A federal district court in the Northern District of California has recently given litigants in trademark counterfeiting cases guidance on where wrongful seizure claims under the ex parte provisions of the Lanham Act may be brought. The court ruled in United Tactical Systems, LLC v. Real Action Paintball, Inc. that wrongful seizure claims may be brought in any federal court, and not just the court that ordered the seizure. The case should be watched by accused infringers who have been the target of an ex parte seizure under the Lanham Act.
Tagged: Trademark Counterfeiting
Illinois Court Refuses to Release Frozen Funds or Enlarge Bond Amount in Trademark Counterfeiting Case
A federal district court in the Northern District of Illinois has refused a request by certain defendants accused of trademark counterfeiting to release funds frozen in PayPal accounts and to increase the amount of a bond posted by the plaintiff in the case. The case highlights an uptick in challenges to financial asset restraints by defendants and nonparties in trademark counterfeiting cases and the discretion courts have in setting an appropriate bond to protect defendants in such cases.
New York Real Property Owners at Risk for Exposure to Joint and Several Liability in Connection with Trademark Counterfeiting Taking Place on Their Property
Brand owners are increasingly asserting claims against owners of real property where alleged trademark counterfeiting is taking place. Three recent actions filed in the Southern District of New York, styled Michael Kors, LLC v. Mulberry Street Properties Corp., et. al., 15-cv-5504 (S.D.N.Y.); Michael Kors, LLC v. Canal Venture, Inc. et. al., 15-cv-5788 (S.D.N.Y.); and Michael Kors, LLC v. Mid Center Equities Associates, et. al., 15-cv-5856 (S.D.N.Y.), raise the question of when property owners/lessors can be held jointly and severally liable for damages resulting from the sale of counterfeit goods on their properties.
Case Highlight: California District Court Refuses to Stay Civil Case Pending Resolution of Potential Criminal Prosecution
In Sanrio, Inc. v. Ronnie Home Textile Inc., the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California recently refused to stay a civil case pending completion of a parallel criminal counterfeiting investigation. In Sanrio, the plaintiffs sued a corporation and two alleged principals for trademark infringement and other claims. The case was filed after law enforcement seized allegedly counterfeit goods offered for sale by the defendants and related evidence. The defendants argued that the civil case should be stayed because the seizure left them without means to substantively defend themselves. They further argued that allowing the civil case to go forward would implicate the individual defendants’ Fifth Amendment rights, though criminal charges had not been brought against them.
Judge Preska of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York recently awarded attorneys’ fees, damages, and prejudgment interest on damages, but not fees to defendants, in a trademark counterfeiting case. In Prince of Peace Enterprises, Inc. v. Top Quality Food Market, LLC, Judge Preska adopted in part a report and recommendation of Magistrate Judge Maas, ending an eight-year litigation surrounding ex parte seizures of herbal supplements which took place in 2007.
On September 17, 2014, the Second Circuit issued its long awaited decision in Gucci America, Inc. et. al. v. Li et. al., 2014 WL 4629049 (Appeal Nos. 11-3934 & 12-4557). In its decision, the Court vacated and remanded an August 2011 order compelling nonparty Bank of China (BOC) to comply with a document subpoena and asset freeze provision in an injunction and a May 2012 order denying the bank’s motion to reconsider. The court also reversed a November 2012 decision holding the bank in contempt for non-compliance with the court’s August 2011 order and imposing civil penalties.
Judge Koeltl of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York recently adopted a recommended statutory damages award of $6.6 million dollars in a case involving trademark counterfeiting. Richemont Int’l S.A. et. al. v. Montesol Ou, et. al., 2014 WL 3732919, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. July 28, 2014). The plaintiff sellers of luxury goods had initially sought $78 million or $2 million per counterfeit mark per type of good counterfeited in connection with 88 domain names operated by the defendants. Richemont Int’l S.A. et. al. v. Montesol Ou, et. al., 2014 WL 3732887, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. May 13, 2014). But Magistrate Judge Pitman recommended instead an award of $6.6 million, including $6.3 million under the Trademark Act and $300,000 under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.
Newly-Adopted U.S. Customs Rule Provides Brand Owners with Critical Information to Combat the Import of Counterfeit Goods
For brand owners facing the challenges posed by counterfeiting, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (“CBP”) recently adopted a new temporary rule which has the potential to make it much easier to combat the import of counterfeit goods into the United States (“Interim Rule”). The Interim Rule provides that in instances where the CBP has suspicions regarding the authenticity of goods being imported, and the importer fails to provide proof of genuineness, the CBP is permitted to share detailed information about the suspect goods and importer with brand owners. This represents a welcome sea change in CBP policy for brand owners who have long been frustrated by CBP’s policy regarding limited information sharing.