Articles Posted in Trade Dress

Chicago, Illinois – Arlington Specialties, Inc. of Elk Grove Village, Illinois appealed the summary judgment granted by the U.S. District Court of Northern Illinois, Eastern Division in favor of Urban Aid, Inc. of Los Angeles, California.

The Seventh Circuit does not issue trade dress opinions very often, but it issued one January 27, 2017.  It is especially helpful because it sums up the state of trade dress law in the Circuit.

The Court affirmed a Summary Judgment in favor of a defendant accused of trade dress infringement.  The plaintiff claimed a trade dress in a “bag” that had five elements: (1) the bag’s cuboidal shape; (2) the bag’s softness; (3) the zipper’s location on the bag; (4) the “folded and tucked” corners; and (5) the seam halfway up the bag’s sides.

Indianapolis, Indiana – Plaintiff Delicato Vineyards of Manteca, California filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of Indiana alleging trademark infringement and other wrongdoing. Defendant is Gnarly Grove Cider Co. of Columbus, Indiana.

Plaintiff Delicato claims ownership to two trademarks, U.S. Trademark Registration No. 3165707 for GNARLY HEAD, and U.S. Trademark Registration No. 4777145 for a design trademark. It offers Gnarly Head wine products for sale using these trademarks.

Defendant Gnarly Grove recently launched Gnarly Grove hard cider. Plaintiff contends that both the name and the trade dress of this product are confusingly similar to its Gnarly Head wine. It asserts that the similarities appear to be an intentional effort on the part of Defendant to capitalize on the reputation of the GNARLY HEAD brand.

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In this lawsuit, filed by Indiana trademark attorneys for Delicato, the following causes of action are alleged:

• Registered Trademark and Trade Dress Infringement -15 U.S.C. § 1114(1)
• False Designation of Origin -15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)

• Common Law Unfair Competition

Plaintiff is seeking equitable relief, damages, costs and attorneys’ fees.

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Fort Wayne, Indiana – Attorneys for Plaintiffs North Atlantic Operating Company, Inc. and National Tobacco Company, L.P., both of Louisville, Kentucky, filed a trademark infringement lawsuit in the Northern District of Indiana alleging infringement of various registered trademarks covering ZIG-ZAG® roll-your-own cigarette papers and accessories. In addition to trademark infringement under federal law, Plaintiffs allege copyright infringement, false designation of origin and trade dress infringement under federal law as well as trademark infringement and unfair competition under Indiana common law.

Multiple Defendants, most of Fort Wayne, Indiana, are named in this intellectual property lawsuit: KPC Distributor Inc.; Kuldeep Singh; Paramjit Singh; Charanjit Singh; Burger’s, Inc., d.b.a. Burger Dairy; JGM Stores Inc., d.b.a. Burger Dairy II; Kirandeep, Inc., d.b.a. Crescent Corner Express; KSL Stores Inc., d.b.a. Get 2 Go #10; KSL Holdings Inc., d.b.a. Get 2 Go #13; Coliseum Quick Mart Inc., a.k.a. Get 2 Go #15; Calhoun Store Inc., a.k.a. Get 2 Go 16; KPC Brothers Inc., a.k.a. Get 2 Go #17 d.b.a. Get 2 Go; Get 2 Go #18; Virk Brothers Enterprises Inc., a.k.a. Get 2 Go 19, d.b.a. Shell Get 2 Go #19; JAT Boyz Stores Inc., a.k.a Harlan Quick Stop; KPC Investments LLC, a.k.a. Iceway Express; John Does 1-10; and XYZ Companies 1-10.

At issue in this Indiana lawsuit are the following trademarks: Registration No. 610,530 for ZIG-ZAG (stylized), Registration No. 1,127,946 for ZIG-ZAG (text), Registration No. 2,169,540 for Smoking Man (design with circle border), Registration No.2,169,549 for Smoking Man (design with no border), Registration Nos. 2,664,694 and 2,664,695 for North Atlantic Operating Company, Inc. (design), and Registration Nos. 2,610,473 and 2,635,446 for North Atlantic Operating Company (text), all of which have been registered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The ZIG-ZAG trademarks are owned by a French company, Bolloré, S.A., which is not a party to this litigation, and are licensed to Plaintiff North Atlantic.

Defendants are accused of engaging in a widespread scheme to acquire, sell and/or distribute counterfeit products bearing various registered trademarks and/or copyrighted text that Plaintiffs allege is protected by law. This text includes the phrase “Distributed by North Atlantic Operating Company, Inc.”

Plaintiffs further contend that one or more Defendants’ conduct was willful. They contend that this was demonstrated on more than one occasion when a North Atlantic representative requested a receipt for the purchase of accused goods and this request was refused. On one occasion, when the representative insisted on a receipt, Plaintiffs state that “Defendant KPC Distributor ripped the receipt in two pieces, keeping the piece that displayed Defendant KPC Distributor’s contact information for itself.”

In this Indiana intellectual property lawsuit, filed by trademark litigators for Plaintiffs, Defendants are accused of having sold “dozens of cartons and hundreds of booklets of confirmed counterfeit ZIG-ZAG® Orange to undercover North Atlantic representatives.” Plaintiffs state the following claims:

• Federal Trademark Infringement (15 U.S.C. § 1114)
• False Designation of Origin and Trademark/Trade Dress Infringement (15 U.S.C. § 1225(a))
• Federal Copyright Infringement (17 U.S.C. §§ 101 et seq.)
• Common Law Unfair Competition

• Common Law Trademark Infringement

Plaintiffs ask the federal court for damages, injunctive relief, costs and attorneys’ fees.

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Chicago, Illinois – The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Plaintiffs Slep-Tone Entertainment Corp. and its successor in interest Phoenix Entertainment Partners LLC (collectively, “Slep-Tone”) in a Lanham Act lawsuit asserting trademark infringement and trade dress infringement.

Trademark attorneys for serial litigant Slep-Tone have filed more than 150 lawsuits throughout the country under the Lanham Act alleging unauthorized copying and performance of Slep-Tone’s karaoke tracks. Slep-Tone contends that such activities constitute trademark infringement and trade dress infringement.

This federal litigation springs from a technology upgrade available to Slep-Tone customers. Earlier formats on which karaoke songs were offered included CD+G compact discs (with the +G referring to the graphic component) and MP3+G media. With the advent of large-capacity hard drives, some customers opted to transfer the files contained on their lawfully purchased CD+G or MP3+G to a hard drive, a practice known as “media shifting.” Because many compact discs can be stored on one hard drive, media shifting removed the need to swap between multiple discs to access different songs. This transfer was permitted by Slep-Tone as long as the customers notified Slep-Tone, agreed to certain terms that restricted multiple copies from being made and agreed to submit to an audit to certify compliance with Slep-Tone’s media-shifting policy.

In this lawsuit, filed against Defendants Basket Case Pub, Inc. of Peoria, Illinois and Dannette Rumsey, its president and owner, Slep-Tone alleged that Defendants violated the media-shifting policy. This, it asserted, resulted in an improper “passing off” of illegitimate “bootleg” copies of tracks as genuine Slep-Tone tracks.

Slep-Tone contended that when these unauthorized copies were played by Defendants, the pub’s customers would be confused, believing that “they are seeing and hearing a legitimate, authentic Slep-Tone track, when in fact they are seeing an unauthorized copy.” This conduct, it claims, is prohibited trademark and trade dress infringement.

A district court in the Central District of Illinois concluded that Slep-Tone had not plausibly alleged that Defendants’ conduct resulted in consumer confusion as to the source of any tangible good sold in the marketplace and dismissed Plaintiffs’ complaint.

The Seventh Circuit agreed. While the appellate court granted that Slep-Tone may have had a plausible complaint of copyright infringement for “theft, piracy, and violation of Slep-Tone’s [media-shifting] policy,” consumer confusion is the touchstone of trademark infringement and such confusion was not present. It stated:

What pub patrons see and hear is the intangible content of the karaoke tracks. They will see Slep-Tone’s trademark and trade dress and believe, rightly, that Slep-Tone is the source of that intangible content. But patrons will neither see nor care about the physical medium from which the karaoke tracks are played; consequently, any confusion is not about the source of the tangible good containing the karaoke tracks.

Because Slep-Tone’s assertions did not constitute trademark infringement or trade dress infringement, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the lawsuit.

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New Albany, Indiana – Trademark attorneys for Plaintiff Great Divide Brewing Company of Denver, Colorado filed an infringement lawsuit in the Southern District of Indiana against Defendant Red Yeti Brewing Company, Inc. of Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Defendant is listed in the complaint as the owner of a restaurant and brewery named “Red Yeti Brewing Co.” a/k/a “Red Yeti Restaurant and Brewpub.” The complaint asserts that Red Yeti Brewing Co. wrongfully employs the term “Yeti” and a yeti design in its marketing.

Specifically, Plaintiff contends that Defendant Red Yeti’s conduct infringes two of its trademarks, U.S. Trademark Registration No. 2,957,257 for a Yeti word mark and U.S. Trademark Registration No. 4,115,050 for a Yeti design mark. Both have been registered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Plaintiff asserts that Red Yeti’s actions constitute a deliberate attempt to trade upon Defendant’s goodwill and reputation and that its actions are willful and malicious. In this Indiana federal lawsuit, filed by trademark lawyers for Plaintiff, the following claims for relief are listed:

• Trademark Infringement in Violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1114(1)
• Unfair Competition – False Designation of Origin in Violation of 15 U.S.C. 1125(a)
• Federal Dilution
• Common Law Unfair Competition
• Common Law Trademark Infringement

• Deceptive Trade Practices in Violation of C.R.S. § 6-1-113

Great Divide seeks damages, including punitive damages, along with equitable relief, costs and attorneys’ fees.

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South Bend, Indiana – Intellectual property attorneys for Plaintiffs Coach, Inc. of New York, New York and Coach Services, Inc. of Jacksonville, Florida (collectively, “Coach”) filed an intellectual property complaint in the Northern District of Indiana.

Coach contends that Defendants Zip Thru Mart, Charles Estok Sr., and Janice Estok, all of Knox, Indiana, infringed various Coach trademarks, which have been registered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. In addition to trademark infringement under the Lanham Act, Coach asserts that Defendants have committed trade dress infringement, trademark dilution and counterfeiting under the Lanham Act, copyright infringement under the Copyright Act, as well as trademark infringement, unfair competition and unjust enrichment under Indiana common law.

Coach’s allegations stem from Defendants’ purported “designing, manufacturing, advertising, promoting, distributing, selling, and/or offering for sale” products that bear counterfeit Coach trademarks. Defendants are further accused of having engaged in this behavior “negligently and/or knowingly and intentionally, with reckless disregard or willful blindness to Coach’s rights, or with bad faith.”

In support of its allegations of infringement and related conduct, Coach states that it sent an investigator to the Zip Thru Mart. Its investigator saw multiple items bearing Coach trademarks, which Coach contends were counterfeit. Additional goods bearing purportedly counterfeit trademarks were seized by a Homeland Security Investigations officer during a subsequent visit to the business.

The intellectual property listed in this litigation includes numerous trademarks for “Coach,” “Coach New York,” “CC,” “Poppy” and similar trademarks. Coach also claims infringement of its copyrights, listing copyright registrations, registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, for its “Legacy Stripe” design (registration number VA000704542)  “Signature C” design (registration number VA0001228917),  “Op Art” design (registration number VA0001694574) and “Horse & Carriage” design (registration number VA0001714051).

In this Indiana lawsuit, filed by trademark and copyright attorneys for Coach, the intellectual property claims are listed as follows:

• Count I: Trademark Counterfeiting, 15 U.S.C. § 1114
• Count II: Trademark Infringement, 15 U.S.C. § 1114
• Count III: Trade Dress Infringement, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)
• Count IV: False Designation of Origin and False Advertising, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)
• Count V: Trademark Dilution, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(c)
• Count VI: Copyright Infringement, 17 U.S.C. § 501
• Count VII: Common Law Trademark Infringement
• Count VIII: Common Law Unfair Competition

• Count IX: Unjust Enrichment

In addition to statutory damages of $2 million per counterfeit mark, per type of counterfeit good, Coach seeks equitable relief; additional damages, both statutory and punitive; costs and attorneys’ fees.

Practice Tip: Coach has a history of requesting statutory damages that are considerably in excess of what has eventually been awarded by the courts. For example, in Coach, Inc. v. Paula’s Store Sportwear LLC, 2014 WL 347893 (D.N.J. Jan. 31, 2014), Coach requested $800,000 in statutory damages – $100,000 for each of eight counterfeited marks – from a shop from which four counterfeit Coach wallets and two counterfeit Coach handbags had been seized. When awarding damages to Coach, the court noted that the retail value of the six counterfeit items was less than $1500 and awarded $5000 for each of the eight marks that had been counterfeited, multiplied by the two types of goods, for a total statutory damages award of $80,000.

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Hammond, Indiana – Trademark litigation commenced in the Western District of Michigan in 2013 was transferred to the Northern District of Indiana yesterday.

This federal lawsuit, filed by trademark attorneys for Plaintiffs Texas Roadhouse, Inc. and Texas Roadhouse Delaware LLC, both of Louisville, Kentucky, alleges infringement of U.S. Service Mark Reg. No. 1,833,533, U.S. Service Mark Reg. No. 2,231,309, and U.S. Service Mark Reg. No. 2,250,966. These marks have been filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The Defendants listed in the Michigan complaint were Texas Corral Restaurants, Inc.; Switzer Properties, LLC; Texcor, Inc.; Texas Corral Restaurant II, Inc.; T.C. of Michigan City, Inc.; T.C. of Kalamazoo, Inc.; Chicago Roadhouse Concepts, LLC; Paul Switzer; Victor Spina; and John Doe Corp. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, transfer venue, with the Michigan court, which was granted. The lawsuit will continue in the Northern District of Indiana.

Plaintiffs, via their trademark lawyers, asserted the following claims:

• Count I: Trade Dress Infringement
• Count II: Federal Trademark Infringement
• Count III: Trademark Infringement Under Michigan Statutory Law
• Count IV: Trademark Infringement Under Indiana Statutory Law
• Count V: Trademark Infringement Under Common Law
• Count VI: Copyright Infringement

• Count VII: Unfair Competition Under Michigan and Indiana Common Law

Texas Roadhouse seeks equitable relief; damages, including punitive damages; costs and attorney fees.

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Indianapolis, Indiana – Plaintiff All Star Heating & Cooling, Inc. (“All Star”) of Camby, Indiana sued in the Southern District of Indiana alleging that Quality Heating and Air, Inc. (“Quality Heating”) d/b/a All Star Air and Richard Cusick (“Cusick”) of New Palestine, Indiana are infringing its trade name.

Both Plaintiff and Defendants are in the business of providing heating, venting and air conditioning service, installation and repair. Plaintiff All Star states that it began business in December of 2005 and that it has used the same name since that time. It also indicates that it has been using “the same trade dress since 2011.” This trademark infringement complaint does not indicate that Plaintiff’s business name has been registered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The complaint states that Defendant Cusick, who is believed to be the owner and operator of Defendant Quality Heating, began business in 2014 under the assumed business name All Star Air. Plaintiff asserts that Quality Heating is currently located less than 30 miles from Plaintiff’s location.

Plaintiff All Star contends that customers and vendors have been confused by Defendants’ use of the All Star name, stating that they have “wrongly believed that there is an association or connection between the Plaintiff’s business and the Defendants’ business.” Plaintiff avers that, as a consequence, Defendants are liable for trade name infringement and unfair competition.

In its lawsuit, filed by an Indiana trademark lawyer, Plaintiff lists the following counts:

• Count I: Federal Unfair Competition
• Count II: State and Common Law Trademark Infringement

• Count III: Common Law Unfair Competition

All Star seeks equitable relief, including an injunction; damages, including treble damages; costs and attorney fees.

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Indianapolis, Indiana – An Indiana intellectual property attorney for Archetype Ltd. (“Archetype”) of Short Hills, New Jersey sued in the Southern District of Indiana alleging that LTD Commodities LLC (“LTD”) of Bannockburn, Illinois infringed the trademark PathLights™.

Plaintiff Archetype contends that it has been marketing a distinctive and famous battery-operated motion-detection lighting system under the PathLights trademark since at least as early as 2009. It states that the overall look and feel of the PathLights product is non-functional and serves as a source identifier. In this Indiana lawsuit, Archetype accuses LTD of trade dress infringement, false designation of origin or sponsorship, passing off, and unfair competition.

Archetype indicates in the complaint that LTD is marketing, selling, and promoting a battery-operated motion-detection lighting product that is almost identical to Archetype’s PathLights product. It further claims that the accused LTD lights illustrated on LTD’s website are actually images of Archetype’s PathLights product and that the lighting products that consumers actually receive from LTD upon purchase of the LTD product are not an Archetype’s PathLights product but are, instead, a different, lower-quality light.

Defendant LTD is accused of “intentionally, willfully and deliberately pull[ing] a ‘bait and switch’ on consumers” and, in doing so, damaging Archetype’s sales volume and business reputation.

In this lawsuit, filed by an Indiana intellectual property lawyer for Archetype, the following counts are asserted:

• Count I: Trade Dress Infringement

• Count II: False Designation of Origin or Sponsorship and Passing Off

• Count III: False Advertising

• Count IV: Trade Dress Dilution

Archetype asks the court for judgment that LTD’s acts constitute trade dress infringement, unfair competition, false designation of origin and/or sponsorship, false advertising and trade dress dilution; for an award of LTD’s profits and actual damages, including corrective advertising, as well as trebling those damages pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1117; for an order that all accused LTD products and other accused materials be surrendered for destruction; for an injunction; and for an award of Archetype’s attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses.

The case was assigned to Chief Judge Richard L. Young and Magistrate Judge Denise K. LaRue in the Southern District of Indiana and assigned Case No. 1:15-cv-00106-RLY-DKL.

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Evansville, Indiana – Indiana copyright attorneys for Brinker Manufacturing Jewelers, Inc. d/b/a Brinker’s Jewelers of Evansville, Indiana (Brinker’s) and South Central Communications Corporation d/b/a South Central Digital of Nashville, Tennessee (“South Central Digital”) filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in the Southern District of Indiana alleging, inter alia, that Rogers Galleria Jewelers, LLC d/b/a The Diamond Galleria by Rogers of Evansville, Indiana (“Rogers”), Tyna Wheat of Hendersonville, Kentucky and Sharon Sartore of Henderson, Kentucky infringed the advertising material on Brinker’s website, which has been copyrighted by the U.S. Copyright Office.

Brinker’s has operated a jewelry store in Evansville, Indiana since 1972. Rogers opened a nearby store called The Diamond Galleria by Rogers in 2013. The two showrooms are approximately 3 miles apart.

In this Indiana copyright complaint, Brinker’s accuses Rogers of “blatant and extreme violations of federal copyright and trade dress and unfair competition law and Indiana statutory and common law with regard to Brinker’s intellectual property rights, business relationships, goodwill and business reputation.”

Specifically, Rogers is accused of copying Brinker’s advertising and branding materials including the design of Brinker’s showroom and jewelry boxes, as well as copying some of Brinker’s taglines, written advertisements and Internet advertising. Brinker’s also contends that Rogers falsely represented the nature of Rogers’ business to two jewelry vendors so that it could offer jewelry to the public that had previously been offered exclusively by Brinker’s.

In its complaint, filed by Indiana copyright litigators, Plaintiffs allege the following:

  • Count I: Copyright Infringement
  • Count II: Trade Dress Infringement and Unfair Competition under the Lanham Act
  • Count III: Common Law Trademark Infringement, Unfair Competition and Deceptive Trade Practices
  • Count IV: Conversion
  • Count IV [sic]: Misappropriation of Advertising Ideas and Style of Doing Business
  • Count V: Tortious Interference with Contract or Business Relationship

Plaintiffs ask the court:

  • that Rogers, Wheat, and Sartore, jointly and severally, be found liable for actual or statutory damages; 
  • for an accounting of, and the imposition of a constructive trust with respect to, the Defendants’ profits attributable to their infringement of Brinker’s copyrights and trade dress and unfair competition violations;
  •  for a preliminary and permanent injunction prohibiting the Defendants and their agents from continuing to infringe Brinker’s copyrights and violate Brinker’s rights to its intellectual property pursuant to the Lanham Act and common law; 
  • for treble or punitive damages; 
  • for prejudgment interest; and
  • for Brinker’s attorneys’ fees and expenses.

Practice Tip:

The traditional rationale behind granting copyright protection is to encourage the production of creative works. Without such protection, investment in creative works would be substantially diminished.

For example, those who incur the costs of creating an original work – e.g., the creators of a movie spend time writing a script, pay actors, rent studio space and the like – would not be able to recoup such costs if others were allowed to reproduce the work for no more than it costs to copy a DVD and then offer it to the marketplace at a price point that did not include all of the costs of the work’s creation.

The traditional argument for copyright protection is not as strong in the advertising context. Critics of copyright protection for advertising argue that most marketing works would be created regardless of the existence of copyright protection for the work because effective advertising results in direct benefits for its creators in the form of increased sales. Thus, no additional protection is necessary.

As a result, some have advocated statutory adjustments to the copyright protection that advertising may receive. Among the proposals is that Congress extend the doctrine of “thin” copyright protection, which is used for, e.g., factual compilations, to advertising material. Under this proposed level of copyright protection, a virtual identity between the original advertising and the accused advertising would be required before liability for copyright infringement would be found.

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