Articles Posted in Franchise

Hammond; IN – Trademark attorneys for Gino’s East Services of Chicago, Illinois filed a trademark infringement suit in the Northern District of Indianaalleging GE Pizza of Mishawaka, Indiana, Shamrock Management Group of Highland, Indiana, Larry Briski and Mary Briski infringed trademark registration nos. 1,511,299, 3,341,730 and 3,572,210 for the marks GINOS EAST OF CHICAGO THE ORIGINALGinos.jpg registered with the US Trademark Office.

Gino’s East is a franchisor of pizza restaurants called “The Original Gino’s East of Chicago.” The complaint states that the defendants operate two franchise restaurants in Mishawaka and Highland, Indiana. The complaint states that Larry and Mary Briski personally guaranteed the franchise agreements. Gino’s East owns several trademarks associated with its franchise brand. The complaint states that the defendants have failed to pay royalty and other fees required by the franchise agreements. In February 2012, Gino’s East sent a letter to the defendants terminating the franchise agreement due to the failure to pay required fees. The complaint states that the defendants have failed to cease to use Gino’s East’s trademarks and have failed to return equipment and material bearing Gino’s East’s marks. The complaint states the defendants have not altered the exterior or interior of the restaurants so as to alert the public that they are no longer Gino’s franchises. The complaint makes claims of trademark infringement, unfair competition, trade name and dress infringement and breach of franchise agreement.

Practice Tip: Franchise agreements typically require the franchisee to promptly cease to use all of the franchise marks as well as return all items bearing the franchise marks in the event the franchise agreement is terminated. Failure to promptly comply with these provisions can lead to liability for trademark infringement, among other claims.

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Lafayette, IN – The Northern District of Indiana granted a default judgment, damages and a permanent injunction in a trademark infringement case involving a hold-over franchisee. Century 21 Real Estate, LLC Century 21 Logo.JPGof Parsippany, New Jersey had filed a trademark infringement lawsuit in the Northern District of Indiana alleging that Destiny Real Estate Properties LLC, f/d/b/a Century 21 Destiny Real Estate and Daniel Sutton of Lowell, Indiana infringed Century 21’s trademarks and service marks. Indiana Intellectual Property Law and News blogged about the case when it was filed. The defendants failed to file any response to the Century 21’s complaint. After finding that the defendants had been properly served, the court granted Century 21’s motion for a judgment by default.

The Court analyzed a legal question that has not yet been examined by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and that different federal circuit courts have reached different results: “whether a hold-over franchisee’s continued unauthorized use of a franchisor’s mark constitutes counterfeiting[?]” The court found that the defendants use to Century 21’s mark was counterfeiting in this case and noted “The Court can conceive of no reason why an ex-franchisee should escape liability for counterfeiting simply because that person had access to franchise’s original marks because of the former relationship[.]” The court then analyzed the damages claims of Century 21 and awarded $113,656 plus attorneys fees of $5,419 and costs of $595 to Century 21. The Court also granted Century’s 21’s request for a permanent restraining order that prevents the defendants from using the Century 21 marks.

Practice Tip: Since the Court found that the defendant’s trademark infringement was counterfeiting, treble damages were available to Century 21. This case explains how intellectual property rights are generally well protected in statutory damages provisions and explains how the trebling of damages, ability to recover a defendant’s “profits” and recovery of attorney fees can lead to significant recoveries, even without the intellectual property owner having to prove “actual” damages.
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Indianapolis, IN – A trademark infringement lawsuit filed in Hamilton County Circuit Court has been removed to the Southern District of Indiana. Trademark lawyers for Wine & Canvas Development, LLC of Indianapolis, Indianawine&Canvas.jpg filed a recent trademark infringement suit in Hamilton County, Indiana in alleging Theodore Weisser and Christopher Muylle of Indiana, YN Canvas CA, LLC of Nevada, Art Uncorked and www.ArtUncorked.com, infringed trademarks WINE & CANVAS, COOKIES & CANVAS, PAINTING WITH A COCKTAIL TWIST, LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR BLANK WALLS, UNLEASE YOUR INNER PICASSO, and CRUISE AND CANVAS that are registered with US Trademark Office. This case was removed to the Southern District of Indiana on December 2, 2011.

The trademarks at issue here, known as the WC Marks, are associated with Wine & Canvas’s business model. The complaint states that Weisser was an employee of Wine & Canvass and that Wiesser, on behalf of Wine & Canvas, entered a licensing and franchise negotiation with Muylle. The complaint states that Wiesser and Muylle, however, then entered certain agreements without Wine & Canvas’s knowledge and misled Wine & Canvas about the agreements. When Wine & Canvas discovered the issue, it demanded the defendants cease using the WC Marks. However, the defendants continued to sell products and services using the WC marks. The complaint further states that the defendants have threatened to “expose” the Plaintiff “to hatred, contempt, disgrace and/or ridicule or otherwise unlawfully injure” Wine & Canvas. The complaint makes claims of trademark infringement, false designation of origin, trademark dilution, sale of counterfeit items, unfair competition, breach of contract, fraud, and damages under the Indiana crime victims act. The complaint seeks a declaratory judgment, temporary and permanent injunction, damages, costs, attorney fees and for a writ of attachment.

Practice Tip: The complaint appears to largely make state law claims that come out of a failed attempt to create a California franchise of Wine & Canvas. The complaint paints a picture of the defendants essentially stealing the business ideas of Wine & Canvas and opening their own entity, rather than operating the California business as a franchise. While these contract-type disputes are typically appropriately filed in state court, the fact that the plaintiff also makes trademark infringement claims resulted in the case being removed to federal court. Under the supplemental federal jurisdiction doctrine, the district court will be able to hear both the state law and federal law claims since it would clearly have subject matter jurisdiction over the trademark claim.
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Terre Haute, IN – Trademark lawyers for Century 21 Real Estate LLC of Parsippany, New Jersey filed a trademark infringement suit in the Southern District of Indiana alleging Realty One Limited of Sullivan, Indiana and Steven Ault of Indiana infringed Century 21’s trademarks and service marks. Century 21 has numerous trademarks and services marks registered with the US Trademark Office

According to the complaint, Mr. Ault is the proprietor of Realty One, which is alleged to be doing business as Century Twenty-one Realty One in Sullivan, Indiana. The complaint states that beginning in 1984, Realty One began operating a Century 21 franchise in Sullivan, Indiana. The franchise agreement allowed Realty One to use the Century 21Century 21 Logo.JPG trademarks and services marks and required Realty One to pay Century 21 a royalty and advertising fees as a percentage of the franchise’s gross sales. The agreement also allowed Century 21 to audit the records of Realty One. Mr. Ault personally guaranteed the franchise agreement. Century 21 terminated the franchise agreement effective July 2011, alleging that Realty One had breached the agreement by failing to pay amounts due to Century 21, failing to report and pay on closed transactions and failing to pay early termination fees. Pursuant the agreement, Realty One was to cease using Century 21 trademarks and services marks, however, it is alleged that Realty One continued to use them both in Sullivan, Indiana and in online marketing. It is also alleged that Realty One has created a new logo that is confusingly similar to Century 21’s trademark. Trademark attorneys for Century 21 have made claims of trademark infringement, false designation of origin/false advertising, trademark dilution, common law unfair competition, breach of contract, audit demand, and unjust enrichment. Century 21 seeks an injunction, damages, an accounting, attorney fees and costs.

Practice Tip: Normally a franchisee must immediately stop using and return all items with trade or services marks if the franchise agreement is terminated. Here, the franchise agreement appears to have lots of “teeth” to be used against a non-complying franchisee. The contract appears to allow Century 21 to collect liquidated damages as well as costs and attorney fees with an 18% interest rate on delinquent payments. The contract also required Mr. Ault to personally guarantee these obligations and to be personally liable for costs and attorney fees. Century 21 has been aggressive in defending its trademark rights. Trademark attorneys for Century 21 filed a similar suit earlier this year in the Northern District of Indiana.
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Indianapolis, IN – Trademark lawyers for AFC Enterprises, Inc. of Georgia, doing business as Popeye’s Chicken, filed a trademark infringement suit alleging Christopher Payne, LP&P Foods, and ten John Does of fIndiana infringed trademark registration no. 1030944 for the mark POPEYES, Thumbnail image for Popeyes.jpg1107575 POPEYE SIGN DESIGN WITH COLOR and numerous other trademarks registered with the US Trademark Office. Popeye’s has also registered copyrights for some of the items at issue here.

This dispute arises out of the operation of a Popeye’s restaurant at 6014 East 46th Street in Indianapolis utilizing the Popeye’s trademarks. According to the complaint, AFC had a franchise agreement with another individual, not a party to this suit, to operate a Popeye’s franchise at this Indianapolis location, however, that franchise agreement was terminated in August 2010. Following the termination of the franchise agreement, Mr. Payne, who operated a Popeye’s franchise in Fort Wayne with LP&P Foods, approached AFC and sought to become the franchisee at this location under a new franchise agreement. AFC declined to enter a franchise agreement with Mr. Payne. On July 31, 2011, AFC learned that Mr. Payne was operating a fried chicken restaurant at the East 46th Street location and was utilizing the Popeye’s marked items that were left behind when the franchise closed, including signs and menu boards. According to the complaint, the restaurant ceased operation on August 6, 2011 and tarps covered the signs.

Practice Tip: In Indiana, criminal conversion is defined as knowingly exerting unauthorized control over property of another person. Indiana law allows the person harmed by criminal conversion to sue for treble damages, equal to three times actual damages, as well as attorney fees and cost. If true, the allegations contained in this complaint appear to make a case for conversion, and the defendants are likely to be liable for a significant monetary sum.
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Indianapolis, IN – Trademark lawyers for Choice Hotels International Inc. of Silver Spring, Maryland filed a trademark infringement suit in the Southern District of Indianaalleging Shreya Pravin LLC, of Lebanon, Indiana, Vina Investments, LLC of Valrico, Florida, Riddhi, LLC of Corona, California, Sunil R. Patel of California and Shirish Patel of California have infringed trademark registration no. 1,050,372 for the mark QUALITY, which has been registered with the US Trademark Office.

Choice is a hotel franchise company that owns the numerous trademarks at issue in this suit. According to the complaint, Shreya Pravin LLC entered a franchise agreement to operate Choice franchise in Lebanon, Indiana. As part of the franchise agreement, Pravin was granted license to use the QualityQuality.jpg mark on various items including: signs, stationary, lobby displays, and items in the hotel rooms. In June 2008, Choice sent Pravin a notice of default claiming Pravin had not paid franchise fees due under the contract. In August 2008, Choice sent Pravin a letter terminating the franchise agreement due to continued breach of the contract. The letter demanded that Pravin immediately take down and cease to use all of the items bearing the Quality trademarks. The complaint alleges that in May 2011, Pravin continued to use the Quality mark on its sign. Choice’s trademark attorneys have made claims of federal and Indiana trademark infringement, false designation of origin, and unfair competition and are seeking damages, injunction, punitive damages, costs and attorney fees.

Practice Tip: When a franchise agreement terminates, typically the franchisee must promptly cease using and return all signs and other equipment containing trademarks. Failure to do so may result in a lawsuit for breach of contract as well as trademark infringement

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South Bend, IN – Copyright lawyers for Susan Lynch, of Indiana, Math-U-See Indiana, Inc. of Indiana, and Lisa and Jim Angle, of Idaho, filed a breach of contract and copyright infringement suit alleging Math-U-See, Inc. of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Steve and Ethan Demme infringed the works CALCULUS WORKS, RECORDED CALCULUS LESSONS, HONORS BOOKS, PRE-CALCULUS WORKS, ALGEBRA 2 AND QUIZ WORKS, and TEST BOOKLETS.

The complaint alleges that Steve Demme owns Math-U-See, Inc. and invented the Math-U-See curriculum for home schooling parents in the early 1990s. Steve Demme used a business model of having individual representatives and distributors to sell the Math-U-See curriculum. The plaintiffs were “Reps,” and Plaintiff Lisa Angle also wrote additional material for Math-U-See, which are the copyrighted works that the copyright infringement claim is based upon. The complaint alleges that Sue Lynch was the Rep for Indiana and Illinois beginning in 1996 and built sales to hundreds of thousands of dollars by 2009. Lisa and Jim Angle were Reps for Montana, North Dakota, Alabama, and Tennessee. The complaint alleges that in 2010 Steve Demme, with help of Ethan Demme, ended the representative business model and cut the plaintiffs out of selling the Math-U-See curriculum. Ms. Angle claims that the Defendants continued to use the copyrighted materials she created after the agreement was terminated and without Ms. Angle’s permission. The complaint makes claims of breach of contract, breach of good faith, breach of fiduciary duty, violation of Indiana Franchise Act, violation of Illinois Franchise Act, violation of the Idaho Unfair Trade Practices Act, violation of Illinois Unfair Trade Practices Act, violation of Tennessee Unfair Trade Practices Act, Violation of Law 75 of Puerto Rico, tortuous interference with contract, tortuous interference with prospective business relations, wrongful conversion of customer list, promissory estoppel, unjust enrichment/quantum meruit, accounting and six counts of copyright infringement. The plaintiffs seek actual and punitive damages, an injunction prohibiting further distribution of the copyrighted works, costs and attorney fees.

Practice Tip: In this case, Ms. Angle claims she is the author and rightful owner of the copyrights to the works described in the complaint.  She claims the defendants violated 17 U.S.C.  106 of the Copyright Act. Ms. Angle has not formally registered her copyrights with the US Copyright Office, however, this is not a necessity for her infringement claims to succeed.  Rather, the Copyright Act provides that “Copyright in a work protected under this title vests initially in the author or authors of the work.”


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Indianapolis, IN – Trademark lawyers for Noble Roman’s, Inc. of Indianapolis, Indiana filed a trademark infringement suit alleging Findlay Tiffin Oil, LLC of Tipp City, Ohio and Ayman Magdaddi of Aurora, Indiana infringed Trademark Registration No. 987,069 for the mark NOBLE ROMAN’S; Trademark Registration No. 1,920,428 for the mark THE BETTER PIZZA PEOPLE; and Trademark Registration No. 1,682,308 for the mark NOBLE ROMAN’S PIZZA, which are registered with the US Trademark Office.

The complaint alleges that Findlay owns a convenience store located in Aurora, Indiana and Mr. Magdaddi operates the convenience store. The convenience store was owned by a company called Duncan Oil until February 2011, and Duncan Oil operated a Noble Roman’s franchise on-site that used various trademarked items and trade dress. The complaint alleges that Duncan Oil was an authorized franchise of Noble Roman’s until the property was sold in February 2011. Findlay and Magdaddi, however, have not reached an agreement to be authorized to operate a Noble Roman’s franchise. The complaint alleges that a Noble Roman’s employee visited the store in March 2011 and observed pizza being sold using the Noble Roman’s trade dress and menu boards. The complaint states that on April 30, 2011, Duncan Oil recovered all the Noble Roman’s trademarked items and trade dress. Noble Roman’s trademark attorneys have made claims of trademark infringement and federal unfair competition.

This case has been assigned to Judge Tanya Walton Pratt and Magistrate Judge Tim A. Baker in the Southern District of Indiana, and assigned Case No. 1:11-cv-00665-TWP-TAB.

Practice Tip: If a new owner of the franchise property wishes to continue operating the franchise, a new franchise agreement must be reached. If the new owner continues to use the franchise’s trademarked items and trade dress without authorization, a trademark infringement lawsuit may result. Noble Roman’s has been particularly aggressive in enforcing trademarks rights in franchise relationships.
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Indianapolis, IN – Trademark lawyers for Trufoods, LLC of New York filed a trademark infringement suit alleging Premier Food Services of Fishers, Indiana and its owners infringed its trademarks involving a Ritter’s Frozen Custard Shoppe franchise that Premier operated. The trademarks at issue are registration numbers 1,976,078; 2,706,642; 2,801,455; and 3,322,584 for the marks “Ritter’s Frozen Custard,” “Ritter’s Frozen Custard Taste the Difference!,” “Cubby Paws,” and “Ritter’s Frozen Custard Legendary Ice Cream” registered with the US Trademark Office.

The Ritter’s Frozen Custard franchise and its associated trademarks are owned by Trufoods. According to the complaint filed by Trufoods trademark attorneys, Premier entered a franchise agreement with Trufoods to operate a Ritter’s in Carmel, Indiana. The complaint alleges that the Ritter’s was opened initially in 2009, but that Premier did not re-open the shop this spring. Trufoods terminated the franchise agreement. Trufoods demanded that Premier return all trademarked items and trade dress and now claims that Premier has failed to do so. The complaint alleges that Premier now operates a competing business called “Coney Island Custard and Hot Dogs” in Avon, Indiana, which also alleged to be a breach of the franchise agreement. Trufoods alleges that Premier is using its trademarked items and trade dress in connection with the Coney Island Custard and Hot Dogs business. The complaint makes claims of trademark infringement, common law trademark infringement, trade dress infringement, unfair competition, and breach of contract.

This case has been assigned to Judge Jane E. Magnus-Stinsonand Magistrate Judge Tim A. Baker in the Southern District of Indiana and assigned case no. 1:11-cv-0446-JMS-TAB.

Practice Tip: When a franchise agreement terminates, typically the franchisee must promptly cease using and return all signs and other equipment containing trademarks. Failure to do so may result in a lawsuit for breach of contract as well as trademark infringement.
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Indianapolis, IN –

A trademark attorney for Noble Roman’s, an Indianapolis-based pizza maker, has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Brabham Oil, a South Carolina corporation. The compliant, filed by Noble Roman’s lawyer, alleges that Brabham Oil formerly operated seven Noble Roman’s franchise locations. According to the complaint, Brabham continued to use Noble Roman’s trade dress, specifically the Warmer Wrap Trade Dress, after the franchise agreements terminated. The attorney for Noble Romans claims that Brabham Oil has violated the terms of the franchise agreements. The complaint makes claims of trademark infringement, under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a) and the common law as well as unfair competition, citing 15 U.S.C. § 1125, and breach of the franchise contracts. Noble Romans seeks an injunction and damages. This case has been assigned to Judge Sarah Evans Barker and Magistrate Judge Debra McVicker Lynch of the Southern District of Indiana, and assigned case no. 1:11-cv-00135-SEB-DML.

Practice Tip: When a franchise agreement terminates, typically the franchisee must promptly cease using and return all signs and other equipment containing trademarks. Failure to do so may result in a lawsuit for breach of contract as well as trademark infringement. Noble Roman’s has been particularly aggressive in enforcing franchise agreements. Since 2007 it has filed the following suits in the Southern District of Indiana:

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