Lawsuit filed over use of DRAGON’S BREATH trademark in connection with electronic cigarettes

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Since 2012, the Plaintiff, based in Medford, Oregon, has sold “chemical flavorings in liquid form to be used in electronic cigarette cartridges” using the registered DRAGON’S BREATH trademark.

The Defendant, a Kentucky limited liability company, sells an e-liquid product also using a DRAGON’s BREATH trademark.

Cease-and-desist communications from Plaintiff were unsuccessful, hence this trademark lawsuit. Stay tuned for updates.

ECBlend LLC v. The Mad Alchemist Elixirs & Potions LLC

Court Case Number: 1:17-cv-01273-MC
File Date: Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Plaintiff: ECBLend LLC
Plaintiff Counsel: James M. Blake, Willard L. Ransom of Sorenson, Ransom, Ferguson, Clyde, LLP
Defendant: The Mad Alchemist Elixirs & Potions LLC
Cause: Trademark Infringement
Court: District of Oregon
Judge: Michael J. McShane

Complaint: 

Killer Burger sues former owner over stolen hamburgers

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Just in time for Portland Burger Week, we have a federal lawsuit over stolen burgers. The Plaintiff is Killer Burger, allegedly “the most popular burger restaurant in Portland, Oregon.”

The Defendants are a former owner of Killer Burger, his wife, and their new restaurant in downtown Portland, Rock and Roll Chili Pit.

The Defendants left Killer Burger in 2016 (apparently not on the best of terms) to start their new restaurant and are accused of “using and advertising two burgers which were stolen straight from the Killer Burger menu.”

Killer Burger considers their burger recipes to be confidential information. Defendants also allegedly used the same burger names (EPIC and BLACK MOLLY) on their menu, hence the trademark claim. Note that Defendant, in a social media video, apparently claims to be the original creator of the two burgers at issue and thus fully entitled to sell them at his new restaurant.

If you can’t get out for Burger Week and want to make the infringing burgers at home, here’s what you’ll need:

“The Epic includes pulled pork, bacon and coleslaw. The Black Molly includes a smokey house sauce, grilled onions and house-brined roasted green chilies.”

Yum. Enjoy Burger Week everyone!

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Photo credit: Bob Burchfield

Killer Burger, Inc. v. Rock and Roll Chili Pit, Inc. et al

Court Case Number: 3:17-cv-01219-MO
File Date: Friday, August 4, 2017
Plaintiff: Killer Burger, Inc.
Plaintiff Counsel: Thomas A. Ped, S. Ward Greene of Williams Kastner Greene & Markley
Defendant: Rock and Roll Chili Pit, Inc., Mark McCrary, Robin McCrary
Cause: Unfair Competition, Violation of ORS Chapter 647, Oregon Trademark Infringement, Violation of Common Law rights, Breach of Contract
Court: District of Oregon
Judge: Michael W. Mosman

Complaint:

Trademark and Unfair Competition lawsuit filed over expired software license

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This lawsuit involves the registered trademarks LEXILE, LEXILE FRAMEWORK, LEXILE ANALYZER and METAMETRICS.

The parties previously had a license by which the Defendants could use Plaintiff’s software, but it apparently expired on June 30, 2017.

MetaMetrics, Inc. v. NWEA et al.

Court Case Number: 3:17-cv-01059-BR
File Date: Thursday, July 6, 2017
Plaintiff: MetaMetrics, Inc.
Plaintiff Counsel: Jeff Pitzer of Pitzer Law
Defendant: NWEA (f/k/a Evaluation Association), Matthew Chapman, Jeff Strickler
Cause: Federal Trademark Infringement, Federal Unfair Competition, False Designation of Origin, False Advertising, Copyright Infringement, Oregon Trademark Infringement, Common Law Trademark Infringement, Oregon Trademark Dilution, Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act, Common Law Unfair Competition, Common Law False Advertising, Breach of Contract, Tort of Conversion
Court: District of Oregon
Judge: Anna J. Brown

Complaint:

Local pizzeria owner may not be able to use own name

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Patsy (Pat) makes pizzas.

New York-style pies are his specialty.

Patsy opens a restaurant in Oak Grove, Oregon called, wait for it, Patsy’s New York Pizzeria. “Best New York pizza in Portland!” Business is good, customers love him, say “He’s everybody’s dad.”

But just when life looked like easy street for Patsy, there’s a trademark lawsuit at his door. The Plaintiff in this lawsuit, a New York corporation, has been operating pizzerias under PATSY’S PIZZERIA or PATSY’s trademarks since 1933 and franchising the PATSY’S PIZZERIA trademark since 1996. Frank Sinatra apparently gave them a shout-out during a live concert in 1976.

Additionally, the name wasn’t the only alleged similarity. The Complaint (below) alleges that Patsy’s (Oregon) offered the same specialty pizzas as Plaintiff’s original menu.

Early conversations in 2015 between Patsy’s and Plaintiff’s counsel were leading toward Patsy changing his pizzeria’s name. However, Patsy has persisted with the name and the Plaintiff now seeks intervention by thefederal court for the District of Oregon.

Stay tuned for updates.

 

I.O.B. Realty, Inc. v. Pasquale DeSiervi d/b/a Patsy’s New York Pizzeria

Court Case Number: 3:17-cv-01023-BR
File Date: Friday, June 30, 2017
Plaintiff: I.O.B. Realty, Inc.
Plaintiff Counsel: James F. Halley of Law Firm of James F. Halley, P.C., Paul Grandinetti, Rebecca J. Stempien Coyle of Levy & Grandinetti
Defendant: Pasquale DeSiervi d/b/a Patsy’s New York Pizzeria, John Does 1-10
Cause: Federal Trademark Infringement, Common Law Trademark Infringement
Court: District of Oregon
Judge: Anna J. Brown

Complaint:

Trademark lawsuit erupts over use of SUNWORKS with solar energy

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Plaintiff, a California corporation, has used the registered SUNWORKS trademark since 2010 in connection with installation, maintenance and repair of solar energy systems.

Defendant has operated a solar energy equipment supplier called “Sunworks” in Jackson County, Oregon since 2011.

Plaintiff alleges instances of actual confusion and that Defendant’s operations in Jackson County are an impediment to Plaintiff’s “long standing plan for market expansion.” Defendant has refused to discontinue use of its trademark.

Stay tuned for updates.

Sunworks United, Inc. v. Kirkland

Court Case Number: 1:17-cv-00896-AA
File Date: Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Plaintiff: Sunworks United, Inc.
Plaintiff Counsel: Richard Billin
Defendant: C.J.Kirkland d/b/a Sunworks
Cause: Trademark Infringement, Dilution
Court: District of Oregon
Judge: Ann L. Aiken

Complaint:

Portland Home Show involved in trademark dispute

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This lawsuit involves alleged infringement of the PORTLAND HOME SHOW and PORTLAND HOME & GARDEN SHOW trademarks.

According to the Complaint, Defendant’s business model is “to travel to a location with an established and successful home show and produce a similarly named show several weeks in advance of the established show.”

The dispute originated way back in November 1999, so there’s history between the parties.

Stay tuned for updates.

PHGS, LLC, v. L&L Exhibition Management, Inc.

Court Case Number: 3:17-cv-00795-SI
File Date: Monday, May 22, 2017
Plaintiff: PHGS, LLC
Plaintiff Counsel: J. Peter Staples, Jack R. Scholz of Chernoff Vilhauer LLP
Defendant: L&L Exhibition Management, Inc.
Cause: Federal Trademark Infringement, Federal Unfair Competition, Oregon State Trademark Infringement, Common Law Trademark Infringement
Court: District of Oregon
Judge: Michael H. Simon

Complaint:

Copyright infringement lawsuit filed over orthodontic pamphlets

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For over 27 years, Plaintiff has created orthodontic marketing and patient education materials. Among their creations are two pamphlets titled Orthodontic Brushing and Flossing Procedures and Smiles with Style. Both pamphlets are registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.

The Defendant is accused of making and distributing digital versions of Plaintiff’s pamphlets on websites it created for orthodontists. Cease and desist letters were sent by Plaintiff’s counsel without a reply, hence this lawsuit.

OREC Professional Marketing Systems, Inc. v. Sesame Communications, Inc.

Court Case Number: 3:17-cv-00713-PK
File Date: Monday, May 8, 2017
Plaintiff: OREC Professional Marketing Systems, Inc.
Plaintiff Counsel: Nathan C. Brunette of Stoel Rives LLP
Defendant: Sesame Communications, Inc.
Cause: Copyright Infringement
Court: District of Oregon
Judge: Paul Papak

Complaint:

adidas sues Puma over “Three-Stripe” Trademark

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The adidas “Three-Stripe” crusade rolls on, this time targeting Puma’s new four-striped soccer cleat.

Interestingly, unlike the other soccer cleats on the Puma website, this one doesn’t bear Puma’s classic formstrip logo.

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Click the Adidas tag on this post for other “Three-Stripe” litigation.

adidas America Inc. et al v. Puma North America, Inc.

Court Case Number: 3:15-cv-00582
File Date: Wednesday, April 08, 2015
Plaintiff: adidas America Inc., adidas AG, adidas International Marketing B.V.
Plaintiff Counsel: Stephen M. Feldman of Perkins Coie LLP, R.Charles Henn Jr. and Jennifer Fairbairn Deal of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP
Defendant: Puma North America, Inc.
Cause: Federal Trademark Infringement, Federal Unfair Competition, Federal Trademark Dilution, Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices, Common Law Trademark Infringement and Unfair Competition, State Trademark Dilution, Injury to Business Reputation
Court: District of Oregon
Judge: TBD

Should You Register Your Trademark?

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Businesses 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 Oregon and abroad, the bottom line counts now more than ever.  Thousands spent on obtaining a trademark registration are thousands 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.

trademark-symbolThe 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 lay out 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 1/1/17) 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. Expect the clearance search to cost $200-400.

A commercial research service like Thomson CompuMark, which conducts the actual search on its many databases, will cost around $700. Add attorney time to review and report on the results.

Application Filing Fee – The official filing fee is $275-$325 per trademark. Your  attorney will charge a fee for the application preparation and filing.

Filing an Amendment to Allege Use/Statement of Use $100. Both the Amendment to Allege Use and Statement of Use serve a similar function…they alert the USPTO that you are now using the trademark in commerce. This is important for intent-to-use applications where a trademark application is filed prior to actual use because registration cannot be obtained until the trademark has been used in commerce. Your attorney will spend time gathering specimens, and preparing and filing the necessary documents.

Extension of Time for Filing a Statement of Use – $150. It is possible to obtain up to six (6) extensions of time to file a Statement of Use. Each extension is for six (6) months, up to a total of thirty-six (36) months.  Of course, each extension must be accompanied by a fee. There will also be some nominal attorney time to prepare the extension.

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 specific requirements that the applicant must meet before an application can be approved for publication. Believe it or not, there is no filing fee for a Response to Office Action. However, a majority of your attorney’s time in the application procedure will likely be spent reviewing and responding to office actions.

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 $500+ for each class of goods and services that your trademark protects. For example, if a band wants to protect 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 $1000 just in filing fees for one trademark protecting one class of goods and services. On top of these established PTO fees, you’ll be paying your trademark attorney for each document prepared or filing made. 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 a 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.

Oregon 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 successful and seek to expand outside of Oregon’s borders. With the exponential growth of “e-commerce,” the Internet is providing opportunities for national and global expansion, even for the smallest Oregon 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 Oregon:

Trademarks are registered with the Oregon Secretary of State. There is a non-refundable fee of $50 for filing a trademark application, and the registration must be renewed every 5 years.

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Registration of a trademark with the Oregon 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 Oregon commerce in connection with the goods or services described in the application. (A federal registration would protect your trademark in all states where it is used.)

The Oregon Trademark Act (ORS 647) protects words, names, 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 Oregon, but not against corporate, fictitious, or assumed names.

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

A mark cannot be registered until it has been used in Oregon. Oregon 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, distributed, or rendered in Oregon.

So what are some of the main benefits of state registration over federal registration?  It’s cheaper (State – $50/class vs. Federal – $275/class) and quicker. I’ve seen turnaround of weeks, not months or years as with the USPTO. State registration 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 Oregon, 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 Oregon State registration uniquely benefitted either you or your clients?