Indiana Trademark Litigation: F.F.T., LLC Seeks Damages for Alleged Infringement Involving “Functional Family Therapy℠”

Indianapolis, Indiana – Attorneys for Plaintiff, F.F.T., LLC (“F.F.T.”) having a principal place of business inFFT-BlogPhoto-300x65 Seattle, Washington, filed suit in the Southern District of Indiana alleging that Defendants, Thomas Sexton, Ph.D. (“Sexton”), Functional Family Therapy Associates, Inc. (“Functional Family Therapy”), Astrid Van Dam (“Van Dam”), and FFT Partners, LLC (“FFT Partners” and collectively “Defendants”), infringed its rights in United States Trademark Registration Nos. 4,389,569 for the mark FFT-CW®, 4,435,321 for the mark FFP®, and 5,267,897 for the mark FUNCTIONAL FAMILY THERAPY CHILD WELFARE®. F.F.T. is seeking injunctive relief, judgment including statutory damages, and attorneys’ fees.

F.F.T. claims it “is an organization dedicated to training psychotherapists in the ‘Functional Family Therapy’ protocol that its founder, Dr. James F. Alexander (“Dr. Alexander”), developed through decades of research and practical application.” According to the complaint, F.F.T. conducts business in thirty-three states and ten foreign countries. Sexton and Van Dam are individuals, alleged to be residing in Bloomington, Indiana. Functional Family and FFT Partners are a corporation and limited liability company, respectively, each alleged to have a principal place of business in Bloomington, Indiana.

According to the Amended Complaint, Dr. Alexander began studying and developing his family based method of therapy for delinquent adolescents in the 1960s and began referring to his therapy model as “Functional Family Therapy” in 1982 with the publication of his first book. F.F.T. claims this protocol has become very successful and is now referred to simply as “FFT.” Dr. Alexander along with non-party, Richard Harrison (“Harrison”), and Sexton allegedly formed FFT, Inc. in 1998 to train therapists in the Functional Family Therapy protocol. Per the complaint, Harrison left the company four years later and Douglass Kopp (“Kopp”) entered the company as CEO and Managing Member. F.F.T. claims it was formed to pursue the same efforts as FFT, Inc., which was subsequently administratively dissolved.

F.F.T. alleges it has two service marks, “FFT℠” and “FUNCTIONAL FAMILY THERAPY℠” that are well known and have been used in conjunction with its Functional Family Therapy protocol since at least 1998. It further claims to own federal registrations for “FFT-CW®,” “FFP®,” and “FUNCTIONAL FAMILY THERAPY CHILD WELFARE®,” and a pending trademark application for “FFT-G℠” (collectively the “F.F.T. Marks”). F.F.T. also claims to own three Copyright Registrations, TX 8-663-011 titled “FFT CW,” TX 8-664-527 titled “FFT CIA,” and TX 8-696-584 titled “Coming Into Adulthood: A Relationship- and Strength-Based Model” (collectively the “F.F.T. Copyrighted Works”).

In April 2007, while still a member of F.F.T., it is alleged that Sexton and Van Dam formed Functional Family Therapy. Six months later in October 2007, it is alleged “Sexton surrendered his membership interest in F.F.T. pursuant to the terms of a confidential written Settlement Agreement between, inter alia, F.F.T. and Sexton.” As a part of the Settlement Agreement, Sexton was granted a license to utilize F.F.T.’s training materials so long as he did not reference F.F.T., Kopp, or Dr. Alexander in connection with his use. According to F.F.T., Sexton misrepresented that he is the “developer of the Functional Family Therapy” on the Australian Association of Family Therapy’s website among others. Van Dam was allegedly designated as “an accredited FFT trainer” in a co-authored publication with Sexton, which F.F.T. interprets as suggesting that Van Dam was using the FFT℠ training materials that were only licensed for Sexton’s use. F.F.T. further claims Sexton permitted Functional Family Therapy and FFT Partners to use F.F.T.’s materials including the F.F.T. Copyrighted Works.

F.F.T. claims that Sexton has developed and advocates for a form of counseling (the “Sexton Derivative”) that he says is an alternative method to the FFT℠ protocol. However, F.F.T. also claims the “Sexton Derivative deviates materially from the FUNCTIONAL FAMILY THERAPY℠ protocol used by F.F.T.” Per the complaint, F.F.T. believes the Defendants have used the following marks without authorization: “FUNCTIONAL FAMILY THERAPY, FFT, FFT-Foster Care, FFT-Therapeutic Case Management (“FFT-TCM”), and FFT-Behavioral Health (“FFT-BH”) (collectively the “Infringing FFT Marks”). Finally, F.F.T. claims the Defendants have and/or are currently doing business with multiple former F.F.T. customers including New York Foundling, VisionQuest National Ltd., and Cayuga Centers.

F.F.T. is seeking damages for breach of contract, wrongful interference with business relationships and prospective business advantages, and wrongful interference with contractual relationships. Pursuant to the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1114 and 1125(a), F.F.T. is further seeking damages for service mark infringement, unfair competition, and false advertising. Finally, F.F.T. is claiming common law unfair competition, service mark infringement, and unjust enrichment.

The case was assigned to District Judge Richard L. Young and Magistrate Judge Mark J. Dinsmore in the Southern District and assigned Case 1:19-cv-03027-RLY-MJD.

FFT LLC Complaint

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