that are not primarily designed as art, such as elements of product packaging, might still secure protection by registering with the U.S. Copyright Office. A copyright registration, if available, is easier and less expensive to obtain than a registered patent or trademark. The registration remains valid much longer than a patent and does not require use in commerce, as does a trademark.

Copyright protection also provides benefits to a plaintiff when suing for infringement. In many cases, copyright infringement can be proved more easily than others types of infringement. Moreover, the damages available upon proof of infringement include statutory damages, available without a showing of harm, as well as attorneys’ fees, which are available without pleading or proving that the case was “exceptional.”

The suit was filed by D. Randall Brown, Alice J. Springer and Georgina D. Jenkins. The case was assigned to Judge Theresa L. Springmann and Magistrate Judge Christopher A. Nuechterlein in the Northern District of Indiana and assigned Case No. 3:14-cv-01984-TLS-CAN.

ABRO Complaint

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