80/20 Sues “John Doe” for Trademark Infringement and Passing Off

Fort Wayne, Indiana — Trademark lawyers for 80/20, Inc. of Columbia City, Indiana filed a trademark infringement suit in the Northern District of Indiana alleging John Doe d/b/a TNutz of Champlain, New York infringed the trademark “80/20”, Trademark Registration No. 2,699,302, which has been registered with the U.S. Trademark Office.

80/20 is a manufacturer of T-slotted aluminum extrusion products and accessories.  It sells to customers through a distribution network and an online “garage sale.”  It asserts that it has marketed products and services under the trademark “80/20” since at least 1990.  TNutz does business via its own website and an eBay store.

TNutz is accused of unfairly competing with 80/20 by, among other things, falsely representing that some of the products that it offers for sale are genuine 80/20 products when, according to 80/20, they are not.  80/20 indicates that it has no affiliation with TNutz. 

The complaint also states that TNutz represents its own goods as 80/20 goods with the intention of causing confusion among, and deceiving, consumers who seek to purchase genuine 80/20 parts from or through 80/20.  It also contends that TNutz has purposely hidden its true identity and physical location from consumers and competitors, asserting that the businesses listed as contacts for both TNutz’s website and its physical address are unrelated third parties.

80/20 indicates that it sent a cease-and-desist letter to TNutz on May 10, 2013 demanding that TNutz cease infringement and compensate 80/20 for the damages caused by the allegedly infringing conduct.  80/20 apparently received no response to its demands.

The complaint lists the following causes of action:

·         Count I: Trademark Infringement

·         Count II: Lanham Act Violation — Passing Off

 Trademark lawyers for 80/20 ask the court for preliminary and permanent injunctions prohibiting infringement; an award of actual damages and profits by TNutz attributable to infringement of 80/20’s trademarks and/or statutory damages; an award of reasonable attorneys’ fees, upon a finding that this is an exceptional case; and the destruction of all materials in TNutz’s control bearing the “80/20” mark.

Practice Tip:

If a defendant’s identity is not clear from the evidence available when a complaint is filed, a “John Doe” designation is typically used to represent that unidentified defendant.  After filing such a complaint, the plaintiff may then ask the court to use its authority to subpoena various third parties, such as internet service providers, to disclose the identity of the Doe defendant(s).  Here, presumably, the plaintiff will subpoena to eBay to discover the identity of “John Doe.” 

Although trademark lawsuits with a “John Doe” defendant are a relative rarity, this is the second one we have blogged about this week.  Sometimes, as was the case in the other recent trademark complaint with a “John Doe” defendant, revealing the identity of the unknown defendant is largely procedural.  In other cases, however, Doe defendants are highly motivated to preserve their anonymity, as they do not want to be associated with the embarrassing allegations in the complaint.  See, e.g., one Doe defendant’s request to quash or modify a subpoena in a copyright case which involved the alleged illegal downloading of adult content.

This case has been assigned to Judge Robert L. Miller and Magistrate Judge Roger B. Cosbey in the Northern District of Indiana and assigned Case No. 1:13-cv-262-RLM-RBC.


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