Articles Posted in 17200 Unfair Competition

trademark-parody-defense-dc-shoes-dg-kush-marijuana-lawyer.jpgSanta Ana, CA – Apparel and footwear manufacturer DC Shoes, Inc. owns several USPTO registered trademarks for DC Shoes logos and DCSHOECOUSA. DC Shoes contends that through its widespread use and advertisements of its products, the marks have become famous. Owning trademarks, however, doesn’t mean you should always sue purported infringers that have a valid parody defense that can possibly invite public backlash.

DC Shoes accuses IQ 185 of operating an online store – www.notforpot.com – that sells marijuana-related apparel and accessories, including T-shirts and hats bearing allegedly infringing trademarks. The accused logos, pictured here, “include the interlocking letters ‘O’ and ‘G’ and a [marijuana] leaf, and ‘OGKUSHUSA’.” (Definition of kush, here.) Plaintiff claims that it sent a cease and desist letter to Defendant regarding the allegedly infringing products, but Defendant ignored DC Shoes’ demand. So DC thought it would be a good idea to file a lawsuit for trademark infringement, dilution, and unfair competition to attract more attention to Defendant’s sale of products that are protected by the First Amendment and the parody defense.

Two recent cases illustrate that a parody defense can be successfully used and sometimes provide the defendants with more positive publicity than the plaintiff imagined. In Louis Vuitton v. Haute Diggity Dog the appellate court sided with a parody pet product maker that used clever names such as Chewy Vuiton, Bark Jacobs, Sniffany & Co., and Dog Perignon. In another David v. Goliath battle, The North Face unwisely sued a high school kid for selling garments under the witty South Butt trademark. Not content with harassing a kid with a trademark lawsuit, The North Face wanted further bad publicity by overzealously attacking him and his father during depositions. In the end, however, the South Butt case settled and the kid was allowed to continue selling his T-shirts, butt but not without providing an amusing response to the complaint.

idea-submission-attorney-implied-in-fact-contract-copyright-ea-sports-gillette-voss-knotts.jpgSan Diego, CA – Ron Voss is suing Gillette and EA Sports for copyright infringement and unfair competition, but judging from the facts of the case, he should have asserted an idea submission or an implied in fact contract claim. People mistakenly believe that a copyright registration protects the “idea” contained therein, instead of the particular expression. In fact, §102 of the Copyright Act specifically states that copyright protection does not extend to any “idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.”

Voss alleges that he wrote and copyrighted a treatment entitled “Cyber Sports Championship Challenge,” which concept involves televising video game tournaments that pit gamers against celebrities and famous sports stars as contestants. Voss contends that co-defendant Jerry Knotts “misappropriated [the copyrighted work] and delivered it to EA. Afterward, EA and other defendants infringed Mr. Voss’ copyright by creating and distributing on commercial television (via the Spike Channel) and the World Wide Web “Gillette®-EA Sports™ Present Champions of Gaming powered by Xbox 360 LIVE” (the “program”).” The complaint, however, fails to specify how the expression of the copyrighted work was copied, separate and apart from the alleged “misappropriation” of the general idea. Plaintiff’s §17200 unfair competition claim is based on the copyright infringement facts and is preempted. Fractional Villas, Inc. v. Tahoe Clubhouse, 2009 U.S. Dist. Lexis 39522 (S.D. Cal. 2009)(dismissing § 17200 claim because it was preempted by the Copyright Act).

The 9th Circuit has yet to rule after the en banc rehearing of the “Ghost Hunters” case, Montz v. Pilgrim Films & Television, Inc. The three-judge panel affirmed the district court’s order that Montz’s implied in fact contract claim was preempted by the Copyright Act. Montz v. Pilgrim Films & Television, Inc., 606 F.3d 1153 (9th Cir. 2010) (non-citable). The Court sua sponte ordered an en banc rehearing of the case and withdrew the three-judge panel’s published opinion. Based on the en banc panel’s questioning, I – as a non-clairvoyant – predict a reversal of the district court’s ruling and a finding that Montz’s idea submission claim is not preempted by the Copyright Act, in line with Grosso v. Miramax Film Corp., 383 F.3d 965 (9th Cir.2004) and Desny v. Wilder, 46 Cal.2d 715, 299 P.2d 257 (1956). Watch the video of the Ninth Circuit’s en banc rehearing:

trademark-sue-ebay-sellers-candyshell-speck-speculative-design-cases.pngLos Angeles, CA – Speck Products manufactures carrying cases for electronic devices, including the iPad, iPhone, iPod, and Blackberry. The products are sold bearing the Speck® or Candyshell® trademarks. Last week, Speck filed numerous trademark infringement and unfair competition lawsuits against numerous eBay sellers alleging sales of counterfeit electronic device cases. Plaintiff alleges that “Defendants use images and names confusingly similar or identical to Plaintiff’s Marks to confuse consumer and aid in the promotion and sales of its unauthorized and counterfeit product.”

One of the numerous cases is Speculative Product Design, Inc. v. PPG Enterprize, CV1100160 VBF (C.D. Cal. 2011).

watch-trademark-jewelry-lawsuit-infringement-red-gold-rolex.jpgLos Angeles, CA – Rolex must be seeing red after being sued by Solid 21 for trademark infringement for using “red gold” on, you’ll never guess, red gold jewelry. But Rolex isn’t alone and can commiserate with the other 13 or so other defendants that Solid 21 is simultaneously suing for using what appears to be a generic term. Red gold, also known as rose gold, is made by alloying gold with copper. Although Solid 21’s trademark registration (see here) discloses that “red gold” is used on “fine jewelry made of a special alloying of gold with a distinct color made into fine jewelry”, it does not disclose that red gold is used on red gold jewelry. I don’t think Solid 21 can beat the Egyptian mummies’ first use date for “red gold” jewelry. See here.

The case is Solid 21, Inc. v. Rolex Watch USA, Inc., CV11-0449 GAF (C.D. Cal. 2011).

monster-cable-trademark-infringement-lawsuit-los-angeles-california-court.jpgLos Angeles, CA – Trademark bully Monster Cable, as it has been anointed by others here and here, seems to be on a trademark infringement lawsuit rampage against eBay sellers of monster products. Maybe the slew of trademark lawsuits is in response to the court’s denial of the temporary restraining order in its and Beats Electronics’ design patent lawsuit against Fanny Wang Headphone company.

Whatever the reason, it’s interesting that among the six causes of action for trademark infringement, dilution, etc., there is no cause of action for trademark counterfeiting. Even more so when the complaint alleges that Monster Cable’s private investigator purchased the items on eBay, they were tested, and deemed to be counterfeit: “Defendant has, without the consent of Plaintiff, offered to sell and sold within the United States (including within this judicial district) goods that were neither made by Plaintiff nor by a manufacturer authorized by Plaintiff (such goods are hereafter referred to as “Counterfeit Goods”).” Maybe Monster Cable’s perplexing strategy will crystallize as the cases proceed to trial, assuming the eBay sellers can afford to mount a defense against this alleged trademark bully.

The case is Monster Cable Products, Inc. v. Wireovia, LLC et al., CV10-10010 DSF (C.D. Cal. 2010).

copyright-infringement-sons-of-anarchy-tv-show.jpgLos Angeles, CA – Fox is the owner of all copyrights in its “Sons of Anarchy” television show airing on FX. The dramatic television series follows a notorious outlaw motorcycle club battling outside threats to protect its livelihood “while ensuring that their simple, sheltered town of Charming, California remains exactly that – charming.” The complaint asserts that “Sons of Anarchy” is the most-watched scripted original series on cable television, surpassing the Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning series “Nip/Tuck” and “The Shield” with an average of 3.1 million weekly viewers. Not surprisingly, Fox sells show related merchandise and has a registered USPTO trademark for “Sons of Anarchy” and several pending applications.

Fox claims that in August of 2009 it discovered Defendants were selling clothing incorporating the Sons of Anarchy trademark and Grim Reaper design at the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. In response to Fox’s cease and desist letter, Defendants claimed that the “shirts did not sell and it was a complete waste of my time.” In the spring of 2010 Fox discovered the same defendants allegedly selling infringing items through the www.supportsoa.com website. In response to another C & D letter, Defendants claimed that they had simply forgotten to take the site down and they had not sold any merchandise. Fox then asserts that a few months later it discovered that Defendants were attempting to sell infringing products to Fox’s potential distributors, including Harley-Davidson stores. Fox further alleges that Defendants have recently sold infringing products at their own physical stores. Fox was forced to sue for copyright and trademark infringement and unfair competition. The case is Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation v. Renegade Classics, et al. CV10-8565 SVW (C.D. Cal. 2010).

 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWuygn0ibYU
 

Los Angeles, CA – Givenchy, the luxury merchandise manufacturer, seems to be jumping on the trade dress bandwagon (see here and here) to prevent copying of its purse design. Instead of protecting its purse design with a design patent, Givenchy claims that its Nightingale Trade Dress “includes without limitation a removable strap, two double seemed handles, a flat bottom and decorative double stitched horizontal and vertical stripes on the exterior that visually separate the bag into four distinct quadrants.” Givenchy is going to have to show that the consuming public recognizes the trade dress as identifying the source of the purse. Givenchy claims that it has earned in excess of fifty (50) million dollars in revenue from the sale of the Nightingale handbags and that the public recognizes the trade dress.

givenchy-bcbg-max-azria-handbags-trade-dress-copying-infringement.jpg

BCBG is accused of trying to profit from Givenchy’s goodwill by selling “its knock-off ‘Rembrandt’ and other handbags that deliberately copy, line-by-line and stitch-by-stitch distinctive, non-functional elements of Givenchy’s Nightingale Trade Dress.” In addition to monetary damages, Givenchy seeks an injunction prohibiting further sales of BCBG’s handbags. The case is Givenchy S.A. v. BCBG Max Azria Group, Inc. CV10-8394 (C.D. Cal. 2010).

trademark-attorney-tacos-chronic-infringement-lawsuit.jpgSanta Ana, CA – Chronic Tacos Enterprises (“CTE”) is a franchisor of Mexican food restaurants under its Chronic® and Chronic Tacos® trademarks. Defendants are alleged to be former temporary licensees at the Huntington Beach location, which license was terminated when CTE’s founders ceased being shareholders in the Huntington Beach location. CTE alleges that Defendants have failed to execute a franchise agreement to operate the location, thus necessitating the lawsuit. The case is Chronic Tacos Enterprises, Inc. v. Chronic Tacos Huntington Beach, Inc. et al., SACV10-01414 DOC (C.D. Cal. 2010).

US-trademark-attorney-gray-market-manzanita-sol-pepsi-USA-mexico.jpgLos Angeles, CA – Pepsi’s subsidiary owns the Manzanita Sol® trademark that is used on apple flavored soft drinks. Manzanita Sol® is Pepsi’s second most popular brand in Mexico. Pepsi has sold in the U.S. millions of dollars worth of Manzanita Sol® sodas through its authorized bottlers.

Pepsi accuses SPE Trading of importing soft drinks manufactured in Mexico bearing the Pepsi® and Manzanita Sol® trademarks that Pepsi does not authorize for sale in the U.S. Pepsi alleges that the Mexican product sold by SPE is materially different in many respect from authorized products sold in the U.S., e.g. the Mexican product does not comply with the labeling regulations of the Food and Drug Administration. Pepsi alleges that in response to a cease and desist letter, SPE had previously agreed to stop importing and selling the gray market product. But based upon alleged recent purchases of the gray market Manzanita Sol® product, Pepsi filed the instant trademark infringement and dilution action. The case is Pepsico, Inc. et al. v. SPE Trading, Inc., CV10-6833 DDP (C.D. Cal. 2010).

PRACTICE NOTE: U.S. trademark owners can prevent the importation and/or sale of gray goods that are “materially different” from those sold in the U.S. In determining what is considered “materially different,” 19 C.F.R. § 133.2(e) provides the following non-exclusive considerations: “(1) The specific composition of both the authorized and gray market product(s) (including chemical composition); (2) Formulation, product construction, structure, or composite product components, of both the authorized and gray market product; (3) Performance and/or operational characteristics of both the authorized and gray market product; (4) Differences resulting from legal or regulatory requirements, certification, etc.; [and] (5) Other distinguishing and explicitly defined factors that would likely result in consumer deception or confusion as proscribed under applicable law.” Also, PepsiCo, Inc. v. Pacific Produce, Ltd., 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12085 (D. Nev. 2000) cites cases where failure to comply with FDA labeling regulations constituted a material difference.

idea-submission-attorney-private-chefs-trademark-infringement.jpgLos Angeles, CA – Private Chefs, Inc. is suing Food Network for stealing the recipe for the successful show “Private Chefs of Beverly Hills” in an idea submission, trademark infringement, and unfair competition case. Plaintiff is the owner of a USPTO registration for its design mark “PCI Private Chefs, Inc.”, which registered in 2006. Plaintiff alleges that in April of 2002 its president pitched a show idea to Food Network titled “Celebrity Dish”, which premise involved private chefs that worked for celebrities and wealthy individuals explaining recipes on air along with the celebrities and individuals.

Although Food Network declined Plaintiff’s concept, it’s alleged that in April 2010 Defendants began broadcasting “Private Chefs of Beverly Hills.” Plaintiff alleges that the “concept of the Show is close to if not exactly the same as ‘Celebrity Dish.'” The complaint continues, “[t]he Show also blatantly infringes on Plaintiff’s federally registered trademark ‘Private Chefs’ and this infringement has caused substantial consumer confusion, particularly in light of the fact that Plaintiff’s principal office is in Beverly Hills.” The case is Private Chefs, Inc. v. Food Network, Inc. et al., CV10-6159 CBM (C.D. Cal. 2010).