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Not So Clean: Federal Circuit Upholds Trade Dress Preliminary Injunction, Finds Defenses Improperly Plead

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a “narrow” preliminary injunction in a trade dress case, finding that the opponent of a registered configuration mark failed to prove its lack of secondary meaning and functionality defenses. SoClean, Inc. v. Sunset Healthcare Solutions, Inc., Case No. 21-2311 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 9, 2022) (Newman, Lourie, Prost, JJ.)

SoClean manufactures Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines. SoClean sued Sunset—a former distributor of SoClean products—for patent infringement and later added trademark infringement claims. At issue in this appeal was a single SoClean mark “for the configuration of replacement filters for its sanitizing devices.”

SoClean requested a preliminary injunction to stop Sunset from making or selling allegedly infringing CPAP filters. The district court granted the injunction but narrowly tailored the injunction to only enjoin Sunset from selling its filter cartridges without Sunset’s own brand name attached to the filter drawing so that customers would not falsely believe they were buying SoClean products. Sunset appealed.

While a party seeking preliminary injunction must prove all four eBay elements, this appeal focused on just one: “likelihood of success on the merits.” Sunset argued that the district court abused its discretion in finding that SoClean would likely defeat Sunset’s lack of secondary meaning defense and its functionality defense.

After noting that the parties agreed that SoClean’s trade dress was protectable only upon a showing that it had obtained secondary meaning, the Federal Circuit divided the secondary meaning issue into two subparts:

  1. Whether the district court should have questioned the validity of SoClean’s registration in light of Sunset’s evidence
  2. Whether the district court held Sunset to an improperly high standard of proof.

As to the first issue, the Court noted that federal registration is prima facie evidence of a mark’s validity. When, as here, the challenged mark was registered fewer than five years prior, the burden shifts from plaintiff to defendant, such that the defendant must rebut the presumption of validity. Sunset acknowledged that it had this burden, but its arguments to the district court focused only on the US Patent & Trademark Office’s decision to grant SoClean’s registration. The Court rebuffed that argument, noting that “scrutinizing the application process and deciding whether the trademark examiner was correct to issue the registration in the first place is the opposite” of the statutory presumption of validity.

Next, the Federal Circuit addressed Sunset’s standard of proof argument. The Court acknowledged that the district court misstated the law by suggesting that there was a “vigorous evidentiary requirement” on the challenging party, instead of simply a “preponderance of the evidence.” However, the Court also noted that the district court considered Sunset’s lack of secondary meaning evidence to be “equivocal, at best,” which “plainly fails to satisfy a preponderance-of-the-evidence standard.” Therefore, the Court judged the error to be harmless.

The Federal Circuit thus affirmed the finding that SoClean would likely defeat Sunset’s secondary meaning challenges.

The Federal Circuit next turned [...]

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Up in Smoke: TTAB Dismisses E-Cigarette Opposition, Provides Guidance for Effective Evidence and Testimony

In a precedential opinion, the Trademark Trial & Appeal Board (Board) dismissed an opposition filed against an application for registration of a logo mark containing the word “SMOKES,” finding no likelihood of confusion with the opposer’s registered mark SMOK. The Board cited the dissimilarity of the marks and the weakness of the common mark element SMOK, as well as a lack of evidence that the parties’ trade channels overlapped. Shenzhen IVPS Technology Co. Ltd. v. Fancy Pants Products, LLC, Opp. No. 91263919 (Oct. 31, 2022) (precedential) (Goodman, Pologeorgis, English, ATJ). The decision was rendered without a brief, testimony or evidence filed by the trademark applicant.

Fancy Pants Products filed an application to register a logo mark (depicted above) that included the stylized word “SMOKES.” The application record disclaimed “smokes,” meaning that Fancy Pants conceded that the word “smokes” was not inherently distinctive for its applied-for goods: “[c]igarettes containing tobacco substitutes … with a delta-9 THC concentration of not more than 0.3% on a dry weight basis,” i.e., a description for hemp-derived products eligible for federal registration in accordance with the 2018 Farm Bill. Shenzhen IVPS Technology opposed registration of Fancy Pants’ mark on the ground of likelihood of confusion with Shenzhen’s alleged rights in the trademark SMOK. In support of the opposition, Shenzhen pleaded ownership of 11 registered SMOK and SMOK-variant marks for electronic cigarettes, parts and components (among other goods) and related retail services.

Fancy Pants did not take testimony or introduce any evidence during its testimony period, nor did it file a brief. The Board noted, however, that Fancy Pants was not required to make these submissions because Shenzhen bore the burden of proving its entitlement to a statutory cause of action and its trademark “likelihood of confusion” claim by a preponderance of the evidence.

The Board first looked at what trademark rights Shenzhen could properly rely on in the opposition proceeding in view of the rights pleaded. As a result of Shenzhen’s errors in the presentation of its trademark registrations into the record with respect to verifying the current status and title of the registrations, the Board found that 10 of Shenzhen’s 11 pleaded trademark registrations were not properly made of record. Nevertheless, Shenzhen was allowed to rely on common law rights for these 10 SMOK-variant trademarks since Fancy Pants failed to object to Shenzhen’s evidence of common law use.

Having determined the scope of the trademark rights at issue, the Board turned to the issue of priority in Shenzhen’s alleged trademarks. Priority over Fancy Pants’ mark was not at issue with respect to Shenzhen’s one properly pleaded §2(f) trademark registration for the SMOK mark that was made of record (and the goods and services covered thereby). As to Shenzhen’s common law rights in its alleged family of the other 10 SMOK-variant marks, the Board explained that Shenzhen first had to establish that it even owned a “family” of marks—i.e., marks that share a “recognizable common characteristic” [...]

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Supreme Court to Consider Whether Lanham Act Reaches Foreign Defendants’ Extraterritorial Conduct

The Supreme Court of the United States agreed to review the geographic scope of the Lanham Act and the extent to which trademark owners can use US trademarks to police foreign sales. Abitron Austria GmbH et al. v. Hetronic International Inc., Case No. 21-1043 (Supr. Ct. Nov. 4, 2022) (certiorari granted). The question presented is as follows:

Whether the court of appeals erred in applying the Lanham Act extraterritorially to petitioners’ foreign sales, including purely foreign sales that never reached the United States or confused U.S. consumers.

In the underlying case, the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upheld a damages award for Hetronic International based on its conclusion that the Lanham Act can affect conduct that substantially affects US commerce, such as the products Hetronic Germany and others sold to European customers.

The US Solicitor General suggested that the case is “a suitable vehicle” to clarify the Lanham Act’s geographic scope, noting that the Lanham Act provides a remedy for a foreign defendant’s use of a US trademark abroad only if that use is likely to cause confusion within the United States.




Color Me Unsurprised: No Preclusion of Plaintiff’s Claims

The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed the lower court’s order determining that the plaintiff’s federal lawsuit was barred under the doctrines of claim and issue preclusion, noting an Illinois law exception on claim preclusion and finding no issue preclusion. Creation Supply, Inc. v. Selective Ins. Co. of the Southeast, Case No. 21-3172 (7th Cir. Oct. 19, 2022) (Rovner, Hamilton, Scudder, JJ.)

Creation Supply is a producer of markers. In 2012 one of its competitors sued it for trademark violations. Creation requested that Selective Insurance provide coverage for the lawsuit, but Selective refused. Creation entered into a settlement agreement with its competitor that prevented Creation from selling one of its primary lines of markers. As a result, Creation lost much of its business and struggled financially.

Selective did not provide coverage for Creation’s legal defense. It also sought a declaration in Illinois state court that it owed Creation no duty to defend. Creation countersued, seeking a declaration that Selective did owe it a duty to defend. Creation also alleged that Selective breached the insurance policy between the parties. The Illinois circuit court entered partial summary judgment for Creation on its duty to defend the claim and finalized an award of incidental relief in October 2017.

In 2014, during the state court litigation, Creation filed a suit against Selective in federal court for breach of contract and a claim under the Illinois Insurance Code for vexatious and unreasonable conduct. In 2016, Creation requested voluntary dismissal of the state court breach of contract claim. The Illinois circuit court granted the motion and expressly reserved Creation’s right to maintain its federal action on its breach of contract claim. After the end of the state court litigation in 2017, the federal court case continued. The district court granted summary judgment for Creation on the insurance coverage question. After a bench trial on the Illinois Insurance Code claim, the court found for Creation and awarded almost $3 million in damages. On appeal, the Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded, instructing the district court to resolve the remaining issue of contract damages.

After the remand, Creation sought to amend the complaint to seek punitive damages. The district court denied that request. Selective then moved for judgment on the pleadings, contending that the doctrines of claim and issue preclusion barred Creation’s remaining contract claim. The district court agreed and entered judgment for Selective because the Illinois state courts had resolved the issue of Selective’s duty to defend. Creation appealed.

The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Creation’s leave to amend, then turned to the issue of claim preclusion, a legal doctrine that prevents a party from repeatedly litigating the same cause of action against the same adverse party. Claim preclusion requires the following:

  • A court with proper jurisdiction must have issued a final judgment on the merits.
  • The claims in the two actions must be the same.
  • The parties in the second action must be the same (or in privity with) those [...]

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Long Live the Kingpin: No Abandonment Based on Nonuse During Drug Sanctions Period

In a precedential decision, the Trademark Trial & Appeal Board (Board) dismissed an opposition, finding that the trademark applicant’s long period of nonuse due to government sanctions was excusable nonuse and not abandonment. ARSA Distributing, Inc. v. Salud Natural Mexicana S.A. de C.V., Opposition No. 91240240, 91243700 (TTAB Sept. 28, 2022) (Taylor, Greenbaum, English, ATJ)

Salud sought a trademark registration of the standard character mark EUCALIN for “pharmaceutical products, namely, vitamin supplements, nutritional supplement made with a syrup with jelly base, honey base, and with a mixture of plants with propolis base, and herbal remedies in the nature of herbal supplements,” and the composite mark set forth below for “herbal supplements; nutritional supplements; vitamin supplements.”

ARSA opposed the registration, alleging prior common law use of the mark EUCALIN for “dietary and nutritional supplements.” ARSA argued that its sales and advertising of its EUCALIN product from 2008 to October 6, 2015, and October 9, 2017, established that ARSA had used its EUCALIN mark long before the constructive use filing dates of Salud’s application. Thus, ARSA had priority of use of the EUCALIN mark on nutritional and dietary supplements.

In response, Salud asserted it had priority in the EUCALIN mark based on use since 1999. Salud argued that between 1999 and October 2008, ARSA was Salud’s US distributor and, therefore, all goodwill for any EUCALIN-labeled product went to Salud as the supplier of the goods and products.

ARSA asserted that there was no distribution agreement between the parties, but even if Salud “could have reasonably claimed rights based on some alleged distribution agreement before 2008,” Salud “has long since abandoned any rights it would have had.” ARSA asserted that Salud was legally banned from conducting business in the United States between October 2, 2008, and May 2015 because it was declared a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker (SDNT). ARSA argued that Salud failed to produce any evidence establishing that it had concrete plans or intent to resume use between 2008 and 2015.

The Board found that there was no clear manufacturing-distribution agreement between the parties, and therefore there was a rebuttable presumption that the manufacturer (Salud) owned the mark. The Board explained that the following six factors are considered in determining which party has superior rights:

  1. Which party created and first affixed the mark to the product
  2. Which party’s name appeared with the trademark on packaging and promotional materials
  3. Which party maintained the quality and uniformity of the product, including technical changes
  4. Which party the consuming public believes stands behind the product (g., the party to which customers direct complaints and contact for correction of defective products)
  5. Which party paid for advertising
  6. What a party represents to others about the source or origin of the product.

The Board concluded that, on the balance, the factors favor Salud. The Board explained that the first, second, third and sixth factors favored Salud because it created the mark and product, maintained quality control over [...]

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The Saddest Hour? Closing Time for Trademark Cancellation Petition

In a precedential decision, the Trademark Trial & Appeal Board (Board) denied a petition to cancel a trademark registration based on priority. The Board explained that the petitioner bears a higher burden of proof to show prior use when it has amended its trademark application during prosecution to allege an earlier use date. JNF LLC v. Harwood Int’l Inc., Cancellation No. 92070634 (TTAB Sept. 21, 2022) (Wellington, Greenbaum, Heasley, ATJ)

On October 6, 2014, Harwood International applied to register the standard character mark HAPPIEST HOUR on the Principal Register for “bar and restaurant services.” The application matured into a registration on July 26, 2016. Almost two years later, on May 1, 2018, JNF applied to register the mark THE HAPPIEST HOUR in standard characters on the Principal Register for “restaurant and bar services.” In its application, JNF claimed to have first used the mark anywhere and in commerce “at least as early as 10/00/2014.” The examining attorney assigned to JNF’s application issued an office action citing Harwood’s HAPPIEST HOUR registration as a bar to registration. JNF then amended its claimed date of first use to September 7, 2014. JNF subsequently filed a petition to cancel Harwood’s registration and further requested suspension of its application pending disposition of the cancellation proceeding. Harwood answered the petition and admitted that its registered mark HAPPIEST HOUR was cited as confusingly similar to JNF’s THE HAPPIEST HOUR application but denied that JNF had established prior rights to the mark.

The Board explained that for priority purposes, Harwood may rely on the filing date of the underlying application that matured into its involved registration. The Board further explained that JNF bears the burden of proving that its mark was “previously used in the United States,” before Harwood’s constructive filing date of October 6, 2014. The Board also noted that while a petitioner must ordinarily prove its priority entitlement by a preponderance of the evidence, in the circumstances of this case, the burden was heavier. Because JNF alleged a first use date of “at least as early as 10/00/2014” when it filed its application to register THE HAPPIEST HOUR, the date presumed for purposes of examination was the last day of the month, October 31, 2014—several weeks after Harwood’s constructive use date of October 6, 2014.

As the Board explained, although JNF subsequently amended its date of earliest use, that amendment came with a cost. The Board explained that where an applicant has stated an earliest use date under oath but then amends the oath and attempts to show an earlier date, the applicant is under a heavier burden of proof: clear and convincing evidence. Citing to Federal Circuit precedent, the Board further explained that the original allegation of first use date may be considered to have been made against interest at the time of filing. The Board found that this rationale applied with even greater force in the current situation because the alleged dates were very close to Harwood’s constructive use date and because JNF only [...]

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FDCA’s Exclusive Enforcement Provision Reigns Supreme over State Laws

In its first occasion to interpret § 353b of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit relied on the “implied preemption doctrine” to affirm a district court’s case dismissal for failure to state a claim under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Nexus Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Central Admixture Pharmacy Services, Inc., Case No. 20-56227 (9th Cir. Sept. 13, 2022) (Kleinfeld, Nelson, VanDyke, JJ.)

Nexus developed and trademarked Emerphed, a US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved ready-to-use ephedrine sulfate in a vial. Central Admixture operates a network of compounding pharmacies and sells ephedrine sulfate in ready-to-use syringes without FDA approval, because compounding pharmacies do not need FDA approval. Compounding happens when ingredients in medicines are combined, mixed and altered for individual patients. Under 21 U.S.C. § 353b, drug compounding by “outsourcing facilities” is allowed without FDA approval, but the FDCA excludes compounded drugs that are “essentially a copy of one or more approved drugs.”

The FDCA contains an exclusive enforcement provision prohibiting private enforcement, stating that proceedings to enforce or restrain violations of the FDCA, which includes the compounding statute, must be by and in the name of the United States. To avoid the FDCA’s bar on private enforcement, Nexus alleged that Central Admixture violated the laws of several states in which it sells Emerphed, all of which prohibit the sale of drugs not approved by the FDA. Nexus argued that Central Admixture’s ephedrine sulfate was “essentially a copy” of Emerphed and therefore was excluded from the outsourcing facilities exception. The district court disagreed and dismissed the state law claims under the implied preemption doctrine. The district court explained that all of Nexus’s claims depended on the determination of whether Central Admixture’s ephedrine sulphate was “essentially a copy” of Emerphed, and that the “plain text of the [FDCA] left that determination in the first instance to the FDA and its enforcement process.” Nexus appealed.

The Ninth Circuit explained that the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution is the “source of preemption doctrine, which invalidates state laws that are contrary to federal statutes,” but noted that there is no clear sorting of case law and no rigid formula to determine when state law runs contrary to federal law. Therefore, the Court relied on several controlling cases regarding the statute governing FDA approval of medical devices, not drugs. Medical device cases are distinguishable because the medical device statute includes an express preemption clause prohibiting states from imposing any safety or effectiveness requirement different from or in addition to those imposed by federal law. In explaining these cases, the Court noted that the claims that were allowed to go forward did not rely on noncompliance with FDA requirements (as Nexus did), but rather on traditional tort law duties. The purported violation of a state law that substantively says “comply with the FDCA” is not a traditional common law tort. The Court also explained that these cases taught that despite a presumption against implied preemption, [...]

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If You Come for the Prince, You Best Not Miss

In a precedential decision, the Trademark Trial & Appeal Board (Board) granted two opposers’ motions for partial judgment on their claim of false suggestion of a connection under Section 2(a) of the Trademark Act based on a trademark application to register the mark PURPLE RAIN. NPG Records, LLC, and Paisley Park Enterprises, LLC v. JHO Intellectual Property Holdings LLC, Opp. No. 91269739 (TTAB Aug. 23, 2022) (Kuczma, Adlin, Johnson, Administrative Trademark Judges) (per curiam).

JHO Intellectual Property Holdings sought to register the mark PURPLE RAIN on the Principal Register in standard characters for several dietary and supplemental energy drinks and for “Energy drinks; Isotonic drinks; Non-alcoholic drinks, namely, energy shots, Sports drinks.” Paisley Park opposed, claiming to own rights in the name, image and likeness of famed musical artist Prince. NPG also opposed, claiming to own registered and common law rights in the trademark PURPLE RAIN. Paisley Park and NPG moved for summary judgment based on an assertion of false suggestion of a connection with Prince under Trademark Act Section 2(a). JHO admitted that its proposed mark was identical to Paisley Park and NPG’s marks and that its use of such mark was without consent or permission.

“Purple Rain” is associated (and often synonymous) with Prince. Paisley Park and NPG presented as evidence, for example, that PURPLE RAIN is a certified “13x Platinum” album selling millions worldwide, the 143rd Greatest Song of All Time according to Rolling Stone magazine, and the title of an Academy-Award-winning motion picture scored by and starring Prince. Paisley Park and NPG showed that unauthorized use of PURPLE RAIN is far from unusual, citing 17 unauthorized uses in December 2021. Paisley Park and NPG also had expert surveys conducted that established the connection between Prince and “Purple Rain.” JHO’s rebuttal included conclusory statements that the surveys conducted by Paisley Park and NPG’s expert did not ask respondents about the association of “Purple Rain” with energy drinks or supplements. JHO also pointed to a list from the US Patent & Trademark Office’s databases of third-party applications and registrations that includes PURPLE RAIN or its homophone PURPLE REIGN.

In view of Paisley Park and NPG’s evidence, the Board first found that there was no genuine dispute that the opposition was within reach of the Paisley Park and NPG’s zone of interests, and they were thus entitled to oppose registration of the mark.

Turning to the merits, the Board explained that in order to prevail on their motion under Section 2(a), Paisley Park and NPG were required to establish there was no genuine dispute that:

  • JHO’s mark is the same or a close approximation of Prince’s name or identity.
  • The mark is uniquely and unmistakably pointed to Prince.
  • Paisley Park and NPG are not connected with JHO’s goods or activities related to the mark.
  • “Purple Rain” is sufficiently famous to establish a presumed connection with Prince.

On the first factor, the Board explained that the approximation must be “more than merely intended to refer or intended to [...]

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Oh, Fudge. TTAB Finds Curse Word Fails to Function as Trademark

The US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) denied registration of several US trademark applications for the mark FUCK, even though the applicant had overcome a prohibition on the registration of “immoral or scandalous” trademarks as a violation of the First Amendment in the Supreme Court’s 2019 decision in Iancu v. Brunetti. The applicant also had previously secured registration of the mark FUCT. The PTO nevertheless denied registration on grounds that the familiar curse word did not function as a trademark. In re: Brunetti, Ser. Nos. 88308426; 88308434; 88308451; 88310900 (TTAB Aug. 22, 2022) (Bergsman, Dunn, Lebow, Administrative Trademark Judges).

The Trademark Trial & Appeal Board (Board) issued a precedential decision affirming the PTO’s refusal to register the FUCK mark for a variety of goods and related services, including cellphone cases, sunglasses, jewelry, watches, bags and wallets. The Board found that the word FUCK expresses well-recognized sentiments and that consumers are accustomed to seeing the word in widespread use by many different sources. As a result, the word failed to create the commercial impression of a source indicator and therefore failed to function as a trademark to distinguish the goods from others.

BACKGROUND

Artist and entrepreneur Erik Brunetti applied to register the mark FUCK in relation to a wide variety of wearable goods, electronics accessories and related retail, marketing and business services in 2019 while his appeal to the Supreme Court regarding the FUCT mark was still pending. When the Supreme Court issued its decision, the FUCK applications were removed from suspension and could no longer be refused on grounds that the mark comprised “immoral or scandalous” material. The PTO examining attorney re-examined the applications and refused registration on the so-called “failure to function” ground, finding that the mark was a term that did not function as a trademark to indicate the source of the applicant’s goods or services and to identify and distinguish them from others. Brunetti appealed to the Board.

In response to Brunetti’s argument that there was no statutory basis for a failure to function refusal, the Board made clear that the PTO is statutorily constrained to register a mark on the Principal Register “if and only if it functions as a mark.” Matter that does not operate to indicate the source or origin of the identified goods or services and distinguish them from those of others does not meet the statutory definition of a trademark and may not be registered. The Board reminded applicants that not every designation adopted with the intention that it perform a trademark function necessarily accomplishes that purpose.

Matter may be merely informational and fail to function as a trademark if it is a common term or phrase that consumers are accustomed to seeing used by various sources to convey ordinary, familiar or generally understood concepts or sentiments. The critical inquiry in determining whether a proposed mark functions as a trademark is how the relevant public perceives it.

The Board described the Examining Attorney’s evidence supporting the failure to function [...]

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Thee I Dismiss: No Love for Failure to Add Necessary Party

After concluding that a trademark owner’s case for failure to add a necessary party was untenable, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed a district court’s dismissal of the case because the necessary party enjoyed sovereign immunity and could not be added. Lee et al. v. Anthony Lawrence Collection, L.L.C. et al., Case No. 20-30769 (5th Cir. Aug. 24, 2022) (Jolly, Elrod, Oldham. JJ.)

Curtis Bordenave and Paige Lee are in the business of owning trademarks. They petitioned the US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) for a federal registration of the mark THEEILOVE. The phrase “Thee I Love” comes from Jackson State University, which has used the phrase for roughly 80 years. Collegiate Licensing Company is a licensing agent that handles the licensing of Jackson State’s trademarks to manufacturers that make and sell Jackson State merchandise.

Despite Jackson State’s decades-long use of the phrase, it never applied for a federal mark until after Bordenave and Lee had already done so. Jackson State did register a mark under Mississippi law in 2015 for use on vanity plates and in 2019 for use on other merchandise. It also claimed to have common-law rights to the mark under the Lanham Act.

Bordenave and Lee sued Collegiate Licensing Company and a few of the licensees in charge of producing and selling Jackson State’s merchandise for various claims related to their licensing, manufacturing and selling of “Thee I Love” merchandise, including trademark infringement and unfair competition under the Lanham Act. Bordenave and Lee sought damages, a permanent injunction barring the defendants from producing or selling any more “infringing” merchandise, and a declaration that defendants infringed Bordenave and Lee’s registered marks. The defendants moved to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. Pro.12(b)(1) and (7), arguing that Jackson State was a required party, and because Jackson State enjoys sovereign immunity, Bordenave and Lee’s case should be dismissed. The district court dismissed the case without prejudice under Rule 12(b)(7). Bordenave and Lee appealed.

The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. First, the Court determined that Jackson State was a required party, stating that Jackson State had an interest in the action that would be impaired or impeded if Jackson State was not joined in the suit. The Court reasoned that even if Jackson State remained free to challenge Bordenave and Lee’s ownership of THEEILOVE elsewhere, it could still face challenges protecting its interest if it was not joined in this action.

Next, because Jackson State has sovereign immunity, the Fifth Circuit considered whether the district court abused its discretion in dismissing the case rather than proceeding without Jackson State. Jackson State enjoys sovereign immunity as an arm of the State of Mississippi. Because Jackson State had a non-frivolous claim here, the Court found that dismissal was required because of the potential injury to Jackson State’s interest as an absent sovereign.

Finally, the Fifth Circuit considered the four factors under Rule 19(b) that determine whether an action should continue without the absent party or be dismissed. [...]

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