ABC Teacher’s Outlet Trademark Case Dismissed for Exception to First-Filed Rule

This case actually began on March 25, 2002 when School Specialty sent a cease and desist letter to ABC Teacher’s Outlet (ABC) accusing it of trademark infringement. ABC responded, but School Specialty never replied. Several years later, on November 14, 2006, and January 5, 2007, School Specialty sent additional letters threatening to file a lawsuit.

ABC filed a declaratory action in Minnesota on January 11, 2007, and served School Specialty on February 21. School Specialty filed suit in Wisconsin on February 6 and served ABC on February 21. The court dismissed this case as an exception to the first-filed rule because (1) the claim was for declaratory relief and (2) ABC knew of School Specialty’s intent to sue.

The court surprisingly gave no weight to the fact that School Specialty waited 5 years before actually filing the lawsuit. ABC should win on a laches defense whether Wisconsin or Minnesota ultimately hears the case.

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