The Plaintiff in this lawsuit, Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), operates one of the world’s largest energy markets with more than $29 billion in annual gross market energy transactions. MISO provides power to 15 U.S. states and Manitoba.
The Defendant, an individual, is alleged to have created a mobile application called “Midcontinent ISO with Realtime Dashboard” that infringes MISO’s trademarks and misleads the consuming public that MISO produced or approves of the application. The Complaint also raises a concern that users are being tricked into entering legitimate MISO credentials into the non-endorsed application.
The purpose of the mobile application is unclear from the Complaint, but it seems to provide information about Plaintiff’s services, tracking energy rates and the status of the power grid. As such, perhaps the Defendant can articulate a “nominative fair use” defense, if use of the Plaintiff’s trademark was necessary to identify the Plaintiff’s products or services, and the Plaintiff’s trademarks weren’t used to suggest endorsement. However, the Defendant’s app also prominently featured Plaintiff’s design mark, which could undermine any fair use defense.
A review of Defendant’s Google Play store shows that they offer similar apps for other energy providers, including NYISO:
The Google Play listing and the app photos don’t contain the usual disclaimers that you’d want to see to best support a “nominative fair use” defense. The Midcontinent ISO application was removed from the Google Play store on January 11, 2021 and remains down today. The Complaint requests injunctive relief to prevent a future relaunch of the application.
Stay tuned for updates.
Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. v. Sullivan
Court Case Number: 1:21-cv-00143-JRS-DML
File Date: January 18, 2021
Plaintiff: Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc.
Plaintiff Counsel: Kevin W. Kirsch, David A. Mancino, Kevin P. Flynn of Baker & Hostetler LLP
Defendant: James F. Sullivan a.k.a. Jim Cassidy
Cause: Trademark Infringement, Counterfeiting
Court: Southern District of Indiana
Judge: James R. Sweeney II
Referred To: Debra McVicker Lynch