Ecobee sued three Amazon sellers, accusing each of obtaining and reselling ecobee products bearing the ecobee trademark without authorization. Ecobee makes a number of automated, “smart” home control products (thermostats, light controls, and the like) which it sells only through authorized resellers. By contract, these resellers are prohibited from selling to anyone other than consumers. Ecobee asserts that the Amazon sellers obtained ecobee products either through fraud or by tortuously interfering with ecobee’s contracts with its authorized resellers. In addition to trademark and tortious interference claims, ecobee asserts unfair competition and false designation of origin. This is the second such case brought by ecobee in Massachusetts in the past several months. Judge Saris has the case.
Ecobee filed three trademark suits, accusing Filter Pro, The Corner Store, and Ultra Design of trademark infringement, unfair competition, false designation of origin, and tortious interference. Ecobee makes smart home control products, including light switches and thermostats, that it sells through authorized resellers who are contractually obliged to provide specific quality controls on the products sold and prevented from selling to subsequent, unauthorized resellers. Each of the defendants is an Amazon Seller Account that, despite not being ecobee authorized resellers, are alleged to have sold ecobee products. Ecobee asserts that the defendants could only have obtained ecobee inventory through knowingly soliciting authorized resellers, intentional and knowing interference with the resellers contracts and business relationships with ecobee, or through fraudulent or illicit means. They further assert that the defendants violate the ECOBEE trademark by selling actual ecobee goods without authorization. The cases are presently before Judges Stearn, Woodlock, and Saris.
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.
Judge Casper granted summary judgment in favor of the Defendants on the trademark infringement, false designation of origin, trademark dilution, unfair competition, and unfair and deceptive trade practices. The case arose over a dispute between a Chinese restaurant chain and a US company seeking to become a franchisee. The two entered an agreement whereby the US entity opened a restaurant using the Chinese companies’ “Little Lamb” trademark. Plaintiffs allege that the Defendants violated this agreement by not opening another restaurant within one year of opening the Boston restaurant, making their use of the mark infringing as unsanctioned. The Court disagreed, and further determined that the attempted rescission of the agreement by the Plaintiffs was not proper under the terms of the agreement. As the agreement authorized the use of the mark, infringement could not be found. In a footnote, Judge Casper also noted that the Plaintiffs had failed to produce any evidence of damages, and that no presumption of damages could be had under the Lanham Act, which would also support a denial of the motion for summary judgment. As the remainder of the claims for which summary judgment was sought relied on a finding of infringement, these claims were also denied. Summary judgment in the Defendants’ favor had already been granted on breach of contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, fraudulent inducement and unjust enrichment claims, meaning that all of Plaintiffs’ claims have been denied.
DiscoverOrg, a company that provides business-to-business marketing data, sued Timlin Enterprises for copyright infringement. DiscoverOrg provides its marketing information to customers through a password-protected on-line user interface. According to the complaint, a Timlin employee accessed the database while employed by a licensed company, downloaded the data, and took it with him when he moved on to work for Timlin. A second person, meanwhile, who worked with the first accessed the database from their new, licensed company, and the data made its way to the first employee now working for Timlin. DiscoverOrg asserts that Timlin knowingly used the misappropriated data in marketing efforts. In addition to copyright infringement, DiscoverOrg asserts federal and state trade secret misappropriation (the state claim under Washington law, as DiscoverOrg is a Washington-based company), unjust enrichment, tortious interference with contractual relations, negligence for failure to properly train and supervise its employees regarding misappropriation of trade secrets, and violation of Ch. 93A. The case was assigned to Judge Zobel.
B. Luxe, a Medway hair salon, accuses Belmont’s B Luxe Aesthetics and Bianca Jacqueline Paraison of infringing its registered “B. LUXE” trademark in connection with hair and skin products and services. While the complaint does not clarify, it seems that Ms. Paraison is the owner of B Luxe Aesthetics. In addition to federal trademark and unfair competition claims, B. Luxe brings counts for state and common-law trademark infringement and unfair and deceptive trade practices under 93A.
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.