Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Trademark

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Plaintiffs, twenty-three professional football players, filed a putative class action against the NFL, claiming that films produced by NFL-affiliate NFL Films violated the players’ rights under the right-of-publicity laws of various states as well as their rights under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125. Twenty plaintiffs settled, but appellants elected to opt out of the settlement and pursued individual right-of-publicity and Lanham Act claims. The district court granted summary judgment for the NFL. Applying the three Porous Media Corp. v. Pall Corp. factors, the court agreed with the district court’s conclusion that the films are expressive, rather than commercial speech and that the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 301(a), therefore preempts appellants’ claims. The court also concluded that appellants' claim of false endorsement under the Lanham Act fails as a matter of law because appellants provide no evidence that the films contain misleading or false statements regarding their current endorsement of the NFL. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Dryer v. National Football League" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a trademark infringement suit against defendants. The district court entered a default judgment against defendants as sanction for discovery abuses and then proceeded to enter default judgment against defendant Steven West. The court concluded that the district court and the magistrate judge did not abuse their discretion in declining to delay a hearing for damages based on West's medical issues where they were clearly skeptical of West's credibility based on their experience with him during the discovery process. The court rejected West's argument that the district court erred by not deducting overhead and operating costs from its calculation of defendants’ profits. Accordingly, because the court found no error in the district court's rulings, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Peter Kiewit Sons', Inc. v. West" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trademark

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B&B, manufacturer and seller of "Sealtight," sued Hargis, manufacturer of "Sealtite," claiming trademark infringement and unfair competition. Hargis counterclaimed for false advertising and false designation of origin. The jury rejected B&B's claims but found in favor of Hargis on its counterclaims. The Eighth Circuit concluded that the district court properly refused to apply collateral estoppel to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board's (TTAB) decision concerning likelihood of confusion; rejected B&B's argument that the TTAB's factual findings from a trademark registration case were entitled to deference; and concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the TTAB's decision from the evidence presented to the jury. On remand from the Supreme Court the Eighth Circuit vacated and remanded, holding that the ordinary elements of issue preclusion were met, and the usages of the mark adjudicated before TTAB were materially the same as the usages before the district court. On remand, the district court should give preclusive effect to the decision of the TTAB on likelihood of confusion. View "B & B Hardware, Inc. v. Hargis Indus., Inc." on Justia Law

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In April 2011, while its patent application was pending with the USPTO, U.S. Water Services, which “sell[s] water treatment and purification equipment, materials, and services,” especially “to ethanol process technologies,” sued its competitor, ChemTreat, for misappropriation of trade secrets. In October 2011, the USPTO issued the 244 patent covering a method to reduce the formation of insoluble scale deposits during the production of ethanol using enzyme, phytase, in its “pHytOUT® system.”Three days before U.S. Water and ChemTreat settled the misappropriation claim, ChemTreat filed counterclaims requesting declaratory judgments of noninfringement and invalidity of the 244 patent. The suit was filed before the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, 125 Stat. 284, took effect, so the counterclaims independently did not establish appellate jurisdiction for the Federal Circuit. The district court granted ChemTreat summary judgment as to the noninfringement counterclaim and dismissed the invalidity counterclaim. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. Evaluating the “totality of [the] circumstances,” the district court did not err in finding the misappropriation action, together with U.S. Water’s statements to its customers and supplier, produced an objective, “reasonable apprehension of suit,” and did not err in concluding declaratory judgment subject matter jurisdiction existed. The decision did not constitute an advisory opinion. View "U.S. Water Servs., Inc. v. ChemTreat, Inc." on Justia Law

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Smart Candle sells light-emitting diode flameless candles and commercial lighting systems internationally. Excell sued under the LanhamAct alleging that Smart Candle’s use of the trade name and trademark “Smart Candle” infringed rights that Excell had over use of that name and trademark. Selective insured Smart Candle during the period in which the Excell suit commenced, but disclaimed coverage, based on exclusion any injury “arising out of the infringement of copyright, patent, trademark, trade secret or other intellectual property rights” that “does not apply to infringement in your ‘advertisement’ of copyright, trade dress or slogan.” Excell won its suit. Selective sought a declaration that it owed no duty to defend or indemnify. Smart Candle counterclaimed breach of contract, arguing that Selective had not conducted “reasonable investigation of Excell’s Claims” including “a review of Smart Candle’s website . . . or any of Smart Candle’s advertising before denying coverage.” The district court granted Selective summary judgment. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, agreeing that no reasonable jury would conclude that Excell was suing for slogan infringement and that Selective had no duty to investigate “beyond the four corners of the complaint” to determine whether other facts could trigger Selective’s duty to defend or indemnify. View "Selective Ins. Co. v. Smart Candle, LLC" on Justia Law

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Syngenta, producer of a genetically-modified corn seed, filed suit against Bunge, an agricultural produce storage and transport company, alleging breach of an obligation under the United States Warehouse Act (USWA), 7 U.S.C. 241-256; breach of a duty to third party beneficiaries of a licensing agreement between Bunge and the federal government; and false advertising in violation of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125. The court concluded that the text of the USWA and the structure of the Act do not implicitly authorize a private cause of action for violations of a warehouse operator's fair treatment obligations; Syngenta is not a third-party beneficiary of the License Agreement and the district court did not err in dismissing this claim on the pleadings; and the court found it was necessary to remand the Lanham Act claim, in light of Lexmark Int'l, Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc., for the district court to determine in the first instance whether Syngenta has standing to bring the claim under the zone-of-interests test and proximate causality requirements. Accordingly, the court affirmed the dismissal of the USWA and third-party beneficiary claims, and vacated the grant of summary judgment to Bunge on the Lanham Act claim and remanded for further proceedings. View "Syngenta Seeds, Inc. v. Bunge North America, Inc." on Justia Law

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Lovely Skin filed suit against Ishtar, alleging four counts of trademark infringement and false designation of origin under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1127, and common law unfair competition and injury to business reputation in violation of Nebraska law. Ishtar counterclaimed, seeking cancellation of the registrations of Lovely Skin's two trademarks. The court concluded that Ishtar did not demonstrate that Lovely Skin's trademarks were not registrable because they lacked acquired distinctiveness at the time of their registrations. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's judgment canceling the registrations of LOVELYSKIN and LOVELYSKIN.COM. The court also concluded that the district court did not commit clear error in considering all of the SquirtCo v. Seven-Up Company factors and determining that no likelihood of confusion existed between Lovely Skin's trademarks and Ishtar's website. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's judgment for Ishtar on all four counts. View "Lovely Skin, Inc. v. Ishtar Skin Care Products, LLC" on Justia Law

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B&B, manufacturer and seller of a product called "Sealtight," filed suit against Hargis, manufacturer of a product called "Sealtite," claiming trademark infringement and unfair competition. Hargis counterclaimed for false advertising and false designation of origin. The jury returned a verdict which rejected B&B's claims but found in favor of Hargis on its counterclaims. On appeal, B&B argued that the district court should have given preclusive effect to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board's (TTAB) findings concerning the likelihood of confusion of the two companies' trademarks. B&B also appealed the award of attorney fees and costs. The court concluded that the district court properly refused to apply collateral estoppel to the TTAB's decision; rejected B&B's argument that the TTAB's factual findings from a trademark registration case were entitled to deference by the district court; and concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the TTAB's decision from the evidence presented to the jury. Therefore, the court affirmed the denial of B&B's motion for judgment as a matter of law or alternative motion for a new trial based on its claim of issue preclusion; affirmed the district court's evidentiary decisions; and remanded the award of attorney fees with directions to amend the award by deducting Hargis's attorney fees for the prior appeal. View "B & B Hardware v. Hargis Industries, et al" on Justia Law

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Flowers Bakeries Brands, Inc. brought suit against Interstate Bakeries Corporation (IBC) for trademark infringement, among other claims, alleging that IBC'S NATURE'S PRIDE and NATURE'S CHOICE trademarks in connection with packaged breads were confusingly similar to Flowers' NATURE'S OWN trademark. When OneBeacon Insurance Company, IBC's insurer, refused to defend IBC in the underlying lawsuit, IBC initiated this action seeking a declaration that OneBeacon had a duty to defend IBC. At issue was whether the trademarked phrase NATURE'S OWN was a title or slogan under IBC's advertising insurance policy with OneBecaon. The district court entered judgment in favor of OneBeacon. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that OneBeacon did not have a duty to defend IBC in the underlying litigation, as Flowers failed to allege facts that would indicate the phrase NATURE'S OWN was potentially a title or slogan under the policy. View "Interstate Bakeries Corp. v. OneBeacon Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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FNB South Dakota and its affiliates appealed from the district court's entry of a permanent injunction against them as a remedy for trademark infringement and unfair competition claims brought by FNB Sioux Falls. FNB Sioux Falls cross-appealed the denial of its motion for attorney's fees and the district court's purported factual finding that certain of FNB South Dakota's affiliates' names "appear" not to infringe FNB Sioux Falls' marks. The court held that, because the nucleus of operative facts in this action included facts not common to the prior action, this action was not barred by res judicata; the admission of the confusion log was harmless error; the district court's finding of a likelihood of confusion was based on a permissible view of the evidence and was therefore not clearly erroneous; and the district court's denial of fees must be affirmed. The court also declined to strike the challenged language from the district court's Amended Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment.