Jayco sues unauthorized dealer of ENTEGRA COACH motorhomes

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Plaintiff is an RV manufacturer based in Middlebury, Indiana. Defendants are accused of “flagrantly” using Plaintiff’s ENTEGRA COACH registered trademark in Texas. The Complaint (below) details a scheme by which an unauthorized dealer was surreptitiously arranging for sales of Plaintiff’s motorhomes. Plaintiff brought this lawsuit seeking an injunction against further sales to protect the contracted rights of its authorized dealers.

Jayco, Inc.v. National Indoor RV Centers, LLC

Court Case Number: 3:17-cv-00458-RLM-MGG
File Date: Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Plaintiff: Jayco, Inc.
Plaintiff Counsel: Louis S. Chronowski of Seyfarth Shaw LLP
Defendant: National Indoor RV Centers, LLC
Cause: Federal Unfair Competition, False Designation of Origin, Federal Trademark Infringement, Common Law Trademark Infringement, Texas Unfair Competition, Breach of Contract
Court: Northern District of Indiana
Judge: Robert L. Miller, Jr.
Referred To: Michael G. Gotsch, Sr.

Complaint:

Two Indiana firework companies in dispute over BLACK WIDOW trademark

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This lawsuit involves a dispute over the use of the BLACK WIDOW trademark in connection with fireworks. The Plaintiff, based in Evansville, Indiana, owns a federal registration and has used their BLACK WIDOW trademark since as early as March 12, 2013.

The Defendants, from Washburn, Indiana, have allegedly begun selling similar products also under a BLACK WIDOW trademark.

Cease-and-desist communications from Plaintiff to Defendant were not successful, hence this lawsuit. Stay tuned for updates.

The Really Good Stuff, Inc. v. Sky Thunder, LLC et al.

Court Case Number: 3:2017-cv-00096-RLY-MPB
File Date: Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Plaintiff: The Really Good Stuff, Inc.
Plaintiff Counsel: Rowdy G. Williams of Rowdy G. Williams Law Firm, PC
Defendant: Sky Thunder, LLC, Michael A. Kimberling
Cause: Counterfeiting, Federal Trademark Infringement, Federal Unfair Competition
Court: Southern District of Indiana
Judge: Richard L. Young
Referred To: Matthew P. Brookman

Complaint:

“Franchise Conversion Scheme” alleged against Community Newsletter publisher

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This lengthy complaint, with 17 (!) causes of action, details an alleged “Franchise Conversion Scheme” by the Defendants. The case was initially filed in Johnson County Superior Court but has been removed to the Southern District of Indiana.

Chilly Panda, LLC v. Britt Interactive LLC et al.

Court Case Number: 1:17-cv-01544-LJM-DKL
File Date: Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Plaintiff: Chilly Panda Media, LLC
Plaintiff Counsel: Matthew M. Cree of Law Office of Matthew M. Cree, LLC, P. Adam Davis of Davis and Sarbinoff, LLC
Defendant: Britt Interactive, LLC, Townepost Network, Inc., Tom Britt, Jeanne Britt, Josh F. Brown
Cause: Federal Trademark Infringement, Indiana Trademark Infringement, Common Law Trademark Infringement, Copyright Infringement, Unfair Competition, Indiana Crime Victims Act, Breach of Contract, Tortious Interference, Breach of Fiduciary Duties, Defamation, Franchise Fraud, Actual or Constructive Fraud, Stored Communications Act, Accounting, Individual Liability, Declaratory Judgment, Preliminary Injunction, Permanent Injunction
Court: Southern District of Indiana
Judge: Larry J. McKinney
Referred To: Denise K. LaRue

Complaint:

USA Football asserts ownership of “U.S. National Team” trademark, loses governing authority

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This lawsuit involves ownership of the “U.S. National Team” trademark. Plaintiff USA Football, Inc., the official youth football development partner of the NFL, claims exclusive use of the “U.S. National Team” mark since 2011.

Defendant, the U.S. Federation of American Football, is working to organize its own football team to participate in The World Games 2017 (held in Wrocław, Poland from July 20 – July 30, 2017) as the “U.S. National Team.”

Complicating matters is the fact that Plaintiff has recently lost its standing as the national governing body of American football. The International Federation of American Football (IFAF) withdrew recognition of Plaintiff’s authority in the USA due to “multiple, continuous and ongoing violations of the IFAF Anti-Doping Code.” With the expulsion of Plaintiff from IFAF, it’s not completely clear which, if any, organization is authorized to assemble a U.S. team for international competitions.

This case should get interesting so stay tuned for updates.

USA Football, Inc. v. U.S. Federation of American Football

Court Case Number: 1:17-cv-01395-LJM-DKL
File Date: Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Plaintiff: USA Football, Inc.
Plaintiff Counsel: Louis T. Perry, Amie Peele Carter of Faegre Baker Daniels LLP
Defendant: U.S. Federation of American Football
Cause: Unfair Competition, False Designation of Origin, Common Law Unfair Competition, Common Law Trademark Infringement, Unjust Enrichment, Conversion, Deception, Indiana Crime Victim’s Relief Act
Court: Southern District of Indiana
Judge: Larry J. McKinney
Referred To: Denise K. LaRue

Complaint:

Garden Flag Manufacturer sues Former Reseller for Trademark Infringement, Cybersquatting

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This lawsuit involves a garden flag manufacturer and a former reseller that continued selling product without authorization, as well as registering various infringing domain names. The Defendants’ bad faith use of the domain names has already been deterring by a WIPO proceeding.

Toland Home Garden v. PH Technologies et al.

Court Case Number: 3:17-cv-00336-PPS-MGG
File Date: Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Plaintiff: Toland International Ltd. and Marketing Resource Group, Inc. d/b/a Toland Home Garden
Plaintiff Counsel: Todd Gale, Jennifer Fraser of Dykema Gossett PLLC
Defendant: PH Technologies, LLC, Philip S. Horvath
Cause: Federal Trademark Infringement, False Designation of Origin, False Advertising, Unfair Competition, Federal Cybersquatting, Trademark Dilution, Injury to Business Reputation, Common Law Unfair Competition, Common Law Unjust Enrichment
Court: Northern District of Indiana
Judge: Philip P. Simon
Referred To: Michael G. Gotsch, Sr.

Complaint: 

 

National Veterans Memorial sues to prevent use of National Veterans Memorial & Museum trademark

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The Plaintiff in this trademark lawsuit operates a small museum called the National Veterans Memorial in Elberfeld, Indiana. Since 2008, Plaintiff has owned a federal registration for the NATIONAL VETERANS MEMORIAL mark in connection with “Promoting public awareness of the need for reconciliation and recognition of all veterans.”

Plaintiff is seeking to prevent the use of the name National Veterans Memorial & Museum by a new museum opening in Columbus, Ohio. The Ohio museum began construction in 2015 and is set to open in 2018. The Defendant filed a federal “intent to use” application in October 2016, which has received an initial refusal by the Examining Attorney based on Plaintiff’s registration.

Stay tuned for updates.

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Henager Family Museum, Inc v. Columbus Downtown Development Corp.

Court Case Number: 3:17-cv-00028-RLY-MPB
File Date: Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Plaintiff: Henager Family Museum, Inc d/b/a National Veterans Museum
Plaintiff Counsel: Keith E. Rounder, Gary K. Price of Terrell, Baugh, Salmon & Born, LLP
Defendant: Columbus Downtown Development Corp.
Cause: Federal Trademark Infringement, Unfair Competition, False Designation
Court: Southern District of Indiana
Judge: Richard L. Young
Referred To: Matthew P. Brookman

Complaint:

Klipsch sues Online Store for Unauthorized Sale of Speakers, Fake Serial Numbers

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Klipsch, an Indiana-based manufacturer of high-end audio speakers, is suing Concealedaudio.com, an online speaker store, for unauthorized sales of Klipsch speakers.

In addition to selling “new” Klipsch speakers at discounted prices, the Defendant is also accused of removing and replacing serial numbers, thus voiding any Klipsch warranty for the unwary end customer. Allowing an unauthorized distributor to continue with discounted sales undermines authorized distributors who must contractually maintain higher prices. Pressure from both authorized distributors and customers left without a warranty essentially forces legal action from Klipsch in this situation.

The Defendant’s Klipsch speaker sales appear to continue unabated. Stay tuned for updates.

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Klipsch Group, Inc. v. Concealedaudio.com

Court Case Number: 1:17-cv-00034-TWP-MPB
File Date: Thursday, January 5, 2017
Plaintiff: Klipsch Group, Inc.
Plaintiff Counsel: Dean E. McConnell of Indiano & McConnell LLC
Defendant: Concealedaudio.com
Cause: Federal Trademark Infringement, Federal Unfair Competition
Court: Southern District of Indiana
Judge: Tanya Walton Pratt
Referred To: Matthew P. Brookman

Complaint: 

Indiana Trademark Registration

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Clients often inquire whether they should register their trademarks at the State or Federal level.  Starting with the assumption that even small local businesses may encounter a challenge to their trademark in the future, I generally try to impress upon them the advantages of federal registration.  After all, many of my clients end up being very successful and seek to expand outside of Indiana’s borders. With the exponential growth of “e-commerce,” the Internet is providing opportunities for national and global expansion, even for the smallest Indiana businesses.  It is therefore important for businesses of all types and sizes to choose and protect their trademarks with care…often this can mean protection at BOTH the State and Federal level.

Here’s a quick primer on registration of a trademark in Indiana:

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Trademarks are registered with the Indiana Secretary of State.

Registration of a trademark with the Indiana Secretary of State creates a legal presumption of the registrant’s ownership of the mark and the registrant’s exclusive right to use the mark in Indiana commerce in connection with the goods or services described in the application.  (A federal registration would protect your trademark in all 50 states.)

The Indiana Trademark Act (IC 24-2) protects words, phrases, symbols or designs, or any combinations thereof when they are used to distinguish the source of the goods or services rendered by one party from the goods or services of another party. Marks are checked against other marks registered in Indiana, but not against corporate, fictitious, or assumed names.

Indiana trademark rights arise from actual use of the mark in commerce, i.e. no “intent-to-use” applications.

A mark cannot be registered until it has been used in Indiana. Indiana defines a mark being “used” when it is placed in any manner on the goods or their containers or on the tags or labels affixed thereto, or when it is used to identify the services of one person and distinguish them from the services of others, and such goods or services are sold, otherwise distributed, or rendered in this state.

So what are some of the main benefits of state registration over federal registration?  It’s cheaper (State: $10/class vs. Federal $325/class) and quicker.  I’ve seen turnaround of weeks, not years as with the USPTO.  It can be a good remedy for a purely local entity.  State registration provides an increased level of trademark protection…at least you can claim protection on your “home turf.”  However, in the long run, I’d recommend that any entity which anticipates expanding outside of Indiana, particularly via Internet “e-commerce,” should seek federal trademark registration to best protect their valuable trademark rights.

I look forward to hearing from proponents of State registration…how has an Indiana State registration uniquely benefitted either you or your clients?

Avoiding Loss of Trademark Rights

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You’ve spent time, energy and money developing and protecting your trademark …possibly even obtaining a federal trademark registration. Now what? Going forward, you need to be careful to avoid several pitfalls that can result in the loss of your valuable trademark rights. Set forth below are several important considerations you should think about to avoid losing your rights as you continue to use your trademark and enforce your trademark rights against third parties:

1. Failure to use the trademark. Since trademark rights are based on use, a trademark owner must continue to use the trademark properly in order to avoid forfeiture of rights by abandonment. Non-use occurs when a trademark owner stops using the mark and does not intend to resume use. Further, intention not to resume use may be inferred from a trademark owner’s failure to use the mark for three consecutive years. Once a mark is deemed abandoned, all rights to the trademark are lost.

2. Authorizing uncontrolled use of the trademark. Trademark rights can be lost if you license the trademark to others but don’t take adequate steps to monitor the style and quality of products or services associated with the trademark. After all, trademark law grants you exclusive use of the trademark in exchange for giving the consuming public a reliable indication of quality. If the level of quality falls below a certain level, you may be setting yourself up for cancellation of your trademark right.

3. Failure to enforce your rights against infringers. If you continually allow known infringers to violate your trademark rights, you effectively give up the right to challenge their use. While this might not result in cancellation of your registration, you are undermining your trademark by wilfully adopting a very narrow scope of protection.

4. Generic use. Generic use refers to the situation in which a trademark becomes so familiar that the distinction of the mark diminishes.  We’re all familiar with the following trademarks which were allowed to become generic over time: aspirin, escalator, linoleum. Rights to those trademarks were lost because appropriate steps were not taken to prevent the public from coming to regard the marks as generic products or services, rather than particular brand names.

If you have concerns about whether you are adequately protecting your trademarks, consider consulting a trademark professional who can help you implement procedures for maintaining and enforcing your rights.

Should You Register Your Trademark?

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Clients often inquire whether it’s in their best interest to register their trademarks with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”).

The traditional short answer is: ”Yes, if at all possible, you should register your trademarks!” This advice has been widely echoed by qualified intellectual property attorneys.

However, the reality of this economy is that small businesses, non-profits and individuals aren’t able to do everything a lawyer says they SHOULD do. In this economy, the bottom line counts now more than ever. Money spent on obtaining a trademark registration is money not spent on other aspects of your business, like R&D, Marketing or Payroll. As such, I often find it helpful to discuss with clients not only what they SHOULD do, but what they CAN do and what they MUST do.

The purpose of this post is to give you additional financial information with which you can decide whether to register your trademarks. Some lawyers will tell you it’s “expensive.” The same lawyers might tell other clients that it’s “not expensive.” I’ll provide some real numbers that you can actually put into your budget.

First, keep in mind that registration of  trademarks is not required. Common law rights arise naturally from actual use of a trademark. Generally, the first entity to either use a trademark in commerce or file an intent to use application with the USPTO has the ultimate right to use and registration. However, filing for and receiving a federal trademark registration on the Principal Register provides several advantages:

  • constructive notice to the public of the registrant’s claim of ownership of the mark;
  • a legal presumption of the registrant’s ownership of the mark and the registrant’s exclusive right to use the mark nationwide on or in connection with the goods and/or services listed in the registration;
  • the ability to bring an action concerning the mark in federal court;
  • the use of the U.S registration as a basis to obtain registration in foreign countries; and
  • the ability to file the U.S. registration with the U.S. Customs Service to prevent importation of infringing foreign goods.

Optimally, all trademark owners who consider their trademark a valuable business asset (…and, if not, why continue using the mark?) would like to obtain these advantages.  But registration is not free.  Here are some of the likely fees (based on the USPTO’s current Fee Schedule, last revised January 1, 2017) that you will face before and during the registration procedure:

Clearance Search – Before adopting and using a trademark, it’s advised that a trademark clearance search be performed to determine the availability of the trademark.  This will help determine whether there is another user already using the trademark, i.e. having superior rights in the trademark.  By performing an initial trademark clearance search, a business can avoid incurring liability for trademark infringement and avoid investing resources in a trademark which could be unusable because it infringes another’s trademark rights. Most attorneys will conduct a clearance search at their standard hourly rate. Expect the clearance search to cost $200-400.

A commercial research service like Thomson CompuMark, which conducts a search across numerous databases (federal, state, common law, business databases) will cost around $700.  Add attorney time to review and report on the results.

Application Filing Fee – The official filing fee ranges between $225-$400 (based on the goods/services selected, paper submissions cost more than applications filed online). Your attorney will charge a fee for the application preparation and filing, likely ranging between $400-$1000.

Response to Office Action – Office actions are letters from the USPTO that set forth the legal status of a trademark application. Typically, the examining attorney will set forth various requirements that the applicant must meet before an application can be approved for publication.  A majority of your attorney’s time in the application process will be spent reviewing and responding to the office action.

Looking into the future, you’ll want to keep in mind the renewal costs which will be paid after five (5) years. Expect to pay $300 for each class of goods and services that your trademark protects. (For example, if a band has registered its band name for both “musical services” and “t-shirts,”  it will be paying filing fees for two separate classes of protection. This applies to filing fees also.)

Notwithstanding the renewal costs, and assuming that no extensions, etc. are required, you’re looking at approximately $800-$1000 to file a federal application for one trademark protecting one class of goods/services. On top of the USPTO fees, you’ll be paying your trademark attorney for time spent preparing documents and communicating with the USPTO.  Therefore, choosing a trademark attorney who provides excellent service at a lower cost can greatly enhance your bottom line. Also, these are just some of the more common fees you will face in registering your trademark…there may be additional filings/costs associated with your trademark registration, depending on the specifics of your trademark and the strategy of your attorney.

So, should you register your trademark??? The traditional answer still rings true…if fiscally possible, do it. Trademarks are valuable business assets that are typically far greater in value than any costs associated with registration. Always bear in mind that economies rise and fall, but trademark rights can continue indefinitely. Unfortunately, that means that spending less today to protect your trademark rights may allow another party to intervene and lock up important trademark rights for the future.  Also, be sure to consider how licensing opportunities might be affected should you not register your trademarks.

Final practical note:  Any time you claim rights in a mark, you may use the “TM” (trademark) or “SM” (service mark) designation to alert the public to your claim, regardless of whether you have filed an application with the USPTO.  It’s free and reinforces good habits among those wearing the “marketing” hat.