Articles Posted in Trade Dress

picture01302015.png

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.

Continue reading

Indianapolis, Indiana – Indiana patent attorneys for Polymer Technology Systems, Inc. (“PTS”) of Indianapolis, Indiana filed an intellectual property lawsuit in the Southern District of Indiana alleging that Jant Pharmacal Corporation of Encino, California (“Jant”) Infopia America LLC of Titusville, Florida (“Infopia USA”) and Infopia Co., Ltd. of Kyunggi, Korea (“Infopia

CholestrerolStrips.jpg

Korea”) infringed “Method for determining HDL concentration from whole blood or plasma,” Patent No. 7,087,397, which was issued by the U.S. Patent Office. PTS has also accused Defendants of federal unfair competition under the Lanham Act.

PTS develops, manufactures and sells point-of-care diagnostic products for the human healthcare market. At issue in this Indiana litigation is PTS’s “CardioChek® Multi-Analyte Strip,” a hand-held, point-of-care testing system that can test for total cholesterol, high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and triglycerides with a single drop of blood. In August 2006, Patent No. 7,087,397 (“the ‘397 Patent”) was issued to PTS. PTS indicates that this patent includes a significant portion of the technology embodied in this Indiana invention.

Defendant Infopia Korea has also developed a test strip that tests for total cholesterol, high-density lipoproteins and triglycerides. This system is branded as the LipidPlus Lipid Profile Test Strip. PTS contends that Infopia Korea imports the LipidPlus testing strip into the United States and that Defendants Infopia USA and Jant offer and sell the LipidPlus product in the U.S. market.

PTS alleges that much of the technology incorporated into the LipidPlus testing strip is copied from PTS’s CardioChek product. It contends that the copied aspects include the concept of the testing strip itself, the analytes selected for analysis, the structure of the strip and the chemistries used. PTS also contends that Defendants have copied the trade dress of PTS’s CardioChek testing strip. PTS further accuses Defendants of offering the LipidPlus testing strip at a price that is both extremely low and below cost.

In its complaint, filed by Indiana trade-dress and patent lawyers, PTS alleges the following:

• Count I: Patent Infringement of the ‘397 Patent

• Count II: Violation of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a)

PTS asks the court:

• for a judgment that the ‘397 Patent is valid and enforceable;

• for a judgment of direct or indirect infringement, or inducement to infringe, by Defendants;

• to declare that Defendants have unfairly competed with PTS by infringing and misappropriating PTS’s trade dress;

• for an award to PTS of lost profits and a reasonable royalty for Defendants’ acts of patent infringement and trade-dress infringement;

• to treble the award of damages pursuant to a finding of willful, intentional and deliberate infringement;

• for an injunction prohibiting Defendants from engaging in acts of infringement or unfair competition; and

• for a declaration that the case is exceptional and an award of attorneys’ fees.

Practice Tip: The United States Supreme Court addressed the elements required for trade dress to be protected in Two Pesos, Inc. v. Taco Cabana, Inc., 505 U.S. 763 (1992). In Two Pesos, the Court held that, to establish a cause of action for trade dress infringement, a plaintiff must establish that (a) the design is non-functional; (b) the design is inherently distinctive or distinctive by virtue of having acquired secondary meaning; and (c) there is a likelihood of confusion.

Continue reading

Chicago, Illinois – Indiana trademark attorney Paul B. Overhauser, on behalf of K.T. Tran andRAP4Photo.JPG Real Action Paintball, Inc., a California corporation (collectively “RAP4”), argued before the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit that the trademark infringement suit brought in the Northern District of Indiana by Advanced Tactical Ordnance Systems, LLC, an Indiana corporation (“ATO”), was not properly before the Indiana court, as it lacked personal jurisdiction over RAP4. The Seventh Circuit agreed and instructed the district court to dismiss the complaint.

RAP4 and ATO are competitors in the “irritant projectile” market. Unlike the more familiar game of paintball, in which a paint-filled sphere is shot at opponents as part of a war game, these irritant projectiles are used by the police and military to intervene in hostile situations where lethal force is unnecessary. While paintballs are filled with paint, irritant projectiles use capsaicin, the active ingredient in pepper spray. Irritant projectiles, thus, allow law enforcement personnel to use less-than-lethal force from a distance.

Among the many issues in this lawsuit, including assertions by ATO of trade-dress infringement, unfair competition and misappropriation of trade secrets, were allegations that RAP4 had infringed the trademarked term “PEPPERBALL,” to which ATO claimed ownership. That trademark, Registration No. 2716025, was issued in 1999 by the U.S. Trademark Office to a non-party to this suit.

The trouble began when another company, non-party PepperBall Technologies, Inc. (“PTI”), began to have financial problems. PTI had also been a competitor in the irritant-projectile market. To address its difficulties, PTI held a foreclosure sale, the validity of which was hotly contested. ATO claimed that it had purchased PTI’s trademarks – including “PEPPERBALL” – and other property during this foreclosure sale.

During the time that PTI ceased its operations and was attempting to convey its assets, RAP4 was contacted by an executive of non-party APON, a company which had manufactured some of PTI’s irritant projectiles. He asked if RAP4 was interested in acquiring irritant projectiles from APON.

RAP4 agreed to purchase irritant projectiles from APON. After having negotiated this access to APON’s machinery, recipes, and materials – which had had at one time been used by PepperBall Technologies Inc. – RAP4 announced this fact to the people on its e-mail list. Specifically, it stated in its e-mail that it had acquired access to, “machinery, recipes, and materials once used by PepperBall Technologies Inc.” It was this language to which ATO, which claimed to be the successor in interest to PTI, particularly objected.

ATO sent a cease-and-desist letter to RAP4. In response, RAP4 added a disclaimer that it was not affiliated with PTI. ATO then sued in the Northern District of Indiana. It claimed several different theories of recovery, including intentional violations of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1111 et seq., common law trademark infringement and unfair competition, trade dress infringement, and misappropriation of trade secrets.

Of particular interest to the Seventh Circuit in addressing this Indiana trademark litigation was the issue of personal jurisdiction over RAP4 in the Northern District of Indiana. RAP4 contested that such jurisdiction over it was lacking. ATO countered that RAP4 had sufficient contacts, including a “blast e-mail” announcement from RAP4 that would suffice for jurisdiction in Indiana, stating that “many [RAP4 customers] are located here in the state of Illinois. I mean, state of Indiana.” It also contended that RAP4 regularly e-mailed customers or potential customers from all over the United States, including Indiana, and that RAP4 had made at least one sale to an Indiana resident.

ATO conceded that it lacked general jurisdiction. Thus, the Seventh Circuit turned to an analysis of specific jurisdiction. “For a State to exercise jurisdiction consistent with due process, the defendant’s suit-related conduct must create a substantial connection with the forum State,” noted the appellate court. Moreover, the relation between the defendant and the forum “must arise out of contacts that the ‘defendant himself’ creates with the forum.”

In determining that personal jurisdiction existed, the Indiana district court had relied on several facts: “first, [RAP4] fulfilled several orders of the allegedly infringing projectiles for purchasers in Indiana; second, it knew that Advanced Tactical was an Indiana company and could foresee that the misleading emails and sales would harm Advanced Tactical in Indiana; third, it sent at least two misleading email blasts to a list that included Indiana residents; fourth, it had an interactive website available to residents of Indiana; and finally, it put customers on its email list when they made a purchase, thereby giving the company some economic advantage.”

The Seventh Circuit held that these facts were insufficient to support specific jurisdiction. The only Indiana sales that would have been relevant were those that related to RAP4’s allegedly unlawful activity. ATO failed to meet its burden of proof of any such Indiana sales. Similarly, the court held that any effects that were purportedly felt in Indiana by ATO did not support specific jurisdiction. Instead, the relation between RAP4 and the Indiana forum “must arise out of contacts that the defendant himself creates with the forum State.”

Further, neither RAP4’s e-mail communications nor its website were held to create specific jurisdiction. If such contacts were sufficient, the court held, there would be no limiting principle on personal jurisdiction and a plaintiff could sue almost any defendant with an Internet presence or which utilized e-mail in almost any forum in the United States or the world. To find jurisdiction on such vanishingly small contacts would offend the long-held and traditional “notions of fair play and substantial justice.”

The Seventh Circuit remanded the case to the Indiana district court with instructions to vacate the judgment and dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction.

Practice Tip #1: RAP4’s references to “Pepperball Technologies, Inc.” could not as a matter of law constitute trademark infringement, counterfeiting or false advertising. Instead, RAP4’s use of its competitor’s name is a merely a wholly permissible nominative use of that mark. As a matter of law, a “nominative use of a mark – where the only word reasonably available to describe a particular thing is pressed into service – lies outside the strictures of trademark law.”

Practice Tip #2: Personal jurisdiction is an essential element of federal court jurisdiction, without which the court is powerless to adjudicate the matter before it. However, a defendant’s argument that personal jurisdiction does not exist can easily be waived inadvertently by the incautious litigant. In this case, an evidentiary hearing regarding personal jurisdiction was conducted in December 2012. It was only by careful preservation of this argument by trademark counsel for RAP4 while litigating in the district court that the appellate court was able to hear RAP4’s claim and reverse the district court.

Practice Tip #3: This case was successfully argued before the Seventh Circuit by Paul B. Overhauser, Managing Partner of Overhauser Law Offices.

Continue reading

Indianapolis, Indiana – An Indiana trademark attorney for KM Innovations, LLC of New snowball-picture.jpgCastle, Indiana (“KM”) filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of Indiana alleging that Opportunities, Inc. of Colo, Iowa competed unfairly and infringed the trade dress of KM’s “SNOWTIME anytime!” indoor snowballs.

The SNOWTIME anytime! concept was conceived in December 2012. At a party, several parents realized that a market might exist for “indoor snowballs,” which would enable children to have a “snowball fight” but without the usual requirements of snow or being outside. KM later introduced a product based on this idea. KM also indicates that it is pursuing a patent on its indoor snowballs.

In this lawsuit for trade dress infringement, which also includes allegations of unfair competition, KM asserts that Opportunities imports, sells and/or is offering to sell polyester-based indoor snowballs and that Opportunities’ indoor snowballs are low-quality knockoffs of KM’s famous product. KM also contends that Opportunities has deliberately copied the distinctive features of KM’s trade dress in an attempt to trade upon the goodwill associated with that trade dress.

To support its contentions of trade dress infringement, KM states that, inter alia, its SNOWTIME anytime! snowballs come in a clear package that includes a label on the front that depicts a mountainous background set in a blue and white theme. At the top of the package, the term “SNOWTIME” appears in a blue that is darker than the lighter blues used elsewhere in the label. The upper part of the lettering is covered with “snow,” giving the commercial impression of fresh snow. Also shown are a blue and white snowball with wording inside and people in snowsuits having fun playing with KM’s indoor-snowball product outdoors.

KM lists several similarities that it contends support a finding of trade dress infringement. It indicates that Opportunities’ packaging includes, among other features: a partially clear exterior that depicts a mountainous background set in a blue and white theme; an illustration of fresh snow covering the words “Snowball Fun” with letters that are a darker blue than the other blues on the package; a generally blue and white snowball with wording inside; and a depiction of people dressed in snowsuits playing outside with the product.

In the complaint, filed by an Indiana trademark lawyer, one count, “Trade Dress Infringement and Unfair Competition” is alleged. KM asks the court for:

• a judgment that Opportunities’ accused packaging infringes KM’s trade dress rights;
• a judgment that Opportunities committed unfair competition by offering its product in the accused packaging;
• damages, including treble damages for willful and deliberate infringement of KM’s trade dress rights and acts of unfair competition;
• a permanent injunction; and
• an award to KM of its attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses.

Practice Tip:

The United States Supreme Court addressed the elements required for trade dress to be protected in Two Pesos, Inc. v. Taco Cabana, Inc., 505 U.S. 763 (1992). In Two Pesos, the Court held that, to establish a cause of action for trade dress infringement, a plaintiff must establish that (a) the design is non-functional; (b) the design is inherently distinctive or distinctive by virtue of having acquired secondary meaning; and (c) there is a likelihood of confusion.

This product was conceived barely a year ago. While SNOWTIME anytime! may have won first place at the Christmas Gift and Hobby Show in Indianapolis, that victory clearly did not take place in November 2012, as was stated in the complaint, as the product did not yet exist.

As a result of the product’s short time in the marketplace, one of the primary hurdles for Plaintiff may be timing. Specifically, if Plaintiff fails to prove that the trade dress in question is inherently distinctive, it could be difficult to prove that secondary meaning has been established in the minds of the consuming public in the time that the product has been available for purchase.

Continue reading

Indianapolis, Indiana – Eli Lilly and Company of Indianapolis, Indiana has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit in the Southern District of Indiana alleging that Sebastian Wiradharma a/k/a Sebastian Singh (“Singh”) and Singpet Pte. Ltd., both of Singapore, infringed the trademark COMFORTIS, Registration Number 3,370,168, which has been registered by the U.S. Trademark Office.

Lilly, through its Elanco Animal Health Division, manufactures, markets and sells pet Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Lilly-logo.pngmedicines, including flea-control preparations and treatments for parasitic infestations. It contends that it has made long and continuous of the name and mark “Elanco” in connection with veterinary preparations. It also asserts that it has long used the “Comfortis” mark, which was registered by the U.S. Trademark Office in 2008. Lilly claims that it has sold tens of millions of dollars’ worth of veterinary preparations, pet medicines and related goods and services under the Elanco and Comfortis marks.

Among Lilly’s products is Trifexis, a once-monthly veterinary medication, which contains the veterinary chemicals spinosad and milbemycin oxime. Trifexis is for the prevention of heartworms, fleas and intestinal worms. It is sold in the United States with what Lilly contends to be an inherently distinctive and non-functional trade dress. Trifexis is available only by prescription through licensed veterinarians. Lilly sells a similar product in Australia, with similar trade dress, under the name “Panoramis.”

Defendant Singh, who is allegedly the principal of Singpet, and Singpet do business over the Internet, including via websites at www.singpet.com, www.petcorporate.com, www.fleastuff.com and http://www.ourpetworld.net/home.asp, among others.

Defendants are accused of marketing and selling European and Australian versions of Elanco- and Comfortis-branded pet medicines to customers in the United States. Specifically, Lilly contends that Defendants market “Panoramis (Triflexis)” [sic] on their websites. While the Defendants are apparently based in Singapore, this marketing is allegedly directed at consumers in the United States. Lilly asserts that units designed for sale in markets such as Europe and Australia are neither intended nor authorized for sale in the United States.

Lilly further objects to the Defendants’ purported advertisement of units designed for the Australian and European markets as identical to or interchangeable with the units designed for sale in the United States. It states that that the Elanco-branded “Panoramis” pet medicines are materially different from its Elanco-branded “Trifexis” pet medicines sold in the United States.

Lilly contends that the Elanco- and Comfortis-branded pet medicines are tailored to meet the requirements of different geographic regions and countries to reflect the differences in language, climate, government regulations, units of measure, local addresses and telephone numbers, among other things.

Trademark attorneys for Lilly assert that Defendants are not authorized to use Lilly’s Elanco or Comfortis names and trade dress in connection with the sale of once-monthly spinosad and milbemycin oxime pet medicines outside of Australia. Lilly has sued Defendants, asserting willful infringement of its trademarks. It asserts the following in its complaint:

• First Claim for Relief: Trademark Infringement in Violation of Section 32 of the Lanham Act
• Second Claim for Relief: Unfair Competition in Violation of Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act
• Third Claim for Relief: False Advertising in Violation of Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act
• Fourth Claim for Relief: Unfair Competition in Violation of Indiana Common Law

Lilly asks for preliminary and permanent injunctions; damages, including treble damages; the Defendants to be required to notify all purchasers of the accused products, request the return of the products and refund the price paid; pre- and post-judgment interest and costs of the suit.

Practice Tip:

Lilly is objecting to the so-called “grey market” for its veterinary pharmaceuticals. Prices for drugs can vary considerably between countries, often as a result of government intervention in the market. As a result, a “grey market” – selling a drug intended for use in one country to consumers in another country – can emerge. In this complaint, Lilly has framed its objection to a grey market for its pet-care pharmaceuticals as an intellectual property dispute.

Intellectual property law requires a balancing of competing interests. On the one hand, innovation will be discouraged if inventors, authors and other creators of intellectual property are not allowed to benefit from their labors. Such a problem arises if others are allowed to use creators’ ideas without compensating them (the “free-rider problem”). On the other hand, the public good is promoted by encouraging free competition in the marketplace and easy alienability of property.

Under the first-sale defense to infringement, once a copy of an item protected by intellectual property laws has been sold to a purchaser, the creator of the intellectual property generally may not prevent that purchaser from reselling or otherwise disposing of the item. In patent and copyright law, the first-sale rule in most cases provides an absolute defense against infringement. In patent law, this is also referred to as “patent exhaustion.” As a result, the purchaser of a copy of the work and the owner of the intellectual property rights to that work may become competitors in the marketplace if the purchaser goes to resell a copy of the work.

The first-sale defense is not as broad in a trademark context. Enunciated in 1924 by the U.S. Supreme Court, the general rule for the resale of a trademark item provides that, after a trademark owner has sold a trademarked product, the buyer ordinarily may resell that product under the original mark without incurring any trademark liability. See Prestonettes, Inc. v. Coty, 264 U.S. 359 (1924). However, unlike patent or copyright law, trademark law has as one of its primary goals preventing confusion among potential purchasers. Typically, but not always, such confusion will not exist where a genuine article bearing an authentic trademark is sold. While there is a split among the circuits concerning the extent to which consumer confusion is a relevant factor, some hold that certain types of confusion about a product’s origin cause the first-sale defense to be inapplicable to the resale of a trademarked good. See Au-Tomotive Gold Inc. v. Volkswagen of America, Inc., 603 F.3d 1133, 1134 (9th Cir. 2010).

Continue reading

Indianapolis, Indiana – Ambre Blends, LLC of Fishers, Indiana has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit in the Southern District of Indiana alleging that doTERRA, Inc., doTERRA International, LLC, both of Orem, Utah (collectively, “doTERRA”) and Kerry Dodds d/b/a Kerry Essentials of Indianapolis, Indiana (“Kerry”) infringed SOLACE®, Trademark No. 4266473, which has been registered by the U.S. Trademark Office.

doTERRA-logo.jpgIn its complaint, Ambre Blends claims to have been producing organic body products since 2001. It offers four fragrances which are designed to be worn by both women and men. Founded in 2008, doTERRA offers essential oils both as single oils and as proprietary essential oil blends via independent product consultants. Both companies claim rights in the mark “Solace” in connection with essential oil products.

logo.jpgAmbre Blends asserts that it has used the Solace mark continuously in commerce since at least as early as February 2007. It holds a federally registered trademark on the mark in connection with “Aromatic preparations, namely, oils, body creams, body sprays, soaps, shower gel; Beauty creams; Body and beauty care cosmetics; Body cream; Body sprays; Essential oils for use in aromatherapy; Essential oils for use in manufacturing of candles, lip balm, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner; Face and body lotions; Non-medicated skin creams with essential oils for use in aromatherapy; Oils for perfumes and scents; Perfume; Perfume oils; Perfumed creams; Perfumed soaps; Scented body spray; Skin soap.” It describes its essence as having been “created for the sole purpose of comfort and attraction” and marks its products with “Solace®”.

According to the doTERRA website, doTERRA sells its product, a blend for women, as “Solace™”. It describes its oil as “a proprietary blend of Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade® essential oils carefully formulated to balance hormones and manage symptoms of PMS and the transitional phases of menopause.” (It also provides the disclaimer, required by the Food and Drug Administration, that the “product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.”)

In its complaint, Ambre Blends contends that doTERRA willfully and intentionally used the Solace mark knowing both that the mark was the property of Ambre Blends and that such a use was unlawful. It further asserts that doTERRA’s use of the mark was intended to cause confusion, mistake or deception among the general public and that doTERRA acted in bad faith.

The complaint asserts, inter alia, violations of the Lanham Act and unfair competition:

• Count I: Trademark Infringement
• Count II: False Designation of Origin
• Count III: Unfair Competition
• Count IV: Forgery
• Count V: Corrective Advertising Damages
• Count VI: Declaratory Judgment
• Count VII: Preliminary and Permanent Injunctive Relief

Trademark counsel for Ambre Blends seeks a declaratory judgment; a preliminary injunction; a permanent injunction; damages, including treble damages; costs and attorney’s fees; the transfer to Ambre Blends of any domain name that includes “Solace”; and corrective-advertising damages.

Practice Tip #1: From the complaint, this appears to be a straightforward case of infringement. However, Ambre Blends may have a tougher case than is obvious from the complaint itself. It appears from doTERRA’s sales literature that doTERRA has used the mark “Solace” along with “™”, thus claiming rights in the mark, at least as early as 2011. In contrast, Ambre Blends did not file its application until April 4, 2011; it was published for opposition on October 16, 2012. A federal registration confers a presumption of validity. However, here, the right to use the mark “Solace” may result in a battle of the facts.

Practice Tip #2: This complaint highlights the difference between the “®” mark and the “™” mark. While the former may not be used until a mark has been granted a federal registration, the latter has no such requirement. Instead, it may be used whenever a business wishes to put competitors on notice that it considers the mark to be its intellectual property.

Practice Tip #3: doTERRA is currently embroiled in litigation in both state and federal court in Utah with Young Living, another giant in the essential-oil industry.

Continue reading

Grand Rapids, Michigan — Trademark lawyers for Texas Roadhouse, Inc. and Texas Roadhouse Delaware LLC, both of Louisville, Kentucky (collectively, “Texas Roadhouse”) sued for trademark infringement in the Western District of Michigan alleging that the Defendants, including those doing business as multiple Texas Corral restaurants located in Indiana (collectively “Texas Corral”), as well as one Amarillo Roadhouse restaurant, also located in Indiana, infringed the service mark TEXAS ROADHOUSE, Trademark Registration Nos. 1,833,533; 2,231,309; and 2,250,966, which have been registered by the U.S. Trademark Office.

Texas Roadhouse operates a Texas-themed restaurant chain.  The first Texas Roadhouse restaurant opened in Clarksville, Indiana in 1993.  As of March 2013, there were 397 Texas Roadhouse restaurants in 47 states and three countries. 

Texas Roadhouse contends that each of the restaurants is required to comply with strict exterior and interior design requirements so that the look and feel is substantially identical across all Texas Roadhouse locations.  It lists three U.S. Service Mark Registrations that include the mark “Texas Roadhouse” and asserts that each of them is incontestable.  Texas Roadhouse also claims ownership of various unregistered marks that include the word “Texas” and “Roadhouse” as well as copyright protection, including a U.S. Copyright registration, of its marquee.  Finally, Texas Roadhouse claims intellectual-property rights in the trade dress of its restaurants, including the look of the exterior design of the building, the interior décor, the music and the menu.

TexasCorralLogo.jpgTexas Corral, against which Texas Roadhouse filed this complaint, also operates casual, western-themed, family restaurants. It owns and operates nine restaurant locations doing business under the name “Texas Corral.”  A total of ten locations are at issue in this lawsuit.  Six Indiana cities have “Texas Corral” restaurants: Highland, Merrillville, Portage, Michigan City, Martinsville and Shelbyville.  Texas Corral also purportedly owns and operates a location that does business as “Amarillo Roadhouse” in Indiana, which is also at issue in this trademark-infringement lawsuit.  In addition, three other Texas Corral restaurants have been listed in the complaint: two in Michigan and one in Illinois.  

Also listed in the complaint are Paul Switzer, asserted to be the franchisor/licensor of Texas Corral restaurants and Victor Spina, asserted to be a franchisee/licensee.  “John Doe Corp.,” a fictitious name intended to represent entities or individuals whose actual identity is not currently known to Texas Roadhouse, is also listed as a Defendant.

AmarilloRoadhouseLogo.gifIn the complaint, trademark attorneys for Texas Roadhouse assert that Texas Corral and Amarillo Roadhouse routinely use trade dress, trademarks, service marks, trade names, designs or logos that are confusingly similar to or copies of intellectual property owned by Texas Roadhouse.  This purportedly infringing use is asserted to be visible in signage, print and electronic promotional materials, menus, décor, building design and websites.

Texas Roadhouse’s complaint against Texas Corral and Amarillo Roadhouse lists the following:

·         Count I: Trade Dress Infringement

·         Count II: Federal Trademark Infringement

·         Count III: Trademark Infringement Under Mich. Comp. Laws § 429.42

·         Count IV: Trademark Infringement Under Ind. Code § 24-2-1-13

·         Count V: Trademark Infringement Under Common Law

·         Count VI: Copyright Infringement Under 17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq.

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

Texas Roadhouse asks for a judgment that Texas Roadhouse owns enforceable rights in the Texas Roadhouse intellectual property and that all registrations for the Texas Roadhouse intellectual property are valid; a judgment that the Defendants have been and are directly or indirectly infringing the Texas Roadhouse intellectual property; a judgment that the Defendants have been and are engaging in unfair competition by their unauthorized use of the Texas Roadhouse intellectual property; a judgment that Defendants acted deliberately, willfully, intentionally or with malicious intent; an injunction against Defendants prohibiting infringement; damages, including treble damages; a judgment that this case is exceptional and that the Defendants be ordered to pay all of Texas Roadhouse’s attorney fees associated with this action pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1117 and 17 U.S.C. § 505; and a judgment that the defendants be ordered to pay all costs and expenses incurred by Texas Roadhouse in this action.

Practice Tip:

The U.S. Supreme Court has addressed the requirements for trade dress protection in a similar context.  Two Pesos, Inc. v. Taco Cabana, Inc., 505 U.S. 763 (1992).  At issue in Two Pesos was similar restaurant décor.  Taco Cabana had sued rival Two Pesos for copying the look of its restaurant, described as “a festive eating atmosphere having interior dining and patio areas decorated with artifacts, bright colors, paintings and murals.  The patio includes interior and exterior areas with the interior patio capable of being sealed off from the outside patio by overhead garage doors.  The stepped exterior of the building is a festive and vivid color scheme using top border paint and neon stripes.  Bright awnings and umbrellas continue the theme.”  The lawsuit alleged that Two Pesos had imitated this scheme and had thereby infringed on Taco Cabana’s trade dress.  Among the issues considered was whether trade dress which was inherently distinctive must also be shown to have secondary meaning to be granted protection under the Lanham Act.  The Supreme Court held that trade dress which is inherently distinctive is protectable under § 43(a) of the Lanham Act without a showing that it has acquired secondary meaning, since such trade dress itself is capable of identifying products or services as coming from a specific source.

Also at issue in this case, among other matters, will be the eligibility of the words “Texas” and “Roadhouse” for protection under federal and Indiana intellectual-property laws.  Under the Lanham Act, a federal law, the holder of a mark may ask the United States Patent and Trademark Office to register the mark on the principal register.  15 U.S.C.A. § 1051, et seq.  Marks that are “primarily descriptive” and “primarily geographically descriptive” of the goods or services with which they are associated are not eligible for registration on the principal register unless they have “become distinctive of the applicant’s goods in commerce.”  15 U.S.C.A. § 1052(e), (f).  Thus, registration of a descriptive mark on the principal register requires a showing of secondary meaning.

Although the Lanham Act protects both registered and unregistered marks, registration is desirable because it constitutes prima facie evidence of the mark’s validity.  See 15 U.S.C.A. §§ 1057(b), 1115(a).  Thus, federal registration of a mark “‘entitles the plaintiff to a presumption that its registered trademark is not merely descriptive or generic, or, if merely descriptive, is accorded secondary meaning.'”  The plaintiff bears the burden, however, of establishing that an unregistered mark is entitled to protection.

The Indiana Trademark Act is similar, and in some respects identical, to the Lanham Act. Although Indiana’s body of trademark law is relatively undeveloped, the General Assembly has specified that the Indiana Trademark Act “is intended to provide a system of state trademark registration and protection that is consistent with the federal system of trademark registration and protection under the Trademark Act of 1946.”  Ind. Code Ann. § 24-2-1-0.5. Moreover, “[a] judicial or an administrative interpretation of a provision of the federal Trademark Act may be considered as persuasive authority in construing a provision of the Indiana Trademark Act.

The Indiana Trademark Act’s definitions of “trademark” and “service mark” track the Lanham Act’s definitions of those terms nearly verbatim.  See I.C. § 24-2-1-2(8), (9). Like the Lanham Act, the Indiana Trademark Act does not adversely affect common-law trademark rights.  See I.C. § 24-2-1-15.  Registration of a trademark or service mark with the office of the Indiana Secretary of State provides a registrant with a remedy for the infringement thereof under the Indiana Trademark Act.  I.C. § 24-2-1-14(a).  Like the Lanham Act, the Indiana Trademark Act prohibits the registration of marks that are “primarily geographically descriptive or deceptively geographically misdescriptive of the goods or services[.]”  I.C. § 24-2-1-3.  This provision does not, however, prevent the registration of a mark that is used in Indiana by the applicant and has become distinctive of the applicant’s goods or services.  In other words, a geographically descriptive mark may be registered under the Indiana Trademark Act if it has acquired secondary meaning.
Continue reading

Indianapolis, Indiana — Intellectual property lawyers for Master Cutlery, Inc. of Secaucus, New Jersey sued Pacific Solution Marketing, Inc. (“Pacific”) of Ontario, California alleging copyright and trademark infringement of three-dimensional artwork applied to knives.  Master Cutlery seeks an injunction, damages, treble damages, statutory damages, profits, attorney’s fees and costs. 

Founded 30 years ago, Master Cutlery has become the largest importer of knives in the United States.  It asserts ownership of federal trademark, patent and copyright registrations for its knives, as well as common law trade dress rights (collectively, “Master Cutlery IP”).  Among the rights that Master Cutlery claims are trademarks for the word marks “Sheriff” and “EMT” registered in Class 8 with the U.S. Trademark Office for knives.

Master Cutlery asserts that, after its use and registration of its various items of intellectual property, Pacific also began using the Master Cutlery intellectual property.  It contends that Pacific has manufactured, produced, advertised and/or sold knives that infringe upon the Master Cutlery IP.  It also asserts that Pacific has distributed advertisements and packaging bearing reproductions of Master Cutlery’s trademarks, trade dress and copyrights. 

Master Cutlery sued alleging copyright infringement under the Copyright Act; federal trademark infringement, federal trademark dilution, false designation of origin and false advertising under the Lanham Act; common law trademark and copyright infringement; unfair competition; and theft and counterfeiting under Indiana state law.  It further contends that this infringement was willful, intentional and done with the intent to confuse consumers.  The complaint, originally filed in Indiana state court, was removed by a trademark attorney for Pacific on both the grounds of federal question and diversity of citizenship.

For its claims, Master Cutlery lists the following:

·         Count I: Copyright Infringement Under 17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq.

·         Count II: Federal Trademark Infringement Under U.S.C. § 1114

·         Count III: Trademark Dilution Under 15 U.S.C. § 1125(c)

·         Count IV: False Designation of Origin or Sponsorship, False Advertising and Trade Dress Infringement Under 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)

·         Count V: Common Law Trademark and Copyright Infringement

·         Count VI: Unfair Competition

·         Count VII: Theft Under Ind. Code § 35-43-4-2(a)

Master Cutlery asks for a permanent injunction enjoining infringement; that Pacific be required to deliver to Master Cutlery both unsold goods and goods already distributed or sold so that they can be destroyed; for compensatory damages; for treble damages or, alternatively, Pacific’s profits trebled; for statutory damages; and for attorneys’ fees and costs.

Practice Tip: Master Cutlery has included a count of felony theft under Indiana Code § 35-43-4-2(a) in its complaint.  The extent to which intellectual property is “property” in the usual sense has been litigated several times recently in the Indiana appellate court, which has made it clear that criminal statutes often apply differently to an unlawful taking of intellectual property.  For a discussion of two recent cases, see here and here.   

Continue reading

Indianapolis, IN – Trademark lawyers for Royal Purple, LLC of Indianapolis, Indiana sued Liqui Moly GmbH of Ulm, Germany in the Southern District of Indiana alleging trademark infringement for selling purple automotive lubricants.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Royal Purple Logo.JPGAt the center of this litigation is the right to use the color purple.  Royal Purple claims it has sold lubricants for more than 20 years and has trademarked the color purple.  It owns several federal trademark registrations for the color purple as applied to lubricating oils for automotive, industrial and household uses.  Among the trademarks are U.S. Registration Nos. 2,691,774; 2,953,996 and 3,819,988 which cover the following:

 

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Oil Bottle-2691774.JPG

PurpleCylinder3819988.JPGSquare2953996.JPG

It also owns multiple trademarks incorporating the word “purple” as applied to various goods.  These trademarks are registered with the US Trademark Office Purple was chosen for its association with royalty.  (Historically, purple dye was so expensive to produce that it was used only by royalty.)  Royal Purple’s purple-identified lubricant products are sold in over 20,000 retailers in the United States and Royal Purple claims a strong secondary meaning and substantial goodwill in its trademark as a result of this use.

Liqui Moly GmbH Logo.JPGLiqui Moly sells Liqui Moly and Lubra Moly brand motor oil, both of which have packaging that is supposedly purple prior to sale.  Royal Purple alleges that Liqui Moly’s use of the color purple in conjunction with the sale of motor oil is likely confuse consumers.   According to Liqui Moly’s website, its products are sold in a variety of different containers:

 

Moly2.JPGRoyal Purple also alleges that Liqui Moly’s use is a purposeful attempt to trade upon Royal Purple’s trademark and that Liqui Moly’s use will dilute the “distinctive quality” Royal Purple’s trademarks.  Finally, it alleges that Liqui Moly’s use removes from Royal Purple its ability to control the quality of products and services provided under Royal Purple’s trademark, by placing them partially under the control of Liqui Moly, an unrelated third party.

The federal claims include trademark infringement, unfair competition and dilution under the Lanham Act; Royal Purple has also alleged dilution, trademark infringement, unfair competition and unjust enrichment under Indiana common law.  Royal Purple seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction, the destruction of all allegedly infringing inventory, treble damages, costs and attorneys’ fees.

Practice Tip: Color can serve as a useful identifier of the source of goods to consumers.  The courts, however, have had to draw some narrow lines to balance the various interests.  On the one hand, companies often invest significant amounts of money in promoting their brands and color is frequently a component of that promotion.  On the other hand, there are a limited number of colors – and an even more limited number of colors that are pleasing and appropriate for any given type of product – and courts are wary of providing a monopoly on any given color to any one company.  After all, if such a monopoly is first provided to one company, all too soon the entire spectrum may be spoken for.
Continue reading

Indianapolis, Ind. – Klipsch Group, Inc. (“Klipsch”) and Audio Products International Corp. (“API”), both of Indianapolis, Ind., have sued Monoprice, Inc. (“Monoprice”) of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. alleging patent infringement, trade dress infringement, unfair competition and copyright infringement.KlipschGroupLogo.JPG

In an eight-count complaint, intellectual property attorneys for Klipsch and its subsidiary API allege that Monoprice has been engaged in manufacturing, importing, selling and/or offering to sell a system entitled “5.1 Hi-Fi Home Theatre Satellite MonopriceLogo.JPGSpeakers & Subwoofer” which is a less expensive “knock-off” of plaintiffs’ “ENERGY® TAKE CLASSIC™ 5.1” (“Energy Take Classic 5.1”) home theater system.

Count I of the complaint alleges the infringement of API’s Patent No. 6,725,967 (“Low distortion loudspeaker cone suspension“; also called the “‘967 Patent”) which was issued by the U.S. Patent Office in 2004.

The system has apparently been well received, garnering positive reviews and selling well.  In Count II, “Trade Dress Infringement and Unfair Competition,” it is alleged that API has continuously promoted the Energy Take Classic 5.1 system and its predecessors and that, as a result of the commercial success of the systems, the systems’ trade dress has acquired secondary meaning among relevant consumers as an identifier of the source of the Energy Take Classic 5.1 system.  The complaint further alleges that Monoprice’s conduct is causing confusion among consumers as to the affiliation of Monoprice with API and as to the origin of Monoprice’s goods.

Counts III through VII [NB: this should have been “III through VIII”; “Count III” was enumerated as a separate count twice in the complaint], all pertain to copyright infringement.  More specifically, it is alleged that Monoprice has violated the copyrights of:

·        the Energy Take Classic 5.1 Home Theatre System as a whole

·        the Energy Take Classic 5.1 Satellite Speaker

·        the Energy Take Classic 5.1 Center Channel Speaker

·        the Energy Take Classic 5.1 Subwoofer Speaker

·        the Energy Take Classic 5.1 Subwoofer Backplate

·        the Energy Take Classic 5.1 Owner’s Manual

The complaint lists 14 separate requests for relief [NB: these appear, upon first count, as 13; however “request for relief” letter “k” is listed twice].  Among these are requests for judgments against Monoprice for infringement of the ‘967 Patent, trade-dress infringement, unfair competition and copyright infringement.  API seeks compensatory damages and, for willful and deliberate wrongdoing by Monoprice, statutory damages up to treble the actual amount found or assessed by the court.  API also asks the court to enjoin infringing behavior by Monoprice.  Finally, it asks for attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses.

Practice Tip: There is certainly some overlap between design-patent infringement and copyright infringement.  However, the multiple counts of copyright infringement for speakers and similar “original work[s] of authorship” – all of the applications for which were filed on February 22, 2013 – attempt to proceed under copyright law against alleged infringements that seem more appropriately considered to be a matter of design-patent law.  Proceeding under copyright law, however, does have two significant advantages: a liberal filing period and a substantially longer period of protection.  Many products are brought to market without having filed for a design patent.  If the application for such a patent is not filed within one year of the public offering or sale of the products, the statutory bar under 35 U.S.C. § 102 will prevent the design patent from being issued.  Copyright has no such strict application deadline.  Additionally, the 14-year life of design-patent protection is in stark contrast to the protection available under copyright law to a corporation for a work-for-hire, which can extend over 100 years.

Continue reading

Contact Information