The parties in this lawsuit entered into an Asset Purchase Agreement in 2012, by which the Plaintiff purchased all assets and intellectual property of the truck repair company Triple LLL Truck Repair. The Plaintiff has continued to operate the business since the purchase, now located in Andrews, Indiana, and recently registered the “TRIPLE LLL” trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
The Defendant in the lawsuit is the original seller, who has now allegedly begun operating a new truck repair business under the same name, Triple LLL, out of a location that Plaintiff had previously used.
The Complaint alleges both a likelihood of confusion and instances of actual confusion.
Stay tuned for the Defendants’ Answer and a possible explanation for re-adopting the Triple LLL name (perhaps a violation of the Asset Purchase Agreement?).
Triple LLL Truck Repair, Inc. v. Triple LLL, Inc. et al.
Court Case Number: 3:21-cv-00282-JD-MGG File Date: Monday, April 26, 2021 Plaintiff: Triple LLL Truck Repair, Inc. Plaintiff Counsel: William A. Ramsey of Barrett McNagny LLP Defendant: Triple LLL, Inc. Cause: Federal Trademark Infringement, False Designation of Origin, Unfair Competition Court: Northern District of Indiana Judge: Jon E. DeGuilio Referred To: Michael G. Gotsch, Sr.
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
This lawsuit involves a rural broadband internet provider and an ex-employee who allegedly misappropriated proprietary information to set up a competing company.
The primary Defendant, Jarman, is alleged to have undertaken several actions contrary to the interest of his employer, as well as making false representations of an ongoing affiliation with the Plaintiff, Watch Communications of Rushville, Indiana, while conducting business on behalf of his new company. While much of the Complaint (below) implicates employment law issues, readers of the Indiana Intellectual Property Blog will be particularly interested in the “false designation of origin” claim based on an unregistered trademark, in addition to the trade secret claims. The Defendants are alleged to have misappropriated Plaintiff’s financial records, business, marketing, and strategic plans, customer lists, and personnel and payroll records regarding current and former employees, vendors, and suppliers.
As a reminder, a Complaint represents just one party’s side of the story, and the Defendants’ Answer may present the same scenarios in a much different light. Often the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Stay tuned for updates, particularly on the intellectual property-related claims.
Watch Communications v. Jarman et al.
Court Case Number: 1:21-cv-00550-RLY-MJD File Date: Monday, March 8, 2021 Plaintiff: W.A.T.C.H. TV Company d/b/a Watch Communications Plaintiff Counsel: Rachel J. Guin, Andrew P. Simmons of Rothberg Logan & Warsco LLP Defendant: Greg Jarman, Roger Criblez, Tom Kolb, B.Todd Mosby, GRiT Technologies, LLC Cause: False Designation of Origin, Unfair Competition, Breach of Contract (Confidentiality), Breach of Contract (Competing During Employment), Breach of Contract (Fiduciary Duty of Loyalty), Indiana Uniform Trade Secrets Act, Violation of the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016, Civil Conspiracy, Common Law Unfair Competition Court: Southern District of Indiana Judge: Richard L. Young Referred To: Mark J. Dinsmore
The Plaintiff, a fan company based in Zionsville, Indiana, sells its electric fans to consumers via its website, showrooms or through authorized dealers.
The Defendant is alleged to be offering unauthorized sales of Plaintiff’s fans at the website http://www.lightingmerchant.com. Importantly for consumers, electric fans sold by Defendant are not covered by Plaintiff’s warranty.
The Complaint (below) alleges that the Defendant purchases the products from one or more authorized dealers and then sells the products to retail customers. The identity of the authorized dealers is not revealed in the Complaint.
Fanimation, Inc. v. Decor Selections, LLC
Court Case Number: 1:19-cv-03648-JPH-MJD File Date: Tuesday, August 27, 2019 Plaintiff: Fanimation, Inc. Plaintiff Counsel: Harold C. Moore, Michael A. Swift of Maginot, Moore & Beck, LLP Defendant: Decor Selections, LLC d/b/a Lighting Merchant
Cause: Declaratory Judgment, Injunctive Relief, Trademark Infringement, False Designation of Origin, Dilution, Unfair Competition, Unjust Enrichment Court: Southern District of Indiana Judge: James Patrick Hanlon Referred To: Mark J. Dinsmore
The Plaintiff in this lawsuit, Functional Family Therapy Associates, Inc. is a Seattle, Washington-based organization dedicated to training psychotherapists. Plaintiff utilizes a “Functional Family Therapy” protocol to help troubled youth and their families overcome a variety of behavioral problems. Plaintiff provides services in 33 U.S. states and 10 foreign countries.
The Defendants allegedly operate an entity in Bloomington, Indiana called Functional Family Therapy Associates, in violation of Plaintiff’s registered trademarks. One of the Defendants, Sexton, was previously a member of Plaintiff’s organization. More detailed facts are set forth in the (redacted) complaint below.
This lawsuit arises from a breach of contract and the Defendants’ false advertising, unfair competition, and service mark infringement resulting from Defendants’ unauthorized use of Plaintiff’s registered and common law intellectual property rights in Plaintiff’s unique and original family therapeutic services protocol and Plaintiff’s development, testing, training, and marketing thereof.
An unredacted Complaint was filed under seal pursuant to a confidentiality obligation in an agreement between the parties.
F.F.T., LLC v. Sexton, Ph.D et al
Court Case Number: 1:19-cv-03027-RLY-MJD File Date: Friday, July 19, 2019 Plaintiff: F.F.T., LLC Plaintiff Counsel: Holiday W. Banta, T. Earl LeVere, Megan Hedrick of Ice Miller LLP Defendant: Thomas Sexton, Ph.D., Functional Family Therapy Associates, Inc., Astrid Van Dam
Cause: Breach of Contract, Wrongful Interference with Business Relationships and Prospective Business Advantages, Wrongful Interference with a Contractual Relationship, Unfair Competition, False Advertising, Federal Trademark Infringement, Common Law Unfair Competition, Common Law Trademark Infringement, Unjust Enrichment Court: Southern District of Indiana Judge: Richard L. Young Referred To: Mark J. Dinsmore