Trademark Claims

Novus Wins Injunction on Trademark Claims but not for Noncompete Claims

Novus specializes in auto glass repair and has over 250 franchisees, including Oksendahl. The franchise contract prohibits franchisees from competing with Novus for 2 years after the expiration of the contract. It also prohibits use of Novus trademarks after expiration. When Oksendahl’s franchise expired, he continued to operate a competing business.

The court granted a partial injunction against Oksendahl prohibiting him from using Novus trademarks. However, the court determined that Novus failed to show irreparable harm on the noncompete claim. Oksendahl can operate the competing business while the case proceeds.

Trademark Claims

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.

Copyrights

Some Claims Dismissed in Unique Website Dispute

Vilana copied two of Gregerson’s photographs in various advertisements. Gregerson created websites where he discussed Vilana’s copying of the photographs and made unflattering statements about Vilana. Gregerson filed suit for copyright infringement, while Vilana filed a counterclaim for trademark infringement, cybersquatting, deceptive trade practices, and other claims.

The court easily granted summary judgment on the copyright claim. A comparison of the photographs showed they were identical. The court also granted summary judgment against the trademark and cybersquatting counterclaims, finding that Gregerson just made a descriptive use of Vilana’s trademarks in his metatags.

However, the court refused to grant summary judgment on the deceptive trade practices and related claims. There was evidence in the record that Gregerson made statements that Vilana is a thief, actively engaged in predatory lending, and a member of the Russian mafia. These issues and the damages on the copyright claim must be resolved at trial.

Trademark Claims

Getting the Least Out of a Nondisclosure Agreement

SL Montevideo brought suit against Eaton Aerospace for trade secret misappropriation and breach of a nondisclosure agreement regarding an airplane motor. SL Montevideo could not establish the information was a trade secret, so it relied on the contract claim on appeal. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, noting that SL Montevideo somehow chose to structure the nondisclosure agreement as having a trade secret requirement:

To be sure, agreements such as the Proprietary Information Agreement (PIA) may protect broader categories of information than trade secrets. But the PIA’s exclusions limited its protection to information having the same characteristics of secrecy and novelty as trade secret.