Sazerac Brands sells flavored liquor under the name DR. MCGILLICUDDY’S, Sazerac alleges that DR. MCGILLICUDDY’S is particularly popular in Massachusetts, with its “Mentholmint” flavor being the most popular shot in the Commonwealth across all distilled spirits (it also comes in Apple Pie, Butterscotch, Cherry, Coffee, Peach, Peppermint, Raw Vanilla, Root Beer and Wild Grape, for the discriminating palate). Sazerac uses a design made up of a portrait of Dr. McGillicuddy, sporting a moustache and bowtie against a sepia background, and has used this design widely on the bottles themselves, as well as in their web presence, tap handles, signs, stand up displays, and the like. A considerable amount of their marketing material emphasizes the moustache, although a number of different moustache styles are employed. Sazerac owns a registration on a design mark that depicts said doctor sitting at a small table topped with bottles of spirits, with his arm around a dog. Sazerac does not, apparently, have a registration on the actual design used on their bottles, but asserts common law rights in that design, as well as a state registration in Massachusetts.
Sazerac asserts that MS Walker recently began selling a similar product, MAURICE’S distilled spirits in “Mentholated Mint” and “Root Beer” flavors, using a confusingly similar mark of a portrait of a turn-of-the-century style man with a moustache and bowtie against a sepia background. Sazerac asserts that these similarities, along with the use of other turn-of-the-century elements, use of the design on a product bearing a possessive personal name that begins with the letter “M,” and use of an uncommon “menthol” formative flavor name, infringes on the registered design mark, on the Massachusetts registration, and on Sazerac’s common law trademark rights, and also claims dilution under M.G.L. ch. 110H § 13.
The patent claims of this multi-claim lawsuit surrounding 3-D metal printing were bifurcated, and a jury trial on the patent claims was held in late July. The jury returned a verdict finding the two asserted patents valid but not infringed. The remaining trade secret, breach of contract, and unfair competition claims will be tried at a later date.
UPPAbaby accuses Sam’s East, a corporation that runs Sam’s Club, of infringing several trademarks through stroller sales both at physical locations and via its’ on-line store. UPPAbaby has registrations on UPPABABY, UPPA BABY, VISTA, CRUZ and G-LUXE in connection with baby strollers. UPPAbaby asserts that Sam’s Club purchases UPPAbaby strollers sold into foreign markets, brings them back to America and offers them for sale without license or authorization. Sales of such strollers would take the strollers outside of the warranty offered by UPPAbaby, which is valid only in the original country of sale and only if purchased from an authorized retailer. UPPAbaby says that Sam’s Club affirmatively claim that the strollers they sell are covered by a manufacturer’s warranty, despite knowing this to be false. UPPAbaby brings claims of false advertising, common law trademark infringement and unfair competition, and violation of Chapter 93A. The case, which was brought by Craig Smith and Nathan Harris of my firm Lando & Anastasi, is before Judge Saylor.
Plaintiff Cutting Edge Systems sued Cutting Edge Tecsolutions for poaching on its reputation and good name by opening a competing business utilizing substantially the same name. Both companies sell and install audiovisual and automation systems in area businesses and homes. Cutting Edge Systems has been operating under the “Cutting Edge” name since 1992, and has a registration on the mark. Tecsolutions is alleged to have been incorporated in 2013, but to have actually begun operations substantially later than its formation. Cutting Edge Systems cites a number of instances of actual confusion, including receipt of bills for Tecsolutions’ purchases, and asserts that Tecsolutions has on at least one occasion deflected criticism of its work on Yelp by saying that the customer must have confused them with a different company. Tecsolutions has twice refused to cease using the “Cutting Edge” mark. Cutting Edge Systems brings counts for trademark infringement and unfair competition under federal, state and common law, and seeks disgorgement of Tecsolutions’ profits as well as injunctive relief and attorney’s fees. The case was assigned to Judge Saris.
Crosby Legacy offers quality consulting services that employ the teachings of its founder, Philip J. Crosby, a pioneer in the field. Crosby Legacy consulted for energy company FMC under an agreement executed in 2014 which permitted FMC to utilize the Crosby materials company-wide, including copyrighted works and the use of three Crosby trademarks – Absolutes of Quality Management™, Absolutes of Quality™, and Price of Nonconformance™. The 2014 Agreement restricted continued use of the Crosby materials should FMC experience a change in control. FMC subsequently merged with Technip S.A., creating defendant company Technip FMC in January 2017. Pursuant to the change of control provisions, Crosby Legacy sought to negotiate an agreement with the new entity to allow them continued use of the Crosby materials. TechnipFMC expressed a strong interest in continuing the relationship, and according to Crosby Legacy, a $2.3 million agreement was reached via a string of e-mails in May 2017, needing only to be memorialized and executed. TechnipFMC dragged its feet on the specific language to be included in the new agreement, and ultimately announced in November 2017 that it was no longer interested in working with Crosby Legacy. At that point, TechnipFMC had used the Crosby materials for eleven months without paying, in violation of the 2014 Agreement’s change of control language. Crosby accuses TechnipFMC of breaching the 2014 Agreement and of having formed, and then breached, the 2017 Agreement, and also brings claims of breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, fraud, 93A claims, trademark and copyright infringement, and unjust enrichment. The case is before Judge Wolf.
Judge Hillman dismissed all counts of James Fischer’s amended complaint with prejudice for failure to state a claim. Fischer, acting pro se, brought claims of false association, false advertising, violation of rights of publicity, unfair competition, and tortious interference with prospective economic advantage in connection with online communications criticizing his theories relating to beekeeping made between the defendants and the Organic Beekeepers Discussion Group and BeeSource Forum. The gist of the complaint is that defendants Dean Stiglitz and Laurie Anne Herboldsheimer fabricated and published negative reviews, which they attributed to Fischer, of their book “The Complete Idiots Guide to Beekeeping” in an attempt to gain attention and notoriety within the beekeeping community for the book – Fischer himself being an oft-published beekeeper. Fischer had previously been allowed to amend his complaint to add additional factual pleadings relating to damages and supporting the elements of his claims, but Judge Hillman found (in fairly summary fashion) that the amended complaint failed to factually assert all of the elements of any of the asserted claims; there was no likelihood that the public would perceive Fischer as sponsoring or endorsing the book, no discussion of Fischer’s commercial activity in anything other than a satirical way, no allegations that the defendants sought to exploit Fischer’s name to exploit its value for advertising or trade purposes, no indication of any actual or prospective actual customer that was lost by Fischer, and with respect to the unfair competition claim, no allegation that Fischer is located in Massachusetts or claims an injury occurring in Massachusetts.
Oomph Hair filed suit against Hair Illusions and its founder, Salvatore Passariello, accusing them of infringing Oomph’s trademark, cybersquatting, falsely disparaging Oomph products, and other forms of unfair competition, as well as seeking declaratory judgment that Hair Illusion’s “hairline enhancement” trademark application is invalid as merely descriptive. Hair Illusions is purported to control 90% of the real hair fiber market (real hair fiber is, as near as I can tell, small hair fibers, that are temporarily adhered to natural hair, making thinning hair look fuller). Oomph claims that Hair Illusions uses unfair and tortious means to maintain this market share, such as threatening Oomph and Oomph customers with patent lawsuits, despite having no patent to assert (Passariello had a pair of application undergoing prosecution at the time; they have since gone abandoned). Oomph also asserts that Hair Illusion registered domain names confusingly similar to Oomph’s registered HAIR FUSION trademark, which disparage Oomph’s product (e.g., alleging that the product contains parasites) and redirect customers to Hair Illusion’s on-line store. Oomph seeks preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, transferal of the offending domain names, and monetary damages. Oomph filed a motion for a preliminary injunction concurrently with the filing of the complaint. Judge Zobel scheduled a hearing on the motion for March 28.