Justia International Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Trademark
Abitron Austria GmbH v. Hetronic International, Inc.
Hetronic (a U.S. company) manufactures remote controls for construction equipment. Abitron Austria, once a licensed Hetronic distributor, claimed ownership of the rights to much of Hetronic’s intellectual property and began employing Hetronic’s marks on products it sold. Hetronic sued Abitron in the Western District of Oklahoma under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1114(1)(a), 1125(a)(1). A jury awarded Hetronic approximately $96 million. The Tenth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the Lanham Act extended to “all of [Abitron’s] foreign infringing conduct.”The Supreme Court vacated. Applying the presumption against extraterritoriality, the relevant sections of the Lanham Act are not extraterritorial and extend only to claims where the infringing use in commerce is domestic. Neither provision provides an express statement of extraterritorial application or any other clear indication that it is one of the “rare” provisions that nonetheless applies abroad. Both simply prohibit the use “in commerce” of protected trademarks when that use “is likely to cause confusion.” Because sections 1114(1)(a) and 1125(a)(1) are not extraterritorial, the Court considered the location of the conduct relevant to the focus of the statutory provisions: the unauthorized “use in commerce” of a protected trademark under certain conditions. “Use in commerce” provides the dividing line between foreign and domestic applications of these provisions. View "Abitron Austria GmbH v. Hetronic International, Inc." on Justia Law
NBA Properties, Inc. v. HANWJH
NBA Properties owns the trademarks of the NBA and NBA teams. In 2020, a Properties investigator accessed HANWJH’s online Amazon store and purchased an item, designating an address in Illinois as the delivery destination. The product was delivered to the Illinois address. Properties sued, alleging trademark infringement and counterfeiting, 15 U.S.C. 1114 and false designation of origin, section 1125(a). Properties obtained a TRO and a temporary asset restraint on HANWJH’s bank account, then moved for default; despite having been served, HANWJH had not answered or otherwise defended the suit. HANWJH moved to dismiss, arguing that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over it because it did not expressly aim any conduct at Illinois. HANWJH maintained that it had never sold any other product to any consumer in Illinois nor had it any “offices, employees,” “real or personal property,” “bank accounts,” or any other commercial dealings with Illinois.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion to dismiss and the entry of judgment in favor of Properties. HANWJH shipped a product to Illinois after it structured its sales activity in such a manner as to invite orders from Illinois and developed the capacity to fill them. HANWJH’s listing of its product on Amazon.com and its sale of the product to counsel are related sufficiently to the harm of likelihood of confusion. Illinois has an interest in protecting its consumers from purchasing fraudulent merchandise. HANWJH alleges no unusual burden in defending the suit in Illinois. View "NBA Properties, Inc. v. HANWJH" on Justia Law
Ayla, LLC v. Alya Skin Pty. Ltd.
Ayla, a San Francisco-based brand, is the registered owner of trademarks for use of the “AYLA” word mark in connection with on-site beauty services, online retail beauty products, cosmetics services, and cosmetics. Alya Skin, an Australian company, sells and ships skincare products worldwide. Ayla sued in the Northern District of California, asserting trademark infringement and false designation of origin under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1114, 1125(a).Alya Skin asserted that it has no retail stores, offices, officers, directors, employees, bank accounts, or real property in the U.S., does not sell products in U.S. retail stores, solicit business from Americans, nor direct advertising toward California; less than 10% of its sales have been to the U.S. and less than 2% of its sales have been to California. Alya Skin uses an Idaho company to fulfill shipments outside of Australia and New Zealand. Alya Skin filed a U.S. trademark registration application in 2018, and represented to potential customers that its products are FDA-approved; it ships from, and allows returns to, Idaho Alya Skin’s website listed U.S. dollars as the default currency and advertises four-day delivery to the U.S.The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit. Jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(2) comports with due process. Alya Skin had minimum contacts with the U.S., and subjecting it to an action in that forum would not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. The company purposefully directed its activities toward the U.S. The Lanham Act and unfair competition claims arose out of or resulted from Alya Skin’s intentional forum-related activities. View "Ayla, LLC v. Alya Skin Pty. Ltd." on Justia Law
France.com, Inc. v. The French Republic
In 1994, a California corporation purchased and registered the domain name and trademarks for “France.com.” Twenty years later, the corporation initiated a lawsuit in France, challenging a Dutch company’s use of the France.com trademark. The French Republic and its tourism office intervened, seeking to protect their country’s Internet identity and establish its right to the domain name. French trial and appellate courts declared the French Republic the rightful owner of the domain name. In the U.S., the corporation sued the French entities, which asserted sovereign immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1604. The district court denied a motion to dismiss, concluding that immunity “would be best raised after discovery.”The Fourth Circuit reversed, directing the district court to dismiss the complaint with prejudice. The court concluded that it had jurisdiction over the appeal because the district court rested its order not on a failure to state a claim but on a denial of sovereign immunity, which constitutes an appealable collateral order. Neither FSIA’s “commercial activity” exception nor its “expropriation” exception applies. It is not clear that the French State’s actions in obtaining the website in judicial proceedings constitute “seizure” or an “expropriation” and they clearly do not constitute “commercial activity.” The corporation itself invoked the power of the French courts; only because it did so could the French State intervene in that action to obtain the challenged result. View "France.com, Inc. v. The French Republic" on Justia Law
Halo Creative & Design, Ltd. v. Comptoir des Indes Inc.
Halo, a Hong Kong company that designs and sells high-end modern furniture, owns two U.S. design patents, 13 U.S. copyrights, and one U.S. common law trademark, all relating to its furniture designs. Halo’s common law trademark, ODEON, is used in association with at least four of its designs. Halo sells its furniture in the U.S., including through its own retail stores. Comptoir, a Canadian corporation, also designs and markets high-end furniture that is manufactured in China, Vietnam, and India. Comptoir’s furniture is imported and sold to U.S. consumers directly at furniture shows and through distributors, including in Illinois. Halo sued, alleging infringement and violation of Illinois consumer fraud and deceptive business practices statutes. The district court dismissed on forum non conveniens grounds, finding that the balance of interests favored Canada and that Canada, where the defendants reside, was an adequate forum. The Federal Circuit reversed. The policies underlying U.S. copyright, patent, and trademark laws would be defeated if a domestic forum to adjudicate the rights they convey was denied without a sufficient showing of the adequacy of the alternative foreign jurisdiction; the Federal Court of Canada would not provide any “potential avenue for redress for the subject matter” of Halo’s dispute. View "Halo Creative & Design, Ltd. v. Comptoir des Indes Inc." on Justia Law
JBLU, Inc. v. United States
JBLU does business as C’est Toi Jeans USA. In 2010, JBLU imported jeans manufactured in China, embroidered with “C’est Toi Jeans USA,” “CT Jeans USA,” or “C’est Toi Jeans Los Angeles” in various fonts. JBLU filed trademark applications for “C’est Toi Jeans USA” and “CT Jeans USA” on October 8, 2010, stating that the marks had been used in commerce since 2005. Customs inspected the jeans and found violation of the Tariff Act, which requires that imported articles be marked with their country of origin, 19 U.S.C. 1304(a); JBLU’s jeans were marked with “USA” and “Los Angeles,” but small-font “Made in China” labels were not in close proximity to and of at least the same size as “USA” and “Los Angeles.” Customs applied more lenient requirements to the jeans that were marked with “C’est Toi Jeans USA” or “CT Jeans USA” and were imported after JBLU filed its trademark applications. The Trade Court granted the government summary judgment. The Federal Circuit reversed, finding that the more-lenient requirements apply to unregistered, as well as registered, trademarks. Regulations in the same chapter as 19 C.F.R. 134.47 and regulations in a different chapter but the same title use the word “trademark” to include registered and unregistered trademarks. View "JBLU, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law
Jerez v. Republic of Cuba
Appellant filed suit against the Republic of Cuba and others in Florida state court, alleging that appellees tortured appellant and that appellant continues to suffer the consequences of the torture. Appellant was incarcerated in Cuba in the 1960s and 1970s, and endured unlawful incarceration and torture committed by the Cuban government and its codefendants. Appellant obtained a default judgment in state court and now seeks to execute that judgment on patents and trademarks held or managed by appellees in this action, who are allegedly agents and instrumentalities of Cuba. The court affirmed the district court's denial of appellant's request because the Florida state court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to grant the default judgment. View "Jerez v. Republic of Cuba" on Justia Law
Empresa Cubana del Tabaco v. General Cigar Co., Inc.
Cubatabaco, a Cuban entity, and General, a Delaware company, manufacture and distribute cigars using the COHIBA mark. General owns trademark registrations issued in 1981 and 1995. Cubatabaco owns the mark in Cuba and uses it worldwide. Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR), prohibit Cubatabaco from selling cigars in the U.S.; 31 C.F.R. 515.201(b) prohibits “transfer of property rights . . . to a Cuban entity,” but a general or specific license allows Cuban entities to engage in otherwise prohibited transactions. General licenses are available for transactions “related to the registration and renewal” of U.S. trademark. Specific licenses issue from the Office of Foreign Assets Control. Cubatabaco used a general license to attempt to register the COHIBA mark in 1997, relying on 15 U.S.C. 1126(e), which allows reliance on a foreign registration if the applicant has a bona fide intent to use the mark in commerce. Cubatabaco also sought to cancel General’s registrations, which the PTO cited as a basis for likelihood of confusion. Cubatabaco obtained a special license to sue General. The district court held that General had abandoned its registration by non-use and enjoined General’s use of the COHIBA mark, finding that Cubatabaco had acquired ownership under the famous marks doctrine. The Second Circuit reversed, holding that injunctive relief would involve a prohibited transfer under CACR because Cubatabaco would acquire ownership of the mark and later affirmed denial of General’s motion concerning cancellation of its registrations. The Board then dismissed Cubatabaco’s petition, stating that it need not address preclusion because Cubatabaco lacked standing. The Federal Circuit vacated, finding that Cubatabaco has a statutory cause of action to petition to cancel the registrations and that issue and claim preclusion do not bar that petition View "Empresa Cubana del Tabaco v. General Cigar Co., Inc." on Justia Law
Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc., et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran, et al.
Bell appealed the vacatur of a default judgment as void in connection with the manufacture and marketing by Iran of a helicopter that resembled Bell's Jet Ranger 206 in appearance. The court concluded that Bell's interpretation of Rule 60(b)(4) was contrary to the court's precedent, as well as that of almost every other circuit court of appeals, all of which rejected a time limit that would bar Rule 60(b)(4) motions; because Iran never appeared in the district court proceeding resulting in the default judgment, the district court properly applied the traditional definition of voidness in granting Iran's Rule 60(b)(4) motion; and because Bell's evidence regarding the effect in the United States of Iran's commercial activities abroad was either too remote and attenuated to satisfy the direct effect requirement of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(2), or too speculative to be considered an effect at all, the district court did not err in ruling the commercial activity exception in the FSIA did not apply. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc., et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran, et al." on Justia Law
Fed. Treasury Enter. v. SPI Spirits Ltd.
Plaintiffs filed suit under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1051 et seq., against defendants, alleging trademark infringement based on a theory that defendants misappropriated and have unauthorized commercial use in the United States of certain United States-registered trademarks related to "Stolichnaya" - brand vodka (the "Marks"). At issue on appeal was whether plaintiffs have sufficient claim to the Marks to sue for infringement under the Act. The court concluded that FTE was neither (1) the Russian Federation's "assign" of the marks nor (2) its "legal representative." The court also concluded that Cristall could not sue, since its rights as a plaintiff were purely derivative of those held by FTE, and FTE could not grant rights greater than its own; the court rejected plaintiffs' joint argument that they were entitled to proceed because the Russian Federation had "ratified" their suit; and, therefore, neither plaintiff was entitled to sue for infringement under section 1114(1). Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Third Amended Complaint with prejudice. View "Fed. Treasury Enter. v. SPI Spirits Ltd." on Justia Law