Articles Posted in Trade Dress

Indianapolis, Indiana – Apparently Heartland Consumer Products LLC (“Heartland”), the Plaintiff, is the owner of the SPLENDA® brand sugar substitute sweetener, which comes in yellow packaging (the “Yellow Trade Dress”). According to the Complaint, Heartland has also used a variety of legally protected trademarks in connection with its SPLENDA® brand products.

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In addition to its U.S. trademarks, and common law rights to the Yellow Trade Dress, Heartland also claims to have obtained trademark registrations for the SPLENDA® intellectual property in over 90 countries.

Heartland claims Speedway, LLC (“Speedway”), the Defendant, has “engaged in the active deception of customers through misappropriation of the Yellow Trade Dress in a manner that makes Speedway’s yellow sucralose packets easily mistakable for SPLENDA®’s yellow packets. Per the Complaint, Speedway failed “to provide sufficient cues to the consumer that the yellow sweetener packets in Speedway stores are not the leading brand sucralose-based sweetener sold by Heartland.” Therefore, Heartland claims Speedway’s actions are likely to deceive consumers into believing its sweetener provided in yellow packets is SPLENDA®.

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Due to Speedway’s use of yellow packaging for sucralose, Heartland claims it has committed trade dress infringement, trademark dilution, false designation of origin, unfair competition, and false advertising pursuant to the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125. Heartland is seeking enhanced damages and attorneys’ fees under 15 U.S.C. § 1117 because it claims “Speedway’s actions are intentional, willful, and calculated to cause confusion, mistake or deception.” Further, Heartland is claiming common law trade dress infringement under Ind. Code § 24-2-1-15. Next, Heartland is claiming common law unfair competition. Finally, Heartland is claiming trademark dilution under Ind. Code § 24-2-1-13.5.

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Blog-Photo-1Indianapolis, Indiana – Apparently Brumate, LLC (“Brumate”), the Plaintiff, designs and sells insulated beverage containers, including an insulated tumbler/can holder, the HOPSULATOR®, and an insulated wine bottle, the WINESULATOR®. Brumate claims to have acquired trade dress rights in its HOPSULATOR® product design (“HOPSULATOR Trade Dress”). According to the Complaint, Frost Buddy, LLC (“Frost Buddy”), the Defendant, is selling a knockoff product that incorporates the HOPSULATOR Trade Dress. Brumate also claims Frost Buddy has engaged in deceptive advertising with regard to Brumate’s HOPSULATOR® and WINESULATOR® products.

Brumate is seeking damages for trade dress infringement, false advertising, and unfair competition pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a). Further, Brumate claims Frost Buddy committed deception in violation of I.C. § 35-43-5-3 and unfair competition under Indiana common law.

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Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of fees for the Defendant, David Knott (“Knott”), after Plaintiff, Timothy B. O’Brien LLC (“Apple Wellness”), voluntarily dismissed all its claims with prejudice.

Originally filed in the Western District of Wisconsin, Apple Wellness alleged that Knott, a former employee of Apple Wellness started a similar, competing wellness shop. Apple Wellness sued Knott for alleged trademark, trade dress, and copyright infringement. Knott countersued for tortious interference and retaliation. The District Court found the copyright claims baseless and denied a preliminary injunction on the trademark and trade dress claims. Apple Wellness later voluntarily dismissed all its claims.

While Apple Wellness submitted a motion to dismiss without prejudice, the District Court ordered Apple Wellness to withdraw its motion or accept a dismissal with prejudice because Knott had already expended resources litigating an injunction. The District Court further noted that in its opinion, no party’s claim was strong. Apple agreed to the dismissal with prejudice and the District Court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the counterclaims. The District Court subsequently denied Knott’s motion for fees leading to this appeal only as to the fees for the copyright claims and the appeal.

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The Court of Appeals found that while Apple Wellness’s copyright claims were frivolous, it appears the claims were brought in good faith. Therefore, “there were minimal concerns regarding compensation and deterrence.” Further, Knott did not have to expend a large amount of time, money, or energy defending against the copyright claims as they were quickly dismissed. After considering all of the factors, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the District Court denying Knott’s motion for fees.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling that Flexible Steel Lacing Co.’s (“Flexco”) trade dress is invalid because it is functional.

Flexco originally filed suit in the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division for trade dress infringement and unfair competition against Conveyor Accessories, Inc. (“CAI”). CAI counterclaimed seeking cancellation of Flexco’s trademarks and seeking declaratory judgment of invalidity, unenforceability, and noninfringement. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of CAI, finding that Flexco’s trade dress was functional because the product’s utilitarian advantages were disclosed in an expired utility patent, internal corporate documents, and advertising materials.

This case was before Chief Judge, Diane Wood, Judge Joel Flaum and Judge Kenneth Ripple assigned Appeal No. 19-2035 and was decided April 7, 2020.

Indianapolis, Indiana –Boiling Crab Franchise Co., LLC (“The Boiling Crab”), the Plaintiff, filed two separate complaints for trademark infringement and unfair competition alleging similar facts. The first complaint was filed against Defendant The Mad Crab LLC d/b/a The Boiling Crab, Crawfish & Shrimp (“The Mad Crab”). The second complaint was filed against CC Food Enterprise LLC and KC Groups Inc. (collectively “The Boiling Seafood”). According to the complaints, The Boiling Crab owns four relevant U.S. trademarks for “The Boiling Crab” in various styles with Registration Nos. 3,256,219, 4,174,077, 4,491,054, and 5,374,534.

The Boiling Crab franchise, started in California in 2004, has allegedly grown to include locations throughout California and at least four other states. According to the complaints, the Louisiana-style seafood served by The Boiling Crab and the distinctive restaurant décor and menus create a one-of-a-kind dining experience. The Boiling Crab also claims unique trade dress rights in the look and feel of its restaurants.

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Indianapolis, Indiana – KS Equity Company, LLC (“KS”), the Plaintiff, operates a convenience store, Leo’s Market and Eatery (the “Leo’s Store”) in Indianapolis, Indiana. KS claims to own and use the following U.S. Trademark Reg. Nos. 5886802, 5886803, 5892871, and 5962680 (collectively, “Leo’s Trademarks”) in connection with the Leo’s Store. According to the Complaint, KS has also developed trade dress in the unique design elements of the Leo’s Store (“Leo’s Trade Dress”).

KS claims Defendants, RSM Investments LLC, Raghbir Singh, Pushpinder Singh, York Multani, and York Singh (collectively, “Defendants”), operate a convenience store or gas station called Leon’s in Indianapolis, Indiana (the “Leon’s Store”). Per the Complaint, the Leon’s Store is located approximately 22 miles away from the Leo’s Store and uses a confusingly similar name and logo compared to the Leo’s Trademarks. The brand of fuel sold in connection with each store, Marathon, allegedly exacerbates the potential customer confusion between the two stores.

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Evansville, Indiana – Attorneys for Plaintiff, Baskin-Robbins Franchising LLC and BR IP Holder LLC (collectively “Baskin-Robbins”), both of Canton, Ice-cream-300x201Massachusetts, filed suit in the Southern District of Indiana against Defendants, Radhakrishna LLC (“Radha”) of Indianapolis, Indiana, Naik’s, LLC (“Naik’s”) of Louisville, Kentucky, and Mukesh Naik, a citizen of Indiana (collectively “Defendants”), alleging breach of contract, trademark infringement, trade dress infringement, and unfair competition. Baskin-Robbins is seeking injunctive relief, judgment, including statutory damages, and attorneys’ fees.

According to the Complaint, Baskin-Robbins, along with its franchisees, currently operate more than 7,800 shops worldwide and have been in business for over seventy years. BR IP Holder LLC claims to own numerous registrations for marks relating to “Baskin-Robbins” and derivations thereof, most of which are incontestable under 15 U.S.C. § 1065. Baskin-Robbins further claims that the public knows and recognizes their marks due to the extensive sales and marketing Baskin-Robbins has done while in business.

It is alleged that Mukesh Naik, individually, entered a franchise agreement for PC 361694 on or about September 14, 1998; Radha entered into a franchise agreement for PC 351607 on or about August 10, 2013; and Naik’s entered into two franchise agreements for PC 353400 and PC 360506 in 2014 (collectively the “Franchise Agreements”). Each of the alleged Franchise Agreements were entered into between the Defendants and Baskin-Robbins Franchising LLC to operate Baskin-Robbins shops and each were allegedly personally guaranteed by Mukesh Naik. Baskin-Robbins claims that the Defendants defaulted under the Franchise Agreements and after three separate failures to cure their defaulting actions, were each sent a Notice of Termination. According to the Complaint, Defendants have continued using the Baskin-Robbins marks after the Notice of Termination was received by each Defendant, in breach of the Franchise Agreements.

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Indianapolis, Indiana – Judge Richard L. Young in the Southern District of Indiana granted default judgment in favor of Engineered by Schildmeier, LLC (“Engineered”) and against WUHU Xuelang Auto Parts Co., LTD and Amazing Parts Warehouse (collectively the “Defendants”). Engineered filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment of both patent and trade dress infringement in late 2018. The patentEngineered-BlogPhoto-300x254 allegedly infringed in the complaint is United States Patent No. D 816,584 (the “‘584 Patent”) for a “Pair of Bed Rail Stake Pocket Covers”.

When a defendant fails to plead or defend a case against them within the allotted time frame, they are in default. A plaintiff may motion the court for a default judgment, which is a binding judgment of the court for failure of the defendant to answer the allegations. The court can then grant a default judgment. If a proof of damages hearing is necessary, the judge can order such a hearing, but the defendant may not appear at that point to defend the amount of damages asserted by the plaintiff. A default judgment may be set aside upon request of the defendant, but they must show a good defense and legitimate excuse as to why they were in default to the court.

In this case, neither of the Defendants plead or otherwise defended themselves against the allegations set forth in Engineered’s complaint. As such, the court granted Engineered’s motion for default judgment and awarded damages accordingly. First, the Court found that the Defendants infringed the ‘584 Patent. Second, the Court found the Defendants violated Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act by infringing Engineered’s trade dress. Third, the Defendants were enjoined from importing, selling, or offering for sale any imitations of the ‘584 Patent. Finally, Engineered was awarded a total of $1,424,070.00. The damages award was calculated by adding $470,020.00 in lost profits; $940,040.00 in treble damages for willful infringement; $13,610.00 in attorneys’ fees; and $400.00 in court costs. By failing to appear and defend themselves, not only will defendants have default judgments granted against them, but as shown in this case, extremely large damages may also be imposed.

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Bodum USA, Inc. (“Bodum”) originally filed this case against A Top New Casting Inc. (“A Top”) in the Northern District of Illinois on claims of trade dress infringement. After a jury verdict found for Bodum and awarded $2 million in damages, A Top brought this appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The Court of Appeals affirmed the findings and damages awarded.

BlogPhoto-1-300x232Bodum began selling French press coffeemakers in the 1970s and began distributing the Chambord French press at issue in this case in 1983. Bodum claimed it acquired exclusive distribution rights to the Chambord French press in 1991 and has since spent millions of dollars in marketing and advertising the product. A Top began selling their French press, the SterlingPro, through Amazon in 2014.

In March 2016, Bodum filed a complaint for “trade dress infringement under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a); common law unfair competition; and violation of the Illinois Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act”. While A Top moved for summary judgment twice, these motions were denied, and a jury trial took place in March 2018. The jury found that A Top willfully infringed the Chambord trade dress and awarded Bodum $2 million in damages. The district court denied A Top’s motion for judgment as a matter of law and granted Bodum’s motion for enhanced damages to $4 million dollars and a permanent injunction against A Top selling the SterlingPro products.

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Terre Haute, Indiana – Attorneys for Plaintiffs, Baskin-Robbins Franchising LLC, and BR IP Holder LLC (collectively “Baskin-Robbins”), both Delaware limited liability companies, filed suit in the Southern District of Indiana alleging that Defendants, Big Scoops Inc. and David M. Glasgow, Jr., both of Terre Haute, Indiana breached their Franchise Agreement with Baskin-Robbins by failing to pay required fees. By continuing to operate, Defendants are infringing Baskin-Robbins’ trade dress and numerous registered trademarks.

logo2Baskin-Robbins Franchising is in the business of franchising independent businesses and people to operate Baskin-Robbins shops in the United States. The “Baskin-Robbins” trade name, trademark, and service mark are owned by BR IP Holder along with other related marks. Since October 14, 2015, Big Scoops has been the owner and operator of a Baskin-Robbins shop located in Terre Haute, Indiana pursuant to a Franchise Agreement with Baskin-Robbins. David M. Glasgow, Jr. personally guaranteed the obligations of Big Scoops under the Franchise Agreement.

Pursuant to its Franchise Agreement, Big Scoops was granted a license to use the trademarks, trade names, and trade dress of Baskin-Robbins, but only in the manner specified in the Franchise Agreement. The fees due to Baskin-Robbins from Big Scoops under the Franchise Agreement included a franchise fee equal to 5.9% of gross sales of the business, an advertising fee equal to 5.0% of gross sales of the business, late fees, interest, and costs on unpaid monies due under the Franchise Agreement, and all sums owing and any damages, interest, costs and expenses, including reasonable attorneys’ fees, incurred as a result of Big Scoops’ defaults. Under the Franchise Agreement, Big Scoops agreed that nonpayment of any of the required fees would be a default, that failure to pay within seven days after receiving written notice would be a continued default, and that receiving three notices of default within a twelve-month period would result in Baskin Robbins having the right to terminate the Franchise Agreement.

Plaintiffs sent Big Scoop three separate notices that it was in default of the Franchise Agreement for nonpayment on June 19, 2018, October 9, 2018, and December 7, 2018. As a result of these defaults and failure to cure after the December 7, 2018 notice, Baskin-Robbins sent Big Scoop a Notice of Termination with respect to the franchised business on February 12, 2019. Since receiving the Notice of Termination, Defendants have continued to operate the Baskin-Robbins shop and have used the Baskin-Robbins marks without authorization. Baskin-Robbins is claiming breach of contract, trademark infringement pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1114, unfair competition pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a), and trade dress infringement pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1125.

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