Justia U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Trademark
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AcryliCon USA, LLC (“AC-USA”) and Silikal GmbH (“Silikal”) have been fighting for years over a trade secret. The last time they were before this Court, a panel erased some of the relief awarded to AC-USA after a jury trial. On remand, the district court basically entered the same amount of attorney’s fees it had originally awarded. The district court also entered a “permanent” injunction barring the use of the trade secret at issue, concluding that it was obliged to do so.   The Eleventh Circuit found that the district court misread the court’s holdings, including the court’s unambiguous determination in AcryliCon II that no permanent injunction had been entered because the district court’s original final judgment did not include one. The court explained that the district court could not simply “reenter” a permanent injunction against Silikal without first making the appropriate findings pursuant to Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The court further concluded that the district court abused its discretion when it awarded AC-USA nearly its full attorney’s fees even after the court reversed, in AcryliCon II, significant portions of the relief AC-USA had been previously awarded. Thus, the court vacated and remanded. View "Acrylicon USA, LLC v. Silikal GMBH" on Justia Law

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Miami Velvet operated as a swingers’ nightclub in Miami, Florida. The appellants, in this case, Yorkies and Mrs. Dorfman were Miami Velvet’s managers. Appellants appealed the district court’s final judgment, which awarded over 30 plaintiffs damages for false advertising and false endorsement under the Lanham Act, following the entry of summary judgment on liability and a jury award of damages. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment, set aside the jury’s award of damages to Appellants, and remanded for trial. The court explained that there was not enough evidence to support the entry of summary judgment. Here the advertisements with Plaintiffs’ images were created for and used by Velvet Lifestyles. But Plaintiffs did not just sue Velvet Lifestyles; they also sued Yorkies and Mrs. Dorfman. To prevail on their false advertising and false endorsement claims against Appellants, Plaintiffs had to show that Yorkies itself engaged in or participated in the prohibited conduct along with Velvet Lifestyles (direct liability) or that the corporate veil between Yorkies and Velvet Lifestyles should be pierced (indirect liability).Plaintiffs did not satisfy their burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether Yorkies and Mrs. Dorfman were responsible for the Lanham Act violations. Rather than making the necessary showing in their motion for summary judgment, Plaintiffs simply treated Velvet Lifestyles, Yorkies, and Mrs. Dorfman as one and the same. They exclusively discussed Defendants collectively in the argument section of their motion, presumably operating on the mistaken assumption that if Velvet Lifestyles was liable for violating the Act, so were Yorkies and Mrs. Dorfman. View "Jaime Faith Edmondson, et al. v. Velvet Lifestyles, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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Royal Palm Properties, LLC ("Royal Palm") sued Pink Palm Properties, LLC ("Pink Palm)" for trademark infringement and Pink Palm countersued. Both parties ultimately lost on their claims. Pink Palm asserted that it was the prevailing party, and thereby entitled to costs under Rule 54 and “exceptional case” fees under the Lanham Act because it successfully defended the initial infringement claim. The district court ruled that there was no prevailing party because there was a split judgment and both parties lost on their claims. Because it found that neither party could be characterized as the prevailing party, the district court declined to award costs or fees to Pink Palm.   Pink Palm’s appealed the district court’s fee order. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s order. The court wrote that when the parties achieve a “tie,” a district court may find no prevailing party for purposes of costs and fees. While there will be occasional instances, such as this one, where neither party prevails, the court noted that in the majority of cases whether there is a prevailing party and which party prevailed will be easily determined. Further when granting prevailing party status in those instances, however, a district court is limited to naming one, and only one, prevailing party. Here, neither party was the prevailing party, and, because it did not meet the threshold requirement of prevailing party status, Pink Palm was rightly denied costs under Rule 54 and attorney fees under the Lanham Act. View "Royal Palm Properties, LLC v. Pink Palm Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, Wreal, LLC, a pornography company, has been using the mark “FyreTV” in commerce since 2008. Defendant, Amazon.com, Inc., has been using the mark “Fire TV” (or “fireTV”) in commerce since 2012. Wreal contended that Amazon’s allegedly similar mark is causing consumers to associate its mark—“FyreTV”—with Amazon. After the close of discovery, the district court granted summary judgment to Amazon.   The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded the district court’s ruling. The court explained that the case addresses the application of the seven likelihood-of-confusion factors to a reverse-confusion trademark infringement case. Although some of those factors are analyzed and applied in the same way in both reverse-confusion cases and the more familiar forward-confusion cases, there are important differences in how other factors are analyzed and applied that stem from the fact that the harm and the theory of infringement differ between forward and reverse confusion.   Here, the record evidence establishes that Amazon acquired actual knowledge of Wreal’s registered trademark and still launched a product line. The two marks at issue are nearly identical, the commercial strength of Amazon’s mark is consistent with Wreal’s theory of recovery. Furthermore, Wreal has identified two consumers who a reasonable juror could conclude were confused by Amazon’s chosen mark. The court wrote, that there is no mechanical formula for applying the seven factors relating to the likelihood of confusion. But when considering all seven factors as they apply to a theory of reverse confusion and taking all the circumstances of this case into account on the record, it concluded that they weigh heavily in favor of Wreal. View "Wreal, LLC v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Patents, Trademark
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EWC, which runs a nationwide beauty brand European Wax Center and holds the trademark "European Wax Center," filed suit under the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), against defendant, who used GoDaddy.com to register the domain names "europawaxcenter.com" and "euwaxcenter.com." EWC alleged that defendant registered his domain names with a bad faith intent to profit from their confusing similarity to EWC's "European Wax Center" mark.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of EWC, concluding that no reasonable juror could conclude that "europawaxcenter" and "euwaxcenter" are not confusingly similar to "European Wax Center" -- they are nearly identical to the mark in sight, sound, and meaning. View "Boigris v. EWC P&T, LLC" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose out of a trademark dispute between two advertising and marketing companies—both of which operate under the name Pinnacle Advertising and Marketing Group. Pinnacle Illinois filed suit, and then Pinnacle Florida filed a counterclaim seeking to cancel Pinnacle Illinois's trademark registrations under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1119.The Eleventh Circuit concluded that the district court erred by disregarding the jury's findings that Pinnacle Illinois's marks were distinctive and protectable and misapplying the presumption of validity given to registered marks. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded the district court's order cancelling Pinnacle Illinois's registrations. Although the court affirmed the district court's finding that Pinnacle Illinois's claims for monetary damages were barred by laches, the court remanded for the district court to consider whether to grant Pinnacle Illinois injunctive relief to protect the public's interest in avoiding confusion. View "Pinnacle Advertising and Marketing Group, Inc. v. Pinnacle Advertising and Marketing Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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SCAD filed suit against Sportswear for trademark infringement, unfair competition, false designation of origin, and counterfeiting under the Lanham Act, and for unfair competition and trademark infringement under Georgia common law. The dispute involves Sportswear's use of SCAD's word marks "SCAD" and "SAVANNAH COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN" as well as the college's design mark that includes its mascot, Art the Bee.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment on remand, holding that the district court properly entered summary judgment on two Lanham Act claims and the corresponding permanent injunction enjoining Sportswear from selling products bearing the SCAD marks at issue. The court concluded that its trademark precedents of Boston Prof’l Hockey Ass’n, Inc. v. Dallas Cap & Emblem Mfg., Inc., 510 F.2d 1004 (5th Cir. 1975), Univ. of Ga. Ath. Ass'n v. Laite, 756 F.2d 1535 (11th Cir. 1985), and Savannah College of Art & Design, Inc. v. Sportswear, Inc., 872 F.3d 1256, 1264, 1265 (11th Cir. 2017), require affirmance of the district court's judgment. In this case, the district court correctly found a likelihood of confusion as to Sportswear's use of SCAD's word marks and Bee Design Mark. View "Savannah College of Art and Design, Inc. v. Sportswear, Inc." on Justia Law

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ETS filed a trademark infringement action against Scarpello over the "Engineered Tax Services" mark under the Lanham Act. The district court held that the mark lacked distinctiveness and granted summary judgment in favor of Scarpello.The Eleventh Circuit reversed, holding that the district court erred in concluding, as a matter of law, that ETS's mark was not suggestive, but merely descriptive—and thus invalid. Furthermore, the district court failed to consider whether the mark might also have acquired any protectible secondary meaning or whether any actionable infringement occurred. The court held that a jury could reasonably find the mark inherently distinctive and remanded for further proceedings. View "Engineered Tax Services, Inc. v. Scarpello Consulting, Inc." on Justia Law

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Royal Palm Properties filed suit against Pink Palm Properties for infringing its registered service mark on the phrase "Royal Palm Properties." Pink Palm Properties counterclaimed, challenging the validity of the mark.The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court erred by flipping the jury's verdict and by granting judgment as a matter of law on Pink Palm Properties' trademark-invalidation counterclaim. The court held that Pink Palm Properties failed to show that no reasonable jury could have found that it failed to prove grounds for cancelling Royal Palm Properties' mark. In this case, Pink Palm Properties' argument that the service mark lacked distinctiveness, and that the mark was confusingly similar to the "Royale Palms" marks, did not entitle it to judgment as a matter of law on its claim that the "Royal Palm Properties" mark was invalid. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment. View "Royal Palm Properties, LLC v. Pink Palm Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its considerable discretion in holding Velex and its officers in contempt or in awarding PlayNation's attorneys' fees and costs. In this case, the court had previously upheld the entry of a permanent injunction preventing Velex from infringing on PlayNation's mark. PlayNation later discovered that Velex continued to sell and distribute goods using the infringing mark. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "PlayNation Play Systems, Inc. v. Velex Corp." on Justia Law