Healthmate International, LLC v. French et al
ORDER granting in part and denying in part 160 ,and denying 162 : Plaintiff's motion, (Doc. 160), is GRANTED to the extent that it seeks summary judgment on Rampant Lion's Lanham Act claim and DENIED in all other respects, and Defendants' motion, (Doc. Doc. 162), is DENIED in its entirety. Signed on 6/1/17 by District Judge Beth Phillips. (Cordell, Annette)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
HEALTHMATE INTERNATIONAL, LLC,
TIMOTHY W.T. FRENCH, and
RAMPANT LION LLC,
Case No. 15-0761-CV-W-BP
ORDER AND OPINION (1) GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND (2) DENYING
DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Plaintiff Healthmate International, LLC initiated this suit, asserting three claims of
copyright infringement against Defendants Timothy French and Rampant Lion LLC.1 Rampant
Lion has asserted counterclaims for false advertising under the Lanham Act, tortious interference
with contract or business expectancy, and unfair competition. Now pending are cross-motions
for summary judgment. Plaintiff seeks summary judgment on all of the claims in the case, and
Defendants seek summary judgment on Plaintiff’s copyright infringement claims and on
Rampant Lion’s counterclaim under the Lanham Act. For the following reasons, (1) Plaintiff’s
motion, (Doc. 160), is GRANTED to the extent that it seeks summary judgment on Rampant
Lion’s Lanham Act claim and DENIED in all other respects, and (2) Defendants’ motion, (Doc.
Doc. 162), is DENIED in its entirety.
Defendants correctly contend that French’s liability is not established merely by establishing that Rampant Lion
infringed on Plaintiff’s copyrights, and at some point Plaintiff will have to separately establish the basis for each
Defendants’ liability. (Doc. 164, p. 109 n.3.) In the meantime, in the interest of clarity the Court will refer to the
Defendants collectively unless the context clearly dictates otherwise.
A moving party is entitled to summary judgment on a claim only upon a showing that
“there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a
matter of law.” See generally Williams v. City of St. Louis, 783 F.2d 114, 115 (8th Cir. 1986).
“[W]hile the materiality determination rests on the substantive law, it is the substantive law’s
identification of which facts are critical and which facts are irrelevant that governs.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Thus, “[o]nly disputes over facts that might
affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of
summary judgment.” Wierman v. Casey’s Gen. Stores, 638 F.3d 984, 993 (8th Cir. 2011)
(quotation omitted). In applying this standard, the Court must view the evidence in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party, giving that party the benefit of all inferences that may
be reasonably drawn from the evidence. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475
U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986); Tyler v. Harper, 744 F.2d 653, 655 (8th Cir. 1984), cert. denied, 470
U.S. 1057 (1985). A party opposing a motion for summary judgment may not simply deny the
allegations, but must point to evidence in the Record demonstrating the existence of a factual
dispute. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1); Conseco Life Ins. Co. v. Williams, 620 F.3d 902, 909-10 (8th
For ease of discussion, the Court will discuss the background relevant to the Court’s
decision on a count-by-count basis. In light of the Court’s rulings an abbreviated statement of
the facts is all that is necessary. All citations to documents filed with the Court will utilize the
page numbers generated by the Court’s CM/ECF system.
I. PLAINTIFF’S CLAIMS FOR COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT
Plaintiff and Defendants are in the business of selling TENS units. “TENS” stands for
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, and generally speaking TENS units administer
electrical current to portions of the body in order to relieve pain. Plaintiff has a Certificate of
Registration for three copyrights for graphical displays used on TENS units it sells. All three
displays2 contain a series of picture-based icons that symbolize the TENS unit’s various
functions and a battery-shaped icon with hashmarks meant to symbolize the amount of energy
remaining in the TENS unit. Some of the displays also include icons that represent parts of the
body, a clock or timer, or an “intensity” meter (a bar with hashmarks intended to indicate the
current’s intensity). The Complaint alleges that that Defendants infringed on all three copyrights
by copying them for use on their TENS units.
Defendants argue that they are entitled to summary judgment because Plaintiff’s
copyrights are invalid. Plaintiff insists that its copyrights are valid and contends that it is entitled
to summary judgment because the uncontroverted facts demonstrate that Defendants infringed its
For ease of discussion, the Court addresses Defendants’ arguments for
summary judgment first.
1. Defendants’ Arguments That the Copyrights Are Invalid
Plaintiff’s Certificates of Registration are prima facie evidence that the copyrights are
valid, 17 U.S.C. § 410(c), but the presumption may be rebutted. E.g., Taylor Corp. v. Four
Examples of the displays can be found in the Record at Doc. 161-2, Doc. 161-6, and Doc. 161-10. The Court
acknowledges Defendants’ objection to Doc. 161-6, (see Doc. 165, p. 7), but the Court does not believe the
objection is meritorious. Regardless, the Court’s ruling would not change even if the Court agreed that Doc. 161-6
cannot be considered.
Seasons Greetings, LLC, 315 F.3d 1039, 1042 (8th Cir. 2003). Defendants attempt to rebut this
presumption by arguing that the material Plaintiff claims to have copyrighted (1) is an
uncopyrightable “method of operation” or (2) is not original. As discussed below, the Court
concludes that Defendants are not entitled to summary judgment on these theories.
(a) “Method of Operation”
Copyright protection may be obtained for “original works of authorship,” which are
defined to include “pictorial” and “graphic” works. 17 U.S.C. § 102(a). However, “[i]n no case
does copyright protection . . . extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of
operation, concept, principle, or discovery . . . .” Id. § 102(b). Defendants argue that Plaintiff
has attempted to copyright a “method of operation” and rely exclusively on the First Circuit’s
decision in Lotus Development Corp. v. Borland International, Inc. 49 F.3d. 707 (1st Cir. 1995),
aff’d, 516 U.S. 233 (1996),3 to support their point. Plaintiff argues that Lotus Development does
not apply in this case. The Court agrees with Plaintiff.
As a whole, § 102(b) addresses the difference between an idea and the particular
expression of that idea: the former is not copyrightable, but the latter is. See Toro v. R&R
Products Co., 787 F.2d 1208, 1211-12 (8th Cir. 1986). Thus, in the earliest case addressing this
distinction, it was held that the “idea” of a particular method of accounting cannot be
copyrighted, while a book describing how to utilize that accounting method can be copyrighted.
Baker v. Selden, 101 U.S. 99, 100-01 (1880). Recognizing the distinction allows others to
produce original works discussing the idea and accounts for the “weaker” protection offered to
copyrights (as compared to patents). In codifying this concept in § 102(b), Congress did not
clearly delineate between the listed categories of uncopyrightable material, Nimmer on
The First Circuit’s decision was affirmed by an equally divided Supreme Court, so there is no reported opinion
from the Supreme Court.
Copyright § 2.06[A] (2017), and some courts do not find it necessary to distinguish among
them. E.g., Gates Rubber Co. v. Bando Chem. Indus., 9 F.3d 823, 836 n.13 (10th Cir. 1993).
Nonetheless, Defendants focus on § 102(b)’s exclusion of “methods of operation,” which has
been described as applying most readily to “instruction manuals or other directions for use
[which are] ineligible for copyright even though the precise textual expression of the manuals or
directions might qualify for protection.” Nimmer, § 2A.06[A][b]. Thus, for instance, one
could not copyright the method for driving a car (and thereby prevent others from producing
their own manuals for doing so), although one could copyright a specific treatise explaining how
to drive a car.
Lotus Development involved Lotus 1-2-3, a spreadsheet program that utilized a series of
menus and commands to perform functions such as “copy,” “print,” and “quit.”4 Lotus 1-2-3
was so popular that its menus and commands became second nature to users. In 1987, a
competitor (Borland) released a competing spreadsheet program that provided users with an
“alternate user interface” that allowed users to
see the Lotus menu commands on their screens and . . . interact with Quattro or
Quattro Pro as if using Lotus 1–2–3, albeit with a slightly different looking screen
and with many Borland options not available on Lotus 1–2–3. In effect, Borland
allowed users to choose how they wanted to communicate with Borland’s
spreadsheet programs: either by using menu commands designed by Borland, or
by using the commands and command structure used in Lotus 1–2–3 augmented
by Borland-added commands.
49 F.3d at 810. Lotus filed suit, contending the menus and commands for Lotus 1-2-3 were
copyrighted and that Borland infringed on that copyright by providing users of its competing
product the ability to utilize the same menus and commands.
Examples that are familiar to computer users today – and that may have been at issue in Lotus Development – are
(1) the command sequence of pressing the “CONTROL” and “P” buttons in order to display a menu of print
commands and (2) pressing the designated/underlined letter in a word to execute a command, such as pressing the
keyboard’s “P” button when one of the menu options is “Print.”
The First Circuit held that the menus and commands were not copyrightable because they
were the method of operating Lotus 1-2-3, explaining that methods of operation “are the means
by which a user operates something. If specific words are essential to operating something, then
they are part of a ‘method of operation’ and, as such, are unprotectable. This is so whether [the
words] must be highlighted, typed in, or even spoken . . . .” Id. at 816. The court then compared
Lotus 1-2-3’s “direction” to push certain buttons on the keyboard to the buttons on a VCR and
determined that Lotus’s “command terms are not equivalent to the labels on the VCR’s buttons,
but are instead equivalent to the buttons themselves.” Id. at 817. The court further contrasted
the computer commands from the labels on a VCR’s buttons, explaining that “[u]nlike the labels
on a VCR’s buttons, which merely make operating a VCR easier by indicating the buttons’
functions, the Lotus menu commands are essential to operating Lotus 1-2-3. Without the menu
commands, there would be no way to ‘push’ the Lotus buttons, [but] one could push unlabeled
VCR buttons.” Id. In other words, “CTRL+P” is literally the “button” that operates the program
– and the button cannot be copyrighted.
Even if Lotus Development provides the proper analytical framework for identifying a
“method of operation,”5 it does not entitle Defendants to judgment as a matter of law. Plaintiff’s
copyright covers the pictures it has placed on the TENS units’ “buttons,” not the buttons
Plaintiff’s icons are thus like “the labels on a VCR’s buttons” that Lotus
Lotus Development has not been adopted by the Eighth Circuit, which is significant because it has been rejected by
many others. See Oracle Am., Inc. v. Google Inc., 750 F.3d 1339, 1366 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (concluding discussion of
decisions from other circuits by observing that “[n]otably, no other circuit has adopted the First Circuit’s ‘method of
Plaintiff goes further, contending that it has a copyright not only on the individual icons/pictures, but also “the
overall screen layout, the design of the battery and intensity graphs, the design of the timer icons, and the various
border and line styles used throughout the screen.” (Doc. 164, p. 46.) In their Reply Suggestions, Defendants
contend that some of these components (such as the battery icon, timer, and intensity graphs) are so common that
they are not copyrightable. (Doc. 167, pp. 53-55.) The Court is inclined to agree, but is disinclined to consider the
issue because it was raised for the first time in Defendants’ Reply Suggestions. Moreover, it is not necessary to
Development described as copyrightable. The pictures are placed on the method of operation –
the buttons. They are not themselves the method of operating the TENS units, and they are not
transformed into the method of operation just because they are physically placed on the buttons
(instead of being placed above or below them). Therefore, the pictures are copyrightable.
(b) “Original Work”
To qualify for copyright protection, a work must be original. 17 U.S.C. § 102(a). This
means only that the work was independently created by the author (as opposed to
copied from other works), and that it possesses at least some minimal degree of
creativity. . . . The vast majority of works make the grade quite easily, as they
possess some creative spark, no matter how crude, humble or obvious it might be.
Originality does not signify novelty; a work may be original even though it
closely resembles other works so long as the similarity is fortuitous, not the result
Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co., 499 U.S. 340, 345 (1991) (quotations omitted).
Whether a work is “original” within the meaning of § 102(a) depends, at least in part, on facts
about the work’s creation. E.g., Home Legend, LLC v. Mannington Mills, Inc., 784 F.3d 1404,
1409 (11th Cir. 2015) (originality is a question of fact); Los Angeles News Serv. v. Tullo, 873
F.2d 791, 793 (9th Cir. 1992) (originality is a mixed question of fact and law).
Defendants contend that Plaintiff (or more precisely, Shawn Chen, the son of Plaintiff’s
owner) copied the icons from a competitor, so the icons that Plaintiff claims to have copyrighted
are not original. However, there is evidence in the Record (primarily from Chen’s deposition)
that indicates otherwise. Therefore, the Record does not conclusively establish that the material
is not original and the Court cannot grant summary judgment on this basis.
address this issue because the Court concludes that, at a minimum, the icons/pictures Plaintiff uses to depict the
TENS units’ functions are copyrightable. Defendants’ argument that the display includes non-copyrightable
components can be addressed at trial and resolved through appropriate jury instructions that focus the jury on the
2. Plaintiff’s Arguments Regarding Infringement
To establish infringement, Plaintiff must demonstrate that it owned a copyright on
material that was copied by Defendants. “[C]opying can be established by demonstration of
access (by the alleged infringer) and substantial similarity (between the works at issue).” Moore
v. Columbia Pictures Indus., Inc., 972 F.2d 939, 941-42 (8th Cir. 1992). In this case, factual
disputes prevent the Court from determining that these requirements have been met, so the issue
must be resolved by a jury.
The Court holds that Plaintiff’s copyrights are not invalid attempts to protect methods of
operating its TENS units. The Record does not establish that the copyrights are invalid because
they attempt to protect unoriginal material. Similarly, the Record does not conclusively establish
that Defendants violated the copyrights. For these reasons, both sides’ requests for summary
judgment are denied.
II. RAMPANT LION’S LANHAM ACT COUNTERCLAIM
The parties agree to the following facts (and some of these “facts” are actually legal
matters). There are a great many other facts discussed in connection with the Lanham Act claim,
but these are the only facts necessary to resolve the issues discussed in Part II(B), below.
Plaintiff operates a website through which it sells its products. Some of the product
descriptions indicated that the products in question were “FDA approved.”7 “However, to the
FDA, ‘approved’ technically means that each individual device is inspected, like the USDA
inspects all meat sold in the United States, which they [Plaintiff’s products] are not.” (Doc. 165,
The parties have argued about the extent to which Plaintiff’s website says “FDA approved” as opposed to “FDA
Approved,” as well as the potential significance of having the word “approved” capitalized. In light of the Court’s
holding there is no need to delve into this issue.
p. 28, ¶ 47 (Plaintiff’s statement of fact agreed to by Defendants); see also Doc. 163-9, p. 4.) In
contrast, a product that is “FDA cleared” means (to the FDA and others who know the technical
meaning to be attached to the phrase) that the product in question is substantially similar to
another device that is already legally marketed for the same use.
Given the technical meanings accorded to the phrases, Plaintiff’s products are “FDA
cleared” but not “FDA approved.” Thus, it was incorrect to say that Plaintiff’s products were
FDA approved, at least as that phrase is understood in terms of FDA regulations and procedures.
Plaintiff’s product descriptions also utilized the phrase “FDA cleared,” and some of Plaintiff’s
product descriptions actually used both phrases. Significantly for purposes of the legal issues to
be discussed, Plaintiff’s product descriptions do not say anything about Rampant Lion’s
Generally, the Lanham Act provides a cause of action against those who utilize a “false
or misleading description, or false or misleading representation of fact” in advertising that
“misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities, or geographic origin of his or her or another
person’s goods, services, or commercial activities.” 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)(1)(B).8 The Eighth
Circuit has held that there are five elements to a false advertising claim under the Lanham Act:
(1) a false statement of fact by the defendant in a commercial advertisement about
its own or another’s product; (2) the statement actually deceived or has the
tendency to deceive a substantial segment of its audience; (3) the deception is
material, in that it is likely to influence the purchasing decision; (4) the defendant
caused its false statement to enter interstate commerce; and (5) the plaintiff has
been or is likely to be injured as a result of the false statement, either by direct
The Lanham Act also prohibits advertising that is “likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive as
to the affiliation, connection, or association of such person with another person, or as to the origin, sponsorship, or
approval of his or her goods, services, or commercial activities by another person,” 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)(1)(A), but
Rampant Lion’s counterclaim does not invoke this portion of the Lanham Act. (Doc. 30, ¶¶ 34-35.)
diversion of sales from itself to defendant or by a loss of goodwill associated with
United Indus. Corp. v. Clorox Co., 140 F.3d 1175, 1180 (8th Cir. 1998). “In addition, to recover
damages a plaintiff must prove both actual damages and a causal link between defendant’s
violation and those damages.” Id. (quotation omitted).
The parties present several arguments, but the Court will focus only on those that are
necessary to resolve the fate of the Lanham Act Claim. Plaintiff contends that Rampant Lion
cannot establish the second element – that customers were or are likely to be deceived – because
it does not have customer surveys or other evidence typically used to establish this element.
Rampant Lion concedes that it does not have any such evidence, but insists that it is not
necessary in this case. The Court agrees with Plaintiff, but its analysis requires it to first
ascertain the “type” of misstatement that Plaintiff made when it described its products as FDA
1. The “Type” of Statement at Issue
As stated above, the first element of a Lanham Act claim requires a false statement. The
law recognizes different types of statements, and the type of statement affects how the other
elements may be proved. Thus, before considering what kind of evidence is necessary to prove
deception (the second element), the Court must first determine what type of misstatement is at
“The false statement necessary to establish a Lanham Act violation generally falls into
one of two categories: (1) commercial claims that are literally false as a factual matter; and (2)
claims that may be literally true or ambiguous but which implicitly convey a false impression,
are misleading in context, or likely to deceive consumers.” United Indus., 140 F.3d at 1180.
However, some statements are incapable of being false at all because they are insufficiently
specific. Such statements are “generally known as ‘puffery’ or ‘puffing.’ Puffery is exaggerated
advertising, blustering, and boasting upon which no reasonable buyer would rely and is not
actionable under” the Lanham Act. Id. (quotation omitted). “Nonactionable puffery includes
representations of product superiority that are vague or highly subjective.
descriptions of specific or absolute characteristics of a product . . . are actionable.” Id. (citations
omitted). Rampant Lion contends Plaintiff’s representation that its TENS units were “FDA
approved” is literally false. Plaintiff contends the representation was mere puffery or, at worst,
an ambiguous statement that was not literally false. As discussed below, the Court concludes the
statement was not puffery and was not literally false, but rather was an ambiguous statement that
was capable of conveying a false impression.9
The representation that the TENS units are “FDA approved” is not mere puffery.
“Puffery exists in two general forms: (1) exaggerated statements of bluster or boast upon which
no reasonable consumer would rely; and (2) vague or highly subjective claims of product
superiority, including bald assertions of superiority.” American Italian Pasta Co. v. New World
Pasta Co., 371 F.3d 387, 390-91 (8th Cir. 2004). Describing a product as having been approved
by the FDA is not merely boasting or exaggeration, nor is it a general claim of superiority. It
alleges a specific historical fact: that in some manner the FDA approved the TENS unit. The
representation is either true or false10 and therefore cannot be mere puffery. See United Indus.,
140 F.3d at 1180.
It is not settled (and the parties do not discuss) whether this is a question of law or fact. See Buetow v. A.L.S.
Enterprises, Inc., 650 F.3d 1178, 1186 n.5 (8th Cir. 2011). The issue need not be resolved at this time because there
are no factual disputes that affect the Court’s analysis.
Plaintiff makes this same point to argue that the statement is puffery, (e.g., Doc. 161, p. 36; Doc. 164, pp. 51-52),
but provides no authority to support its argument and does not explain how its representation qualifies as puffery
under American Italian Pasta or United Industries Corp. Plaintiff also suggests the statement is puffery because it
“used the term in a way that is common in the industry to boast about the quality and usefulness of its TENS units.”
The representation is also not literally false. “The standard for proving literal falsity is
rigorous. Only an unambiguous message can be literally false. When an ad can reasonably be
understood as conveying different messages, a literal falsity argument must fail. In assessing
whether an advertisement is literally false, a court must analyze the message conveyed within its
full context.” See Buetow v. A.L.S. Enterprises, Inc., 650 F.3d 1178, 1185 (8th Cir. 2011)
(quotations omitted; emphasis in original). Rampant Lion contends the representation that TENS
units have been “FDA approved” is literally false because under the FDA’s regulations there is a
difference between “FDA approved” and “FDA cleared,” and the FDA does not regard
Plaintiff’s TENS units as “FDA approved.” There is no doubt that the phrases mean different
things to the FDA, but that is not the test for literal falsehood. The question is, as Buetow
explains, whether the phrase is unambiguously false to consumers, which requires the Court to
determine if “the false message will necessarily and unavoidably be received by the consumer.”
Id. (quotation omitted; emphasis supplied).
The terms “clear” and “approve” have ordinary meanings, and the process necessary for
the FDA to “clear” TENS units – the process that actually applied to Plaintiff’s TENS units –
qualifies under the dictionary definition of “approval”11 even if there is a regulatory or technical
difference between “clearance” and “approval.”12
Considerable context (namely, the FDA
regulations) is required to understand why the phrase “FDA approved” was inaccurate, so the
(Doc. 161, p. 35.) Even if this fact is true, Plaintiff provides no authority establishing that a false statement of fact is
transformed into puffery just because others in the industry make the same false statement.
For instance, the online version of the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “approve” to mean “to have or express
a favorable opinion of” or “to accept as satisfactory.” (https://www merriam-webster.com/dictionary/approve (last
visited May 22, 2017.)
The fact that the FDA engaged in review of any kind differentiates this case from those cited in Rampant Lion’s
Reply Suggestions, (Doc. 167, p. 60), which involve claims of governmental approval when there was no
governmental review whatsoever. E.g., Fringe Ins. Benefits, Inc. v. Beneco, Inc., 2015 WL 631181, at *3 (W.D.
Tex. 2015) (“Beneco’s statements that its plan was Department of Labor approved were literally false. The plan was
not approved or endorsed by the Department of Labor in any way.”).
false impression will not be necessarily and unavoidably received by consumers. Therefore, the
representation Plaintiff’s TENS units were “FDA approved” is not a literal falsehood.13
The second element of a Lanham Act claim requires Rampant Lion to prove that a
substantial segment of the buying public was or could be deceived by Plaintiff’s claim that its
TENS units were FDA approved. The Court’s determination that the statement is not a literal
falsehood affects the manner in which Rampant Lion must prove this element.
“If a plaintiff proves that a challenged claim is literally false, a court may grant relief
without considering whether the buying public was actually misled; actual consumer confusion
need not be proved.” United Indus. Corp., 140 F.3d at 1180. But, if “a commercial claim is not
literally false but is misleading in context, proof that the advertising actually conveyed the
implied message and thereby deceived a significant portion of the recipients becomes critical.”
Id. at 1182. The need to demonstrate that a significant portion of consumers has been or could
be deceived requires more than a showing that one or a few consumers are deceived, so proof of
this element takes the form of consumer surveys. Id.; see also Blue Dane Simmental Corp. v.
American Simmental Ass’n, 178 F.3d 1035, 1043 (8th Cir. 1999); Rainbow Play Sys., Inc. v.
GroundScape Techs., LLC., 364 F. Supp. 2d 1026, 1032 (D. Minn. 2005).
Rampant Lion concedes that it does not have the surveys necessary to prove this element;
instead, it contends that it does not need surveys.14 On this point Rampant Lion relies primarily
The Court does not apply the law of the case doctrine to reach this result as invited by Plaintiff, (Doc. 164, p. 51),
because the Court has previously discussed the Lanham Act in the context of discovery disputes and has not
resolved this particular issue.
While conceding it has no surveys, Rampant Lion also points to a sentence from French’s deposition testimony to
establish that consumers have been deceived. (E.g., Doc. 163, p. 26.) When asked if he was “aware of any
customer that purchased a Healthmate product over [Rampant Lion’s] product because it said FDA approved,”
French testified: “It happens all the time in Hawaii.” (Doc. 163-14, p. 5.) This is not a survey. Moreover, it is not
competent evidence that can be considered to establish why consumers have or have not purchased particular
on its arguments that Plaintiff’s misrepresentation is literally false – but, the Court has rejected
Rampant Lion also suggests in passing that Plaintiff’s bad faith or willfulness can excuse
the need to prove actual or potential deception. (Doc. 163, p. 24.) This argument would be
rejected even if it were squarely presented because, given the nature of Rampant Lion’s Lanham
Act claim, bad faith and willfulness cannot substitute for a showing of actual or potential
deception. Willfulness gives rise to a presumption of deception only in Lanham Act cases where
false comparative advertising is alleged. Porous Media Corp. v. Pall Corp., 110 F.3d 1329,
1334-35 (8th Cir. 1997). A claim of false comparative advertising is predicated on two types of
claims, both of which involve or imply a comparison between products, such as “our product is
better than theirs.” E.g., EFCO Corp. v. Symons Corp., 219 F.3d 734, 739-40 (8th Cir. 2000);
United Indus., 140 F.3d at 1181-82; see also Merck Eprova AG v. Gnosis S.p.A., 760 F.3d 247,
259-61 (2d Cir. 2014) (discussing need to limit circumstances in which proof of deception can be
excused). “An important distinction must be drawn between cases applying the general rule, that
causation and injury must be proved, and cases of false advertising where the plaintiffcompetitor’s product is specifically compared or referenced.” Porous Media, 110 F.3d at 1335
(quotation omitted); see also McNeilab, Inc. v. American Home Prod. Corp., 848 F.2d 34, 38 (2d
Here, Rampant Lion has not presented a comparative advertising claim, and
Plaintiff’s website does not compare its TENS units to Rampant Lion’s.
willfulness on Plaintiff’s part would not obviate Rampant Lion’s obligation to prove actual or
products, and only competent evidence can be considered under Rule 56. E.g., Brooks v. Tri-Systems, Inc., 425 F.3d
1109, 1111 (8th Cir. 2005); Mays v. Rhodes, 255 F.3d 644, 648 (8th Cir. 2001).
Plaintiff’s statements that its TENS units are “FDA approved” are not literally false or
mere puffery. Therefore, to prevail on its Lanham Act claim Rampant Lion must prove that the
statements have actually deceived, or are capable of deceiving, consumers. Plaintiff concedes
that it does not have any such evidence, so summary judgment is granted to Plaintiff on this
III. RAMPANT LION’S TORTIOUS INTERFERENCE AND UNFAIR COMPETITION
Plaintiff seeks summary judgment on Rampant Lion’s second and third counterclaims,
contending that Rampant Lion has no evidence to support its claims. (Doc. 161, pp. 40-42.)
This argument is insufficient. To obtain summary judgment, the moving party must “show[ ]
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Plaintiff has not identified the absence of undisputed
facts; instead, it has simply declared that Rampant Lion has no facts and thereby attempts to shift
the initial burden and make Rampant Lion come forth with facts supporting its claims. The
nonmoving party’s obligation does not arise unless the moving party first identifies undisputed
facts entitling it to judgment as a matter of law.15 Plaintiff did not do this, so it has not
demonstrated it is entitled to summary judgment.16
Plaintiff’s request for summary judgment on Rampant Lion’s Lanhman Act claim was treated differently by the
Court for a variety of reasons, including Rampant Lion’s concession that it lacked evidence of actual or likely
Plaintiff’s argument that “none of the activities alleged by Defendants took place in Missouri [so] there is no
claim under Missouri law,” (Doc. 161, p. 42; see also Doc. 166, p. 20), is insufficiently developed to allow for
evaluation by the Court. Moreover, this argument only raises choice of law issues; even if Plaintiff is correct it
would only mean that Rampant Lion’s tort claims are governed by Hawaii law, which does not necessarily mean
that Plaintiff is entitled to judgment.
Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment is granted in part and Defendants’ Motion for
Summary Judgment is denied. The Court grants summary judgment to Plaintiff on Rampant
Lion’s counterclaim under the Lanham Act. The motions are denied in all other respects.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
/s/ Beth Phillips
BETH PHILLIPS, JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DATE: June 1, 2017
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