North Atlantic Operating Company, Inc., et al. v. Babenko, et al.
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART 244 , 260 Plaintiffs' Motions for Default Judgment. (Response due by 5/23/2017) Signed by District Judge Terrence G. Berg. (AChu)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
NORTH ATLANTIC OPERATING
COMPANY, INC., and NATIONAL
TOBACCO COMPANY, L.P.,
Case No. 15-14013
Hon. Terrence G. Berg
JINGJING JUANG, et al,
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
PLAINTIFFS’ MOTIONS FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT (DKTS. 244 & 260)
This case concerns counterfeit ZIG-ZAG® rolling papers, a product popular among
smoking enthusiasts. Plaintiffs North Atlantic Operating Company, Inc. and
National Tobacco Company, L.P. (together, “North Atlantic”) sued Defendants for
selling counterfeit rolling papers. Many Defendants ignored the lawsuit. North
Defendants.1 Dkts. 244 & 260. For the reasons outlined below, North Atlantic’s
motions are GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.
The first group—from North Atlantic’s earlier motion—consists of Francis Ferland
and eBay Seller bestdealmontreal (the “Ferland Defendants”); Kale Huang, Kal
Huang, and eBay Sellers Kyystore and Kaltek-Shop (the “Kyystore Defendants”);
andhonestvalues1 (the “Nguyen Defendants”); Narek Nazaryan and eBay Seller
hookupdealsforyou (the “Nazaryan Defendants”); Harvey Dan, Speedzone, and eBay
North Atlantic sells smoking products, including smoking papers, smoking wraps,
and vaporizers. See zigzag.com/products. At issue in this case are the ZIG-ZAG® 1 ¼
Size French Orange products:
Dkt. 244, Pg. ID 1994.2 All authentic ZIG-ZAG® Orange products display eight
trademarks, four that North Atlantic licenses from the registrant, Bolloré S.A:
(1) U.S. TM Reg. No. 610,530 for ZIG-ZAG (Stylized);
(2) U.S. TM Reg. No. 1,127,946 for ZIG-ZAG (Word Mark);
eBay Seller auctionlegends (the “Ortiz Defendants”); Andrew Russell and eBay Seller
dollarplusdiscount1 (the “Russell Defendants”); and DHGate Seller jackyhu; DHGate
Seller cngzss; DHGate Seller cngzss1; and DHGate Seller kathy0557 (the “DHGate
Seller Defendants”). Dkt. 244, n. 1.
The second group—from North Atlantic’s later motion—consists of the following
groups of Defendants: JingJing Huang, Alice Huang, and eBay Seller HUAPUR_6233
(the “Huang Defendants”); Anle Pan, Super Home Variety Store, Inc., and eBay Seller
ANLPA91 (the “Super Home Defendants”); and Zhangqi Pan, Ryan Pan, and eBay
Seller RYAN0201168 (the “Pan Defendants”). Dkt. 260, n. 1.
North Atlantic’s brief in support if its second motion (Dkt. 260) is essentially
identical to its brief in support of its first motion (Dkt. 244), so throughout the
remainder of this order the Court will cite only North Atlantic’s brief in support of its
(3) U.S. TM Reg No. 2,169,540 for the Smoking Man Design; and
(4) U.S. TM Reg No. 2,169,549 for the Smoking Man Design)3
and four that North Atlantic owns:
(5) U.S. TM Reg. No. 2,664,694 for North Atlantic Operating Company,
(6) U.S. TM Reg. No. 2,664,695 for Gear Design;
(7) U.S. TM Reg. No. 2,610,473 for NORTH ATLANTIC OPERATING
COMPANY (Word Mark); and
(8) U.S. TM Reg. No. 2,635,446 for NORTH ATLANTIC OPERATING
COMPANY (Word Mark)).
Dkt. 244, Pg. ID 1995.
Authentic ZIG-ZAG® Orange products also display North Atlantic’s copyrighted
graphic titled “North Atlantic Operating Company, Inc.” (the “NAOC copyright”)
Dkt. 244, Pg. ID 1996. And the products include gold-fill lettering, French phrases
such as “Qualite Superieure” and “Braunstein Freres France,” and statements such
as “Made in France,” “Imported French,” and “Distributed by NORTH ATLANTIC
OPERATING COMPANY, INC.” Dkt. 244, Pg. ID 1996.
The counterfeit products Defendants allegedly sell also contain the trademarks,
copyrighted graphic, and other design elements such as gold-fill lettering,
The ZIG-ZAG® brand uses a number of variations of the Smoking Man. The two
trademarked designs at issue in this case are:
French phrases, and statements about product origination and distribution. Dkt. 244,
Pg. ID 1997. North Atlantic discovered this information after years of investigation
that included controlled buys, inspection, and analysis of certain suspected
counterfeit ZIG-ZAG® Orange products listed for sale at below-market prices.
Dkt. 244, Pg. IDs 1997-1998. After confirming that the below-market priced products
were counterfeits, North Atlantic brought this lawsuit.
North Atlantic’s initial complaint listed 28 groups of Defendants. Dkt. 244,
Pg. ID 1998. Twenty of the original groups settled. Dkt. 244, Pg. ID 1998. After
further investigation, North Atlantic learned that 15 out of those 20 had purchased
the counterfeit products from the DHGate Seller Defendants. Dkt. 244, Pg. ID 1998.
So North Atlantic amended its complaint to add the DHGate Seller group to this case.
Dkt. 244, Pg. ID 1998.
The First Amended Complaint contains six causes of action:
Federal Trademark Infringement in Violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1114;
False Designation of Origin and Trademark/Trade Dress
Infringement In Violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)
Federal Copyright Infringement in Violation of 17 U.S.C. §§ 101
Improper Use under MCL § 429.42
Unfair Competition under MCL § 445.903; and
Common Law Unfair Competition
Dkt. 188, Pg. IDs 1565-1580
Upon filing this lawsuit, North Atlantic sought an ex parte temporary restraining
order, which the Court issued. Dkt. 244, Pg. ID 2001. The Court also allowed North
Atlantic to serve Defendants via e-mail, which North Atlantic did. Dkt. 244,
Pg. ID 2001-2002. None of the Defendants responded to the lawsuit by appearing and
filing either an answer or a responsive motion. Dkt. 244, Pg. ID 2002. When North
Atlantic filed its First Amended Complaint (“FAC”), it re-served the Defendants who
had not settled and for the first time served the DHGate Defendants. Dkt. 244,
Pg. ID 2002. North Atlantic served the FAC by email, by mailing copies via overnight
courier, by serving third-party marketplaces (eBay) and payment processors
(PayPal), and, where possible, by serving Defendants’ registered agents. Dkt. 244,
Pg. ID 2002.
Although none of the remaining Defendants appeared in and defended against
this lawsuit, North Atlantic’s attempts to serve them appear to have put Defendants
on notice of the lawsuit and North Atlantic’s allegations of trademark and copyright
infringement. After service of the First Amended Complaint, the DHGate Defendants
altered photographs on online listings of the counterfeit products by blurring out or
deleting the trademarked material on the packaging. Dkt. 244, Pg. ID 2003.
And other Defendants had a “Mr. Zou” reach out to North Atlantic and attempt to
negotiate a settlement without appearing in the case. Dkt. 260, Pg. ID 2103.
In August of 2016, North Atlantic sought entries of default from the Clerk of
Court, which were entered the next month. Dkt. 244, Pg. IDs 2003-2004.
North Atlantic notified the remaining Defendants of its intention to seek default
judgment, served copies of the requests for default judgment, and served copies of the
Clerk’s Entries of Default after those entries issued. Dkt. 244, Pg. ID 2004.
North Atlantic now moves for default judgment. Dkts. 244 & 260. No Defendants
have responded to either motion. The Court held a hearing on the motions on
February 1, 2017. No Defendants appeared at that hearing.
“When a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed
to plead or otherwise defend, and that failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise, the
clerk must enter the party’s default.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(a). Once the Court Clerk
enters default, all well-pleaded allegations are deemed admitted, except those
concerning damages. See Antoine v. Atlas Turner, Inc., 66 F.3d 105, 110-11
(6th Cir. 1995). To render a valid judgment, however, a court must have jurisdiction
to hear the case. Id. North Atlantic’s federal trademark and copyright claims give the
Court subject matter jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331. And North Atlantic’s
allegations—accepted as true—that Defendants have continuous, systematic, and
substantial contacts with the State of Michigan, including doing business here,
directing sales and advertising efforts here, and sending the counterfeit products
here, Dkt. 188, Pg. ID 1529, are sufficient to establish the Court’s personal
jurisdiction over Defendants. See Neogen Corp. v. Neo Gen Screening, Inc.,
282 F.3d 883, 887 (6th Cir. 2002).
North Atlantic has established this Court’s jurisdiction over Defendants, so the
Court must now determine whether North Atlantic is entitled to entry of a default
judgment on its claims, and, if so, the damages amount North Atlantic should recover.
a. North Atlantic has established Defendants’ liability for
Trademark and Trade Dress Infringement.
North Atlantic asserts two claims for trademark infringement under the
Lanham Act. First, it pleads infringement of the registered ZIG-ZAG® and NAOC®
Trademarks under Section 32 (infringement of a registered mark). Dkt. 188,
Pg. IDs 1565-1566. Second, it pleads infringement of the ZIGZAG® Orange Trade
Dress, an exclusively protectable common-law mark, under Section 43(a)
(infringement of an unregistered mark). Dkt. 188, Pg. IDs 1566-1567. North Atlantic
is entitled to a default judgment on both Counts.
To establish liability for trademark infringement, North Atlantic must show that
(1) it owns a valid, protectable trademark; (2) Defendants used that mark in
commerce without the North Atlantic’s consent; and (3) there was a likelihood of
confusion. 15 U.S.C. § 1114(1); Ford Motor Co. v. Lloyd Design Corp.,
22 Fed. App’x 464, 468 (6th Cir. 2002). According to North Atlantic’s allegations, it
has exclusive rights to use the ZIG-ZAG® Trademarks and owns the NAOC®
Trademarks, all of which are registered. North Atlantic also pleads that each
Defendant sold, either directly or indirectly to North Atlantic, counterfeit ZIG-ZAG®
Orange products that contained counterfeit versions of the ZIG-ZAG® and NAOC®
Trademarks. And where a defendant uses a counterfeit mark, a “likelihood of
confusion is presumed.” Ford Motor Co., 22 Fed. App’x at 486 (holding that it is
unnecessary to analyze the likelihood of confusion factors in counterfeiting cases).
Thus North Atlantic has established entitlement to a default judgment on this claim.
To establish liability for trade dress infringement, North Atlantic must show that
(1) the trade dress is distinctive in the marketplace, “thereby indicating the source of
the good it dresses,” (2) the trade dress is primarily nonfunctional, and (3) the trade
dress of the competing good is confusingly similar. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc.
v. American Eagle Outfitters, Inc., 280 F.3d 619, 629 (6th Cir. 2002). North Atlantic
alleges that it owns protectable common-law trade dress rights in the appearance of
the ZIG-ZAG® Orange packaging, which is distinctive given its gold-fill elements,
French phrases, and other labels. North Atlantic also alleges that its packaging is
nonfunctional, which even if not deemed admitted by Defendants’ default would be a
matter of common sense; labels and gold elements of a package have no function in a
product that is a rolling paper. And North Atlantic alleges that Defendants’
counterfeit trade dresses are not just “confusingly similar,” but are designed to be
exactly the same as North Atlantic’s trade dress; they are counterfeits—fake
reproductions. Thus North Atlantic has established entitlement to a default judgment
on this claim.
b. North Atlantic has established Defendants’ liability for
To establish liability for copyright infringement, North Atlantic must show that
(1) it owns a valid copyright and (2) the defendant copied the copyrighted work.
Lexmark Intern., Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc., 387 F.3d 522, 534
(6th Cir. 2004). Ownership of a federal copyright registration creates the presumption
that plaintiff owns a valid copyright. Id. North Atlantic alleges that it owns the NAOC
copyright, that the NAOC Copyright appears on all authentic ZIG-ZAG® Orange
products sold in the United States, that the NAOC Copyright also appears on the
counterfeit products, and that Defendants sold those products after North Atlantic
obtained its copyright. Dkt. 244, Pg. ID 2008. Thus North Atlantic has established
entitlement to a default judgment on this claim.
c. North Atlantic has established Defendants’ liability for
trademark infringement and unfair competition under
Michigan law, but not for unfair competition under
To establish entitlement to a default judgment for its claim of trademark
infringement under Mich. Comp. Laws § 429.42 (Count IV) and its claim of unfair
competition under Mich. Comp. Laws § 445.903 (Count V), North Atlantic must make
the same showing it needed to make for its federal trademark infringement claims;
the same standards govern both the Lanham Act and Michigan state law unfair
competition claims. See Carson v. Here's Johnny Portable Toilets, Inc., 698 F.2d 831,
833 (6th Cir. 1983). North Atlantic is entitled to a default judgment on its federal
trademark claims, meaning it is also entitled to a default judgment on its unfair
competition claims arising under Michigan law.
For North Atlantic’s common law unfair competition claim, it argues that the
elements it must show are: (1) its mark is valid, (2) it has priority in the mark, (3) it is
likely that consumers will confuse Defendants’ mark with North Atlantic’s mark, and
(4) Defendants used the allegedly infringing mark. Dkt. 244, Pg. ID 2009. But North
Atlantic provides no support for its position; no citation appears in the relevant
section of its brief. Thus, although North Atlantic might be entitled to a default
judgment on its claim, it has failed to make that showing.
In sum, North Atlantic’s motions for default judgments are GRANTED with
respect to its first five claims, and are DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE on its
sixth claim. If North Atlantic wishes to submit case law that supports its position on
its common law claim, it must do so within fourteen days of this order.
d. North Atlantic has established that it deserves the
damages award it seeks
In lieu of actual damages, North Atlantic seeks statutory damages of $200,000
per group of Defendants, for a total of $2,800,000. Dkt. 244, Pg. ID 2011; Dkt. 260,
Pg. ID 2112. Although a plaintiff who owns both trademarks and copyrights may
recover under both Acts, see Microsoft Corp v. Compusource Dist. Inc., 115 F. Supp. 2d
800, 811 (E.D. Mich. 2000), North Atlantic seek statutory damages under only the
The Lanham Act authorizes statutory damages, and caps them at $200,000 per
counterfeit mark per type of good sold or $2,000,000 per counterfeit mark per type of
good sold if a court finds that the infringement was willful. 15 U.S.C. § 1117(c). In its
original briefing, North Atlantic argued that Defendants willfully infringed eight
trademarks, meaning the maximum damages award under the Lanham Act would be
$16,000,000 per group of Defendants. Dkt. 244, Pg. ID 2011. North Atlantic then
argued that it was not asking for $16,000,000 per group of Defendants, but a
“reasonable amount of $200,000.” Id. In other words, to convince the Court that a
$200,000 award was reasonable, North Atlantic pointed out that at least it was not
seeking a much higher amount. But the fact that there is a much higher theoreticallyallowable quantum of awardable damages does not affect whether North Atlantic’s
request is reasonable. So at the hearing the Court asked North Atlantic to file a
supplemental brief that addressed whether any legal authority justified an award of
$200,000 per group of Defendants, and North Atlantic filed that brief a few weeks
later. Dkt. 272.
North Atlantic’s supplemental brief does a much better job justifying its damagesaward request; it points to a nearly identical case against a Louisiana entity that sold
counterfeit ZIG-ZAG® Orange products where North Atlantic obtained a damages
award slightly higher than what it requests here. North Atlantic Operating Company,
Inc. v. Evergreen Distributors, LLC, No. 13-cv- 4974-ERK-VMS (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 5,
2015), report and recommendation adopted, Order entered Jan. 28, 2015; Dkt. 272-3.
In Evergreen, North Atlantic asked for the full $16,000,000, but saw its request
denied because obtaining a judgment for so much money would have been a windfall.
Dkt. 272-3, p. 28. Instead, the court awarded North Atlantic $240,000—an amount
“within the range awarded by courts in comparable circumstances.” Dkt. 272-3, p. 30.
This Court agrees with the Evergreen Court’s finding, and therefore grants North
Atlantic’s request for a judgment amount of $200,000 per group of Defendants.
Other courts have considered a variety of factors when determining damages
awards in similar cases, see Dkt. 272, Pg. IDs 2211-2212, but what drives this Court’s
finding is the need for deterrence.
Here, Defendants allegedly sold (and perhaps even manufactured) counterfeit
ZIG-ZAG® Orange rolling papers: North Atlantic’s flagship product. The infringing
products are not just similar products, they aim to be exact copies. So Defendants
have not sought to reap profits by reminding consumers of ZIG-ZAG® Orange
products and thus benefitting tangentially from North Atlantic’s reputation in the
marketplace, they have instead attempted to trick consumers into thinking that
Defendants’ products are actually North Atlantic’s products. This is the most
egregious form of infringement—indeed the most lucrative—and calls for a damages
award that will serve as a forceful deterrent.
Likewise, Defendants’ choice not to respond to this lawsuit merits a deterrent. It is
possible that North Atlantic’s actual damages are less than $200,000 per group of
Defendants, but by not appearing, Defendants left North Atlantic to grasp in the
shadows for sales statistics that Defendants could have produced (and would have
been required to produce had they responded to the lawsuit). This conduct also needs
to be deterred; it is unfair to a plaintiff that it must watch its trademarks suffer
infringement, pursue legal remedies, prove its case, and then be frustrated in it
attempts to obtain information as to its damages by the same defendants’ dilatory
and non-responsive tactics.
A damages award of $200,000 per group of Defendants is a fair amount that is
neither too harsh nor too lenient; it neither sinks Defendants for eternity nor lets
them sail off into the sunset without paying a price for their counterfeiting. It also
deters future counterfeiters from defaulting in lawsuits when their sales volumes are
low because in those cases it would be less expensive and less burdensome to answer
the complaint, turn over the relevant sales statistics, and allow the plaintiff to prove
actual damages. The Court therefore finds that North Atlantic’s request is
e. North Atlantic has established that it is entitled to recover
its attorneys’ fees, costs, and investigative fees
North Atlantic asks the Court to award attorneys’ fees, costs, and investigative
fees under either the Lanham Act or the Copyright Act. Dkt. 244, Pg. ID 2012. Under
the Copyright Act, the Court in its discretion may award fees to the “prevailing
party.” 17 U.S.C. § 505. And some courts have held that an attorneys’ fee recovery in
a trademark infringement case includes recovery of investigative fees. See, e.g., Fila
U.S.A. v. Run Run Trading Corp., No 95 Civ. 7144, 1996 WL 271992, at *11 (S.D.N.Y.
May 21, 1996). North Atlantic has secured default judgements against Defendants,
meaning it is the prevailing party. And North Atlantic’s attorneys have litigated this
case with care and without waste. Thus, the Court finds it appropriate to award North
Atlantic its attorneys’ fees, costs, and investigative fees. Therefore, IT IS HEREBY
ORDERED that, within fourteen days of this order, North Atlantic must submit an
accounting of its fees and costs related to this case.
f. North Atlantic has established that it is entitled to a
North Atlantic requests a permanent injunction to prevent Defendants from
reverting to selling counterfeit ZIG-ZAG® Orange products. The Court has already
held that injunctive relief is appropriate, and nothing has changed to alter the Court’s
conclusion. Injunctive relief is appropriate to prevent ongoing irreparable harm to
North Atlantic, and is in the public interest because the public interest disfavors
trademark infringement and counterfeit products. IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that,
within fourteen days of this order, North Atlantic must submit a proposed permanent
For the foregoing reasons, North Atlantic’s motions for default judgment are
GRANTED with respect to claims I-V and DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE with
respect to claim VI. Within fourteen days of this order, North Atlantic must submit
(1) an accounting of its fees and costs and (2) a proposed permanent injunction.
Dated: May 9, 2017
s/Terrence G. Berg
TERRENCE G. BERG
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Certificate of Service
I hereby certify that this Order was electronically submitted on May 9, 2017,
using the CM/ECF system, which will send notification to all parties.
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