The Plaintiff in this trademark lawsuit, Vroom, is an online nationwide used car retailer based in New York, New York. own 8 U.S. trademark registrations for VROOM and the Vroom Logo, using the marks since at least 2014. The Plaintiff’s domain name is http://www.vroom.com.
The Defendants operate Vrooomsace, a used car retailer located in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Defendants’ use the domain name vrooomcars.com.
Asserting a likelihood of confusion, Plaintiff’s counsel first attempted to contact the Defendants on December 30, 2020, but apparently has received the runaround ever since, never receiving a substantive response from Defendants.
Their patience apparently has run out, resulting in this lawsuit. We’ll see whether Plaintiff finally gets a response. Unfortunately, often it takes a filed complaint for the opposing party to take a matter seriously. If not, this lawsuit could wind up with a default judgment.
Stay tuned for updates.
Vroom, Inc. v. Midwest Motors LLC et al.
Court Case Number: 1:21-cv-00715-TWP-TAB File Date: March 24, 2021 Plaintiff: Vroom, Inc. Plaintiff Counsel: David A.W. Wong, Caitlin R. Byczki, Kathleen S. Fennessy of Barnes & Thornburg LLP Defendant: Midwest Motors LLC dba Vrooomsace Car Selection, Khaled Alragwi Cause: Federal Trademark Infringement, Federal Unfair Competition, False Designation of Origin, Common Law Unfair Competition, Common Law Trademark Infringement, Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act Court: Southern District of Indiana Judge: Tanya Walton Pratt Referred To: Tim A. Baker
One company’s efforts to expand its LA MICHOACANA MEAT MARKET brand from meat markets to grocery stores has moved into Indiana.
The Plaintiff, La Michoacana Meat Market, owns several federal trademark registrations for LA MICHOACANA MEAT MARKET for “Retail meat market stores.”
Seeking to claim undeniably broader protection over “LA MICHOACANA” in connection with grocery stores, the Plaintiff has brought numerous lawsuits over the last few years against small grocers using the term “Michoacana” (or some variation) in their name. Two new Indiana lawsuits are the 6th and 7th filed by La Michoacana against small grocers just this year.
“La Michoacana,” is a common term meaning someone or something from the state of Michoacán in western Mexico. Like an Iowan is from Iowa, or a Californian is from California (but not like a Hoosier is from Indiana). It is apparently a very popular term when naming “Mexican-themed grocery stores,” as evidenced by these lawsuits.
Due to the Defendants’ respective locations, one lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of Indiana and the other in the Northern District of Indiana. It will be interesting to track the two lawsuits side-by-side to see whether they reveal any significant differences between the Northern and Southern District.
Plaintiff’s Registered Mark
LA MICHOACANA MEAT MARKET for “Retail meat market stores”
Northern District Defendant’s Mark
CARNICERIA Y FRUTERIA LA MICHOACANA for a “Mexican-themed grocery store”
Southern District Defendant’s Mark
SUPER MERCADO JIREH POLLO MICHOACANO for a “Mexican-themed grocery store”
Between the two, I predict more difficulties for the Northern District Defendant. For some reason, the Northern District Defendant includes a link to the Plaintiff’s website on its Facebook page, which could be interpreted as evidence of intent to confuse or deceive. However, it’s not apparent from the Complaint (below) who added the link on the Facebook page, as it could be an incorrect Facebook-generated link or third-party edit.
Via this Google Maps image, the Northern District Defendant uses “La Michoacana” more prominently than the other literal elements of their brand (“Carniceria Y Fruteria”) on consumer-facing signage, which strengthens the Plaintiff’s argument for likelihood of consumer confusion.
Compare that to the signage of the Southern District Defendant, which uses the allegedly infringing term less prominently, and with a different spelling:
Further, the services seem different between the Northern and Southern District defendants, whereas the Northern District’s signage specifically advertises the sale of meats. Rather, the Southern District Defendant is a “tienda,” a small neighborhood grocery shop, different than a “retail meat market store.”
Perhaps in recognition of the possible narrow application of their “Retail meat market stores” description, La Michoacana has recently filed an additional federal trademark application for LA MICHOACANA SUPERMARKET for “Retail grocery stores.” That trademark application will be published for opposition on March 30, 2021, and might face challenges from among La Michoacana’s growing list of defendants.
The reality is that a single small grocery owner won’t want to spend much money defending their store name in federal court and will likely just choose to change the name, which the Plaintiff undoubtedly has considered. Buying new signage simply costs less than defending a federal lawsuit. Depending on how long each Defendant has been using their respective name, they may have a good acquiescence or laches defense.
Stay tuned for updates.
Sidenote: The LA MICHOACANA brand has also been the subject of a separate, but equally interesting, trademark dispute in connection with fruit popsicles.
La Michoacana Meat Market TM Holdings, LLC v. Lopez et al.
Court Case Number: 1:21-cv-00563-TWP-TAB File Date: March 9, 2021 Plaintiff: La Michoacana Meat Market TM Holdings, LLC Plaintiff Counsel: Ann O’Connor McCready, Neil R. Peluchette of Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP Defendant: Josue Lopez, Supermercado Jireh LLC Cause: Federal Trademark Infringement, False Designation of Origin, Unfair Competition, Common Law Unfair Competition, Unjust Enrichment Court: Southern District of Indiana Judge: Tanya Walton Pratt Referred To: Tim A. Baker
La Michoacana Meat Market TM Holdings, LLC v. Galan et al.
Court Case Number: 2:21-cv-00087 File Date: March 9, 2021 Plaintiff: La Michoacana Meat Market TM Holdings, LLC Plaintiff Counsel: Ann O’Connor McCready of Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, Ruth M. Willars of Monty & Ramirez LLP (pro hac vice) Defendant: Cacimiro Galan, Carniceria y Fruteria La Morenita LLC Cause: Federal Trademark Infringement, False Designation of Origin, Unfair Competition, Common Law Unfair Competition, Unjust Enrichment Court: Northern District of Indiana Judge: Philip P. Simon Referred To: John E. Martin
An Indianapolis company has been accused of selling counterfeit LED lighting fixtures.
Electra Display, on Indy’s southeast side, has been sued for copyright infringement based upon the alleged copying of the plaintiff’s intellectual property, including copyrighted images from plaintiff’s sales brochures, and false advertising, based on Electra’s use of the images to deceive customers into believing that it sold plaintiff’s products, when Electra is alleged to actually sell an inferior, knock off product made by a Chinese manufacturer.
The plaintiff, Massachusetts-based JLC-Tech LLC, owns several patents for its LED lighting technology, but doesn’t assert any patent infringement claims in the Complaint (below). Rather, this lawsuit simply seeks damages and injunctive relief against the use of the sales photographs and misleading advertising.
Stay tuned for updates.
JLC-Tech LLC v. Electra Display
Court Case Number: 1:19-cv-01468-TWP-DLP File Date: Thursday, April 11, 2019 Plaintiff: JLC-Tech LLC Plaintiff Counsel: Darren A. Craig of Frost Brown Todd LLC Defendant: Edge Systems Group LLC d/b/a Electra Display
Cause: Copyright Infringement, Federal Unfair Competition, False Advertising Court: Southern District of Indiana Judge: Tanya Walton Pratt Referred To: Doris L. Pryor
The defendants in this counterfeiting lawsuit are the owners and operators of a BP gas station located in Sunman, Indiana, who are accused of selling counterfeit Oakley sunglasses. The counterfeit products were observed for sale in the store by Plaintiff’s representatives.
The plaintiff, Oakley, Inc., seeks damages and injunctive relief.
Oakley, Inc. v. Sunman BP et al.
Court Case Number: 4:18-cv-00085-TWP-DML File Date: Wednesday, May 16, 2018 Plaintiff: Oakley, Inc. Plaintiff Counsel: Jason D. Groppe, Esq., Logan S. Bednarczuk, Esq. Defendants: Swami Property Sunman Inc. dba Sunman BP, Chirag Patel, Does 1-10 Cause: Federal Trademark Infringement, False Designation of Origin, False Advertising, Federal Trademark Dilution, Common Law Trademark Infringement, Common Law Unfair Competition, Unjust Enrichment Court: Southern District of Indiana Judge: Tanya Walton Pratt Referred To: Debra McVicker Lynch
The Plaintiff in this trademark lawsuit, California-based Muscle Flex, Inc., operates a hosiery website, worldofleggings.com, which boasts “5.5 million visitors, 27 million views, and millions of dollars in sales across the United States.”
The Defendants operate several hosiery stores called “Leggings World” inside Simon Property Group (“Simon”) properties across the Midwest and Northeast. Simon is included as a defendant in the lawsuit.
When Muscle Flex complained of the infringement to Simon, Simon responded by removing instances of “Leggings World” from its website and digital directories inside its malls, and sending cease-and-desist letters to tenants operating under the “Leggings World” name in its properties.
However, this didn’t satisfy Muscle Flex, which also wants to receive some money for damages, leading to some slight lawyer shade:
Simon has seemingly thrown in the towel on Leggings World, removing it from all Simon online directories (really, go try to find a store online), but we’ll see whether Leggings World decides to challenge Muscle Flex and continue operating the physical stores. Stay tuned for updates.
Muscle Flex, Inc. v. Simon Property Group, L.P. et al.
Court Case Number: 1:18-cv-1140 File Date: Friday, April 13, 2018 Plaintiff: Muscle Flex, Inc. Plaintiff Counsel: Christopher A. Brown of Woodard, Emhardt, Moriarty, McNett & Henry LLP, Connor Lynch of Lynch LLP (pro hac vice) Defendants: Simon Property Group, L.P., Simon Property Group, Inc., Matt Murat Dagli, New Purple LLC Cause: Trademark Infringement, Unfair Competition, False Designation of Origin, Trademark Dilution, Common Law Trademark Infringement, Unjust Enrichment Court: Southern District of Indiana Judge: Tanya Walton Pratt Referred To: Tim A. Baker