Plum Island Soap Company, LLC v. Duke Cannon Supply Company, LLC (19-cv-10222).

Plum Island Soap Co. filed a lawsuit involving its “THE MAN CAN” trademark and trade dress, the second such suit over the past two years.  Plum Island Soap has sold packages of men’s toiletries in a paint can, “The Man Can,” since 2004, and it has already obtained injunctive relief relating to the now-registered mark and trade dress in a 2013 decision. Plum Island Soap alleges that Duke Cannon sells sets of men’s toiletries in identical paint cans, under the names “The Handsome Man Grooming Can” and “The Dapper Gentleman’s Grooming Can.” Plum Island Soap urges federal and common law trademark and trade dress infringement, unjust enrichment, injury to business reputation, and violation of C. 93A, although proving that the infringing acts occurred primarily and substantially within the state may be difficult, given that Duke Cannon is a Delaware company whose connection with Massachusetts appears to be the operation of a generally-available website.

Excel Dryer, Inc. v. Penson & Co. LLC (18-cv-30179).

Excel Dryer accuses Penson & CO. of infringing its trade dress in its XLERATOR restroom air hand dryer. Excel asserts that its patented hand dryer has achieved considerable success, and that it has a distinctive shape and appearance that is associated with Excel.

Excel Dryer.png

Excel further asserts that it has already established secondary meaning of its trade dress in a prior proceeding before the International Trade Commission, in which Penson was a respondent, and both a General Exclusion Order and a Cease and Desist Order were entered prohibiting importation of the accused hand dryers. Excel brings charges of trade dress infringement and violation of C. 93A.

Acushnet Company v. Golf Gods Pty ltd. (18-cv-12093).

Acushnet, the maker of Titleist golf equipment, filed suit against Australia’s Golf Gods, accusing them of violating Titleist trademarks through Golf Gods’ sale of apparel bearing a “TITTIES” mark in the Titleist stylized script, “HOE V1” (instead of “PRO V1,” a Titleist golf ball), and a few other racy take-offs on Titleist marks. Titleist also asserts that golf balls sold by Golf Gods infringes the trade dress of Acushnet’s TITLEIST PRO V1 packaging.

Titleist asserts (and is almost certainly correct) that its marks are famous, and accuses Golf Gods of intentionally creating an “unwholesome and undesirable association” in consumers’ minds, thereby tarnishing the Titleist marks. Titleist asserts trademark infringement, false designation of origin, unfair competition, and trademark dilution under both state and federal law. Judge Boal has the case.

Hillside Plastics, Inc. v. Dominion & Grimm USA, Inc. et al. (17-cv-30037).

Hillside owns a trademark registration for the design of its “Sugarhill Jug” plastic maple syrup jugs, and accuses Dominion of violating that trade dress. Dominion moved for judgment on the pleadings, on the grounds that the trade dress was invalid as functional.

Sugarhill Jug

The trademark application had, in fact, initially been refused because of functionality concerns, but Hillside was able to overcome the refusal with evidence of the many alternative designs for syrup jugs. Dominion, once a Hillside distributor, began offering the accused jugs in 2016. Magistrate Judge Robertson recommended denial of Dominion’s motion. She noted that, as the trade dress is registered and incontestable, Dominion bears the burden of demonstrating functionality. Further, functionality is a question of fact, and Dominion was unable to demonstrate through the pleadings that the designs were factually functional. Judge Robertson did grant Dominion’s motion to stay discovery pending appeal of her recommendation to the District Court judge.

1818 Farms, LLC v. Plum Island Soap Company, LLC (18-cv-00135, N.D. Alabama).

1818 Farms, after negotiating a settlement in principal on Plum Island’s trade dress and trademark assertions, surreptitiously filed this lawsuit and withdrew form settlement talks. Upon learning of this lawsuit, Plum Island Soap filed its own suit in Massachusetts. The background is discussed in detail here. Plum Island Soap sought to dismiss or stay the Alabama suit or, in the alternative, to transfer the Alabama suit to the District of Massachusetts for consolidation. Judge Kallon determined that transfer was appropriate. While 1818 Farms was the first to file suit, Judge Kallon noted that filing suit in anticipation of another pending proceeding or to improperly forum shop may be sufficient to show the compelling circumstances needed to overcome the presumption in favor of the first-to-file rule, particularly when the suit is a declaratory judgment action brought in the face of clear threats to sue. Here, he found that the parties were engaged in on-going discussions that had reached a mutually agreeable framework for settlement, and that in the middle of these discussions, and without informing Plum Island Soap, 1818 Farms filed the Alabama suit. 1818 Farms then continued negotiating without informing Plum Island Soap about their filing. This was found to be a clear attempt to preempt Plum Island Soap and obtain a jurisdiction desirable to 1818 Farms. Additionally, it was found to be in bad faith, given that 181 Farms continued to mislead Plum Island that settlement was imminent. Finally, Judge Kallon determined that a refusal to transfer would undermine the strong Federal interest in encouraging potential plaintiffs to attempt settlement negotiations rather than racing to the courts.

Auratone LLC v. Music Group IP Ltd. Et al. (18-cv-11228).

Auratone is a speaker company founded by Jack Wilson in the 50’s. The company became known for monitor speakers, the “Auratone 5C and 50C Super Sound Cubes, that became the studio standard monitor speaker in the 70’s, and achieved considerable success and fame – the Auratone 5C Super Sound Cube was inducted into the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Hall of Fame in 2015. While running the company, Wilson obtained a federal trademark registration on AURATONE; in 2004, however, the mark lapsed when Wilson’s failing health prevented him from filing an affidavit of continuing use; Wilson passed away shortly thereafter. His heirs attempted to continue the business, marketing and selling existing inventory, and eventually sold the business, along with the rights to the AURATONE mark to one of Wilson’s grandsons, who formed Auratone, LLC in 2013. Auratone continued to market and manufacture speakers, and filed a new trademark application for the AURATONE mark, claiming a date of first use of 1959. Aruatone accuses the defendants, a pair of companies residing in the British Virgin Islands and the Philippines, of trademark and trade dress infringement and passing off as a result of the defendants’ making knock-offs of the Super Cube speakers that utilize the AURATONE mark and the trade dress of the speakers. Auratone also challenges the defendants’ application for a trademark on the AURATONE mark, which was based on an intent to use. Of interest, the suit is being brought by law students at the Suffolk University Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship Clinic pursuant to SJC Rule 3:03.

Anova Applied Electronics, Inc. v. RJ Brands LLC d/b/a Chefman (18-cv-10910).

Anova filed suit against RJ Brands, a New Jersey company, accusing RJ of infringing on Anova’s “PRECISION” trademark and trade dress relating to Anova’s Sous Vide Precision Cooker, a constant temperature immersion circulator.  This is the second lawsuit relating to the trademark and trade dress for the product brought in this district in the last six months.  Anova asserts personal jurisdiction via RJ’s website, Chefman.com, which is available in Massachusetts, as well as stream of commerce theories based on the accused Chefman Precision Cooker being sold via on-line retailers such as Amazon.com, Bestbuy.com, Target.com, and Walmart.com.  Anova seeks injunctive relief, disgorgement of profits, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees.