Otter Products LLC et al v. Ace Colors Fashion, Inc et al

Filing 33

ORDER GRANTING APPLICATION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT AGAINST DEFENDANT ACE COLORS FASHION, INC. 30 by Judge Otis D. Wright, II . (lc) .Modified on 4/16/2014 (lc). Modified on 4/16/2014 (lc).

Download PDF
O 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 United States District Court Central District of California 8 9 10 11 OTTER PRODUCTS LLC; TREEFROG 12 DEVELOPMENTS, INC. d/b/a 13 LIFEPROOF, Case No. 2:14-cv-00141-ODW(ASx) ORDER GRANTING APPLICATION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT Plaintiffs, 14 AGAINST DEFENDANT ACE v. 15 COLORS FASHION, INC. [30] 16 ACE COLORS FASHION, INC.; 17 ELECTRONICOS; SHAYNA’S CELL 18 PHONE ACCESSORIES; VANESSA 19 ACCESSORIES; DOES 1–10, inclusive, 20 Defendants. 21 I. INTRODUCTION 22 Plaintiffs Otter Products, LLC (“OtterBox”) and Treefrog Developments, Inc. 23 (“LifeProof”) discovered that Defendant Ace Colors Fashion was selling goods 24 bearing Plaintiffs’ registered trademarks without their authorization. Plaintiffs filed 25 suit. 26 otherwise respond. The Clerk of Court accordingly entered default, and Plaintiffs 27 moved for default judgment. After considering the merits of Plaintiffs’ claims, the 28 Court GRANTS the Application for Default Judgment and awards OtterBox and After being served with process, Ace Colors Fashion failed to answer or 1 LifeProof a total of $35,000.00 in statutory damages along with a permanent 2 injunction against Ace Colors Fashion.1 II. 3 FACTUAL BACKGROUND 4 Founded in 1998, OtterBox is a Colorado limited-liability company with its 5 principal place of business in Colorado. (Compl. ¶¶ 1, 14.) OtterBox is a leading 6 retailer of protective cases, peripherals, and accessories for electronic devices and 7 computers. (Id. ¶ 15.) The company makes protective carrying cases for a wide 8 variety of electronic products, including cell phones and tablet computers. (Id. ¶ 16.) 9 OtterBox has earned several local and national consumer awards and has been 10 featured in media reports about consumer electronics products. (Id. ¶¶ 18–19.) 11 OtterBox owns federally registered and common-law trademarks, including 12 those listed in Figure 1. (Id. ¶ 20.) It has spent significant resources developing its 13 products and marketing them in print and Internet advertising. (Id. ¶¶ 21–22.) Figure 1 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 /// 26 /// 27 1 28 After carefully considering the papers filed with respect to this Motion, the Court deems the matter appropriate for decision without oral argument. Fed. R. Civ. P. 78; L.R. 7-15. 2 1 Treefrog Developments, Inc. is a Delaware corporation doing business as 2 LifeProof. (Id. ¶ 2.) LifeProof is a designer, manufacturer, distributor, and seller of 3 all-protective cases and related accessories for mobile devices. (Id. ¶ 23.) Its products 4 provide protection against water, dirt, snow, and shock. (Id. ¶¶ 23–24.) The company 5 has spent substantial time, money, and effort developing consumer recognition and 6 awareness of the LifeProof brand, including through national and international 7 advertising. 8 Registration No. 4,057,201 for “LIFEPROOF.” (Id. ¶ 26.) (Id. ¶ 25.) LifeProof is the exclusive owner federal trademark 9 On October 17, 2013, Plaintiffs’ investigator visited Defendant Ace Colors 10 Fashion at 1001 Maple Avenue, Suite 107, Los Angeles, California 90015. (Perez 11 Decl. ¶ 2.) The investigator inquired about LifeProof cases for an iPhone 5, and a 12 store associate retrieved five samples from the display wall. (Perez Decl. Ex. 1.) The 13 investigator also observed six OtterBox Defender Series cases for the iPhone 5 on 14 display next to the LifeProof cases. (Id.) He purchased one of each case for $35.00 15 apiece. (Id.; see also Ex. 2 (depicting photographs of the purchased cases).) Plaintiffs 16 inspected the products and determined that they were not authentic. (Compl. ¶ 13.) 17 On January 7, 2014, OtterBox and LifeProof filed suit against, among others, 18 Ace Colors Fashion alleging eight federal and state trademark-infringement related 19 claims. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiffs served Ace Colors Fashion on January 20, 2014. 20 (ECF No. 10.) Hearing no response from Defendant, the Clerk of Court entered 21 default on March 14, 2014, per Plaintiffs’ request. (ECF No. 25.) Plaintiffs thereafter 22 moved for entry of default judgment. That Application is now before the Court for 23 decision. 24 III. LEGAL STANDARD 25 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b) authorizes a district court to grant default 26 judgment after the Clerk enters default under Rule 55(a). Local Rule 55-1 requires 27 that the movant submit a declaration establishing (1) when and against which party 28 default was entered; (2) identification of the pleading to which default was entered; 3 1 (3) whether the defaulting party is a minor, incompetent person, or active 2 servicemember; and (4) that the defaulting party was properly served with notice. 3 A district court has discretion whether to enter default judgment. Aldabe v. 4 Aldabe, 616 F.2d 1089, 1092 (9th Cir. 1980). Upon default, the defendant’s liability 5 generally is conclusively established, and the well-pleaded factual allegations in the 6 complaint are accepted as true. Televideo Sys., Inc. v. Heidenthal, 826 F.2d 915, 917– 7 19 (9th Cir. 1987) (per curiam) (citing Geddes v. United Fin. Grp., 559 F.2d 557, 560 8 (9th Cir. 1977)). 9 In exercising its discretion, a court must consider several factors, including 10 (1) the possibility of prejudice to plaintiff; (2) the merits of plaintiff’s substantive 11 claim; (3) the sufficiency of the complaint; (4) the sum of money at stake; (5) the 12 possibility of a dispute concerning material facts; (6) whether the defendant’s default 13 was due to excusable neglect; and (7) the strong policy underlying the Federal Rules 14 of Civil Procedure favoring decisions on the merits. Eitel v. McCool, 782 F.2d 1470, 15 1471–72 (9th Cir. 1986). IV. 16 DISCUSSION 17 OtterBox and LifeProof move for entry of default judgment against Ace Colors 18 Fashion on their trademark-infringement claim. The Court finds that Plaintiffs have 19 established that Ace Colors Fashion willfully infringed Plaintiffs’ registered 20 trademarks, thus entitling them to $35,000.00 in statutory damages and a permanent 21 injunction. 22 A. Notice 23 On January 20, 2014, Plaintiffs’ process server delivered a copy of the 24 summons and Complaint to Jian Maharti, the person in charge at Ace Colors Fashion. 25 (ECF No. 10.) The Court therefore finds that Plaintiffs properly served Defendant 26 under Rule 4(e)(2)(C). 27 /// 28 /// 4 1 B. Eitel factors OtterBox and LifeProof only move for entry of default judgment against Ace 2 3 Colors Fashion on their federal trademark-infringement claim. 4 trademark-infringement claim, a plaintiff must establish that the defendant is using a 5 mark “confusing similar” to a valid, protectable trademark owned by the plaintiff. 6 Brookfield Commc’ns, Inc. v. W. Coast Entm’t Corp., 174 F.3d 1036, 1046 (9th Cir. 7 1999). In AMF Inc. v. Sleekcraft Boats, 599 F.2d 341 (9th Cir. 1979), abrogated on 8 other grounds by Mattel, Inc. v. Walking Mountain Prods., 353 F.3d 792 (9th Cir. 9 2003), the Ninth Circuit set forth eight factors a court should consider in determining 10 To establish a whether two marks are confusingly similar. 11 But the Court need not wade through the Sleekcraft thicket, because “in cases 12 involving counterfeit marks, it is unnecessary to perform the step-by-step examination 13 . . . because counterfeit marks are inherently confusing.” Phillip Morris USA Inc. v. 14 Shalabi, 352 F. Supp. 2d 1067, 1073 (C.D. Cal. 2004) (internal quotation marks 15 omitted); see also Brookfield Commc’ns, 174 F.3d at 1056 (noting that virtually 16 identical marks are inherently confusingly similar). 17 There is no question that the goods at issue here are “counterfeit” in the sense 18 that they masquerade as genuine OtterBox and LifeProof products but were not made 19 or authorized by Plaintiffs. This is not a case where a defendant has employed a mark 20 that is similar but not identical to the plaintiff’s registered mark; rather, Ace Color 21 Fashions has wholly appropriated Plaintiffs’ trademarks without permission, thereby 22 rendering them liable for trademark infringement. 23 C. 24 25 Remedies Plaintiffs request $100,000.00 in statutory damages against Ace Colors Fashion and a permanent injunction. 26 1. Statutory damages 27 Under 15 U.S.C. § 1117(c), a court may award statutory damages between 28 $1,000 and $200,000 per counterfeit mark per type of goods or services sold or 5 1 offered for sale in the case of trademark infringement. But if the court finds that the 2 infringement was “willful,” the court may award up to $2,000,000 per counterfeit 3 mark per type of goods or services sold or offered. Id. § 1117(c)(2). The Ninth 4 Circuit has held that on default, a district court must accept a plaintiff’s willful- 5 infringement allegations as true. Derek Andrew, Inc. v. Poof Apparel Corp., 528 F.3d 6 696, 702 (9th Cir. 2008). 7 In determining what amount of statutory damages to award, the Ninth Circuit 8 has repeatedly expressed a deterrence policy, that is, the damages award should make 9 “deliberate acts of trade-mark infringement unprofitable.” Maier Brewing Co. v. 10 Fleischmann Distilling Corp., 390 F.2d 117, 123 (9th Cir. 1968); see also Lindy Pen 11 Co., Inc. v. Bic Pen Corp., 982 F.2d 1400, 1406 (9th Cir. 1993); Playboy Enters., Inc. 12 v. Baccarat Clothing Co., Inc., 692 F.2d 1272, 1275 (9th Cir. 1982). 13 Plaintiffs argue that one cannot determine the profits Ace Colors Fashion 14 reaped or the losses Plaintiffs incurred as the result of the infringement, because Ace 15 Colors Fashion failed to appear and present its sales data. But Plaintiffs’ investigator 16 observed 11 counterfeit units for sale at the business. 17 Where there’s smoke there’s fire. While Plaintiffs’ investigator only observed 18 11 infringing units for sale, it is likely that Ace Colors Fashion has sold, is selling, and 19 will sell many more units that infringe upon Plaintiffs’ registered marks. 20 impossible for the Court to assign a statutory-damages award with precision. But that 21 is not what Congress has asked. Rather, the award is left up to the Court’s sound 22 discretion after considering all relevant factors—including the willfulness allegation 23 which the Court must accept as true at this stage. It is 24 The Court finds that the $100,000 award Plaintiffs request is excessive in light 25 of the limited scope of circumstances presented to the Court. But the Court does find 26 that given the demonstrated strength of the OtterBox and LifeProof marks along with 27 the Ninth Circuit’s deterrence policy, the Court must award statutory damages that 28 will adequately discourage Ace Colors Fashion and other businesses like it from 6 1 future infringement. The Court accordingly awards Plaintiffs a total of $35,000.00 in 2 statutory damages for willful trademark infringement as authorized by 15 U.S.C. 3 § 1117(c)(2). 4 2. 5 Plaintiffs also request that the Court issue a permanent injunction against Ace 6 Permanent injunction Colors Fashion. 7 The Lanham Act empowers a court to grant injunctions “according to the 8 principles of equity and upon such terms as the court may deem reasonable” to 9 prevent further trademark infringement. 15 U.S.C. § 1116(a); Philip Morris USA, Inc. 10 v. Castworld Prods., Inc., 219 F.R.D. 494, 502 (C.D. Cal. 2003); PepsiCo, Inc. v. Cal. 11 Sec. Cans, 238 F. Supp. 2d 1172, 1178 (C.D. Cal. 2002). For a court to issue a 12 permanent injunction, a plaintiff must demonstrate “(1) actual success on the merits; 13 (2) a likelihood of irreparable injury if injunctive relief is not granted; (3) a balance of 14 hardships favoring Plaintiff; and (4) that an injunction will advance the public 15 interest.” Wecosign, Inc. v. IFG Holdings, Inc., 845 F. Supp. 2d 1072, 1084 (C.D. 16 Cal. 2012) (granting a permanent injunction in a trademark-infringement action). 17 The Court has already determined that OtterBox and LifeProof succeeded on 18 the merits of their infringement claim. Plaintiffs will also suffer irreparable harm if 19 the Court does not issue an injunction, as Ace Colors Fashion is likely to continue to 20 sell infringing goods and consequently benefit from the goodwill Plaintiffs have spent 21 substantial money establishing for their marks. Neither is there any indication that 22 Defendant will suffer any prejudice; it simply must stop selling infringing goods. 23 Finally, the public will benefit from the Court enjoining Ace Colors Fashion. As the 24 Ninth Circuit stated, 25 In addition to the harm caused the trademark owner, the consuming 26 public is equally injured by an inadequate judicial response to trademark 27 infringement. Many consumers are willing to pay substantial premiums 28 for particular items which bear famous trademarks based on their belief 7 1 that such items are of the same high quality as is traditionally associated 2 with the trademark owner. As a result of this trademark infringement the 3 consuming public is denied the benefit of their bargains and the 4 reputation and goodwill of the trademark owner is accordingly harmed. 5 Playboy Enters., 692 F.2d at 1275. 6 The Court has also reviewed the language of the proposed permanent injunction 7 submitted by Plaintiffs and finds it appropriately tailored to this case’s circumstances. 8 (See ECF No. 30-5.) The Court will therefore issue the proposed injunction along 9 with the default judgment. V. 10 CONCLUSION For the reasons discussed above, the Court GRANTS OtterBox and LifeProof’s 11 12 Application for Default Judgment against Defendant Ace Colors Fashion. 13 No. 30.) The Court thus awards Plaintiffs a total of $35,000.00 in statutory damages 14 and grants Plaintiffs a permanent injunction. A default judgment and injunction will 15 issue. 16 IT IS SO ORDERED. 17 18 April 15, 2014 19 20 21 ____________________________________ OTIS D. WRIGHT, II UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 8 (ECF

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?