Coach, Inc. et al v. Sapatis et al
ORDER denying 42 Motion for Summary Judgment. So Ordered by Judge Paul J. Barbadoro.(jna)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
Coach, Inc., et al.
Civil No. 12-cv-506-PB
Opinion No. 2014 DNH 140
Peter J. Sapatis, et al.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This case arises from the sale of counterfeit goods by
third party vendors at a flea market in Londonderry, New
Coach, Inc. and Coach Services, Inc.,1 purveyors of
designer handbags and other personal goods, have sued Peter J.
Sapatis, Londonderry Marketplace, LLC, Alaina E. Paul, and TABA
Enterprises, LLC, seeking injunctive relief and damages based on
alleged violations of federal trademark and copyright law.
and TABA moved for summary judgment.
I deny the motion.
A detailed background of this case is provided in a
previous order, Coach, Inc. v. Sapatis, 2014 DNH 021.
limit my discussion to those facts that are relevant to Paul’s
motion for summary judgment.
Coach, Inc. and Coach Services, Inc. have referred to
themselves collectively as “Coach” throughout the pleadings.
follow their lead here.
Paul is the owner, manager, and sole member of TABA, a
limited liability corporation that has both owned the
Londonderry Flea Market and leased the land upon which it
operates since 2008.
Doc. No. 30-5.
All vendors at the Flea
Market contract exclusively with TABA to rent space for their
Doc. No. 30-2.
Paul exercises direct control over all
of TABA’s employees, delegates certain duties to them, and
retains ultimate authority over them.2
Doc. Nos. 30-2, 47-4.
Paul also retains sole responsibility for TABA’s anticounterfeiting efforts.
Doc. No. 47-4.
Since 2008, Paul has been present at the Flea Market every
day that it has been open.
Although the bulk of Paul’s
day-to-day activities are devoted to the operation of the
concession stand, she admits that she is “responsible for
everything” at the Flea Market.
Doc. No. 42-11.
personally participates in activities such as “checking in
vendors who want to rent space, assigning them [to their
For instance, Paul delegated the task of supervising a group of
vendors at the Flea Market who sold handbags, accessories,
women’s wear, and other clothing to Linda Morrow, a TABA
employee. Doc. No. 42-11. The vendors who allegedly sold
counterfeit Coach products were part of this group. Id. The
Flea Market’s previous owner, Sapatis, was also significantly
involved in the Flea Market’s operations. See Sapatis, 2014 DNH
021, 18-19. Coach argues that Sapatis acted as Paul’s agent
despite not being employed by TABA, a contention I need not
address at this time.
spaces], listening to vendors[’] . . . suggestions, checking on
vendors, especially now to make sure that they’re following
policies[, and] . . . . help[ing] customers.”
Paul collaborates with Sapatis and Morrow to create and revise
the Flea Market’s vendor policies, which include a prohibition
on the sale of counterfeit goods.
Paul also controls the Flea Market’s e-mail account,
email@example.com, which is used to communicate
with customers and vendors.
Doc. Nos. 47-7, 47-8.
February 2011 and December 2012, 655 of the email messages sent
from this account identified Sapatis as the sender, 45
identified Paul as the sender, and an indefinite number of
messages failed to identify a sender.
Doc. No. 36.
Nevertheless, Paul alleges that she is the only person with
access to the account and is the only individual who has ever
sent messages from it.
Doc. No. 47-7.
She explained that she
wrote Sapatis’s name on email messages “[b]ecause he has more
knowledge than me, in certain instances.
People can’t get ahold of me.
I don’t have a cell
If they are going to call
the office, they would call [Morrow] or him.”
No email message sent or received since 2008 expressly
references Coach products, whether authentic or counterfeit.3
See Doc. No. 47-8.
Nonetheless, Paul responded to a number of
messages from customers who expressed a general interest in
purchasing counterfeit goods at the Flea Market, including the
types of products that Coach manufactures.
For example, on May
16, 2011, a customer asked whether the Flea Market “ha[s]
vendors with knockoff purses.”
Paul responded later that day
that “[t]here are so many sellers / vendors at this flea market
& a WIDE selection of items . . . .
You will find MANY bargains
- I’d say come & visit, with cash in your pocket!”
customer inquired on July 14, 2011 whether “your flea market
offer[s] knock off bags.”
Later that day, Paul responded that
“[t]here are so many items to look at & buy; including handbags
You most likely will be satisfied with
Another customer’s email message referenced the “1st
3-4 rows of vendors . . . selling the pocketbooks” – rows
In an interrogatory answer, Coach claims that at least one
customer sent an email message mentioning Coach products, Doc.
No. 42-13, but the alleged message has not been produced.
Paul initially misconstrued the customer’s email as an inquiry
about selling products as a vendor at the Flea Market. She
first sent the customer a list of vendor policies, including a
statement that “illegal & counterfeit items are not allowed.”
Doc. No. 47-8.
purportedly including the vendors selling counterfeit Coach
Additional messages inquired into whether counterfeit
goods imitating other designer brands could be purchased at the
On June 26, 2011, two private investigators working for
Coach inspected the Flea Market, purchased a number of
counterfeit Coach products from vendors, and served
approximately thirty vendors selling such merchandise with cease
and desist letters.
Doc. No. 53-3.
Paul claims that she was
working at the concession stand during the inspection and
learned of the inspection afterward from Morrow, who had
accompanied the investigators.
Doc. No. 42-11.
investigators returned to inspect the Flea Market on multiple
occasions over the next year.
They identified a number of
vendors who were selling counterfeit Coach goods during several
visits and informed Sapatis of that fact immediately following
at least one of the inspections.
Doc. No. 53-3.
On or about August 2, 2011, Paul received a letter from
Coach alleging that counterfeit Coach products were being sold
by Flea Market vendors and that those responsible for the Flea
Market’s operations could be held liable if they failed to stop
Doc. Nos. 36-1, 47-4.
Paul received a similar
letter on or about May 14, 2012.
Doc. No. 36-3, 47-4.
Paul nor any TABA employee ever communicated with Coach or any
of its representatives prior to Coach suing Paul and TABA in
Doc. No. 36-2.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Summary judgment is appropriate when the record reveals “no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed. R. Civ. P.
An issue is considered genuine if the evidence allows a
reasonable jury to resolve the point in favor of the nonmoving
party, and a fact is considered material if it “is one ‘that
might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.’”
United States v. One Parcel of Real Prop. with Bldgs., 960 F.2d
200, 204 (1st Cir. 1992) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)).
In ruling on a motion for
summary judgment, I examine the evidence in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party.
Navarro v. Pfizer Corp., 261
F.3d 90, 94 (1st Cir. 2001).
The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial
burden of identifying the portions of the record it believes
demonstrate an absence of disputed material facts.
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
In determining what
constitutes a material fact, “we safely can ignore ‘conclusory
allegations, improbable inferences, and unsupported
Carroll v. Xerox Corp., 294 F.3d 231, 237 (1st
Cir. 2002) (quoting Medina–Munoz v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.,
896 F.2d 5, 8 (1st Cir. 1990)).
Paul moves for summary judgment on the three remaining
counts in Coach’s amended complaint: (1) contributory trademark
counterfeiting (15 U.S.C. § 1114); (2) contributory trademark
infringement (15 U.S.C. § 1114); and (3) contributory copyright
infringement (17 U.S.C. § 501).5
In a prior order, I discussed
the relevant law pertaining to each of these claims.
Sapatis, 2014 DNH 021, 12-18, 23-25.
To succeed on its claims,
Coach must demonstrate that Paul (1) knew or had reason to know
of the alleged infringement of Coach’s trademarks and copyrights
at the Flea Market; (2) exercised sufficient control over the
I consider Counts I and II collectively under the more
frequently used term “contributory trademark infringement.” See
Sapatis, 2014 DNH 021, 11 (citing Sony Corp. of Am. v. Universal
City Studios, Inc., 464 U.S. 417, 489 (1984) (Blackmun, J.,
vendors engaged in the ongoing infringement;6 and (3) failed to
take sufficient steps to stop it.
See, e.g., 1-800 Contacts,
Inc. v. Lens.com, Inc., 722 F.3d 1229, 1254 (10th Cir. 2013);
Coach, Inc. v. Goodfellow, 717 F.3d 498, 505 (6th Cir. 2013);
Tiffany (NJ), Inc. v. eBay, Inc., 600 F.3d 93, 103 (2d Cir.
2010); see also Inwood Labs., Inc. v. Ives Labs., Inc., 456 U.S.
844, 854 (1982) (“[I]f a manufacturer or distributor
intentionally induces another to infringe a trademark, or if it
continues to supply its product to one whom it knows or has
reason to know is engaging in trademark infringement, the
manufacturer or distributor is contributorially responsible for
any harm done as a result of the deceit.”).
Here, Paul only
This element pertains to a claim for contributory trademark
infringement; in contrast, contributory copyright infringement
claims employ a “material contribution to the infringing
activity” standard. Sapatis, 2014 DNH 021, 24 (quoting
Fonovisa, Inc. v. Cherry Auction, Inc., 76 F.3d 259, 264 (9th
Cir. 1996)). Although the two standards are similar,
“[contributory] trademark infringement liability is more
narrowly circumscribed than [contributory] copyright
infringement.” Id. (quoting Fonovisa, 76 F.3d at 265); accord
Sony, 464 U.S. at 439 n.19. My statement in Sapatis remains
true here: “If a reasonable jury could find that [Paul’s]
actions satisfied the . . . contributory trademark infringement
standard, it could similarly find that they satisfied the less
stringent ‘material contribution’ standard for contributory
copyright infringement.” See id. Consequently, my discussion
of Coach’s contributory trademark infringement claim applies to
the contributory copyright infringement claim unless otherwise
attacks the first two elements: her knowledge of, and control
over, the infringing activity.7
Paul first argues that she cannot be held personally liable
because she was acting at all times as a representative of TABA,
the corporation that owns and operates the Flea Market.
sees it, she cannot be held personally liable for contributory
infringement because whatever knowledge she obtained or control
she exercised in her role as TABA’s owner, manager, and sole
shareholder may only be imputed to TABA.
She argues in the
alternative that, given her status as a corporate officer, she
may only be held personally liable for contributory infringement
if she was the “moving, active, conscious force who caused the
See, e.g., Chanel, Inc. v. Italian Activewear of
Fla., Inc., 931 F.2d 1472, 1478 n.8 (11th Cir. 1991).
arguments misstate the relevant law.
A Corporation’s Agents May Be Held Personally Liable For
Their Own Conduct
Contributory infringement in the trademark and copyright
context is a judicially-created doctrine rooted in basic common
law tort principles.
See, e.g., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios
I therefore take no position at this time as to the sufficiency
of any remedial steps undertaken by Paul or her associates to
stop the infringement. Cf. Coach, Inc. v. Gata Corp., No. 10CV-141-LM, 2011 WL 2358671, at *7-10 (D.N.H. June 9, 2011).
Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., 545 U.S. 913, 930 (2005) (“Although the
Copyright Act does not expressly render anyone liable for
infringement committed by another, these doctrines of secondary
liability emerged from common law principles and are well
established in the law.” (internal citations, alterations, and
quotation marks omitted)); Hard Rock Cafe Licensing Corp. v.
Concession Servs., Inc., 955 F.2d 1143, 1149 (7th Cir. 1992)
(“[Defendant] is responsible for the torts of those it permits
on its premises ‘knowing or having reason to know that the other
is acting or will act tortiously’ . . . .
In the absence of any
suggestion that a trademark violation should not be treated as a
common law tort, we believe that the Inwood Labs. test for
contributory liability applies.” (quoting Restatement (Second)
of Torts § 877(c) & cmt. d (1979)).
Because both the Lanham Act
and the Copyright Act are silent as to secondary liability for
another’s direct infringement, common law tort and agency
See, e.g., 1-800 Contacts, 722 F.3d at 1240
(citing AT & T Co. v. Winback & Conserve Program, Inc., 42 F.3d
1421, 1433–34 (3d Cir. 1994)) (“[T]he Lanham Act incorporates
common-law agency principles.”).
These principles clearly
indicate that Paul may be held personally liable for
contributory infringement, regardless of her relation to TABA.
A corporation can act only through its agents.
v. Bauman, 134 S. Ct. 746, 759 n.14 (2014).
Paul’s claim that TABA’s alleged contributory infringement
cannot be imputed to her personally places the cart before the
If TABA is to be deemed liable for contributory
infringement, it is because it is vicariously liable for the
contributory infringement of its agent(s).
(Third) of Agency § 7.04 (2006) (“A principal is subject to
liability to a third party harmed by an agent’s conduct when the
agent’s conduct is within the scope of the agent’s actual
authority or ratified by the principal; and (1) the agent’s
conduct is tortious, or (2) the agent’s conduct, if that of the
principal, would subject the principal to tort liability.”).
One must consider the personal liability of the corporation’s
agent(s) before there is any discussion of the corporation’s
It is true, as Paul argues, that her mere “status as an
officer of a corporation that has allegedly [contributorially]
infringed . . . without more, is not a basis for liability as a
See Desmond v. Chi. Boxed Beef
Distribs., Inc., 921 F. Supp. 2d 872, 886 (N.D. Ill. 2013)
(quoting Do It Best Corp. v. Passport Software, Inc., No. 01 C
7674, 2004 WL 1660814, at *15 (N.D. Ill. July 23, 2004)).
Actions taken or knowledge obtained by a corporation via its
agents is not imputed to its officers simply due to their
positions within the corporation.
See, e.g., Arista Records,
Inc. v. Flea World, Inc., No. 03-2670, 2006 WL 842883, at *18
(D.N.J. Mar. 31, 2006) (“[Individual defendants] are not imputed
to enjoy the same knowledge as their corporations, nor are they
presumed to have engaged in the same acts or omissions as their
corporations, merely by their status as corporate officers or
But it does not follow that the corporate form
automatically immunizes corporate officers from personal
liability for conduct undertaken on the corporation’s behalf.
See Mone v. Dranow, 945 F.2d 306, 308 (9th Cir. 1991)
(“[F]ederal common law hold[s] that corporate officers are
personally liable for their torts even if the torts were
committed on behalf of the corporation.”); Restatement (Third)
of Agency § 7.01 cmt. d ((“[A]n organizational officer is
subject to liability when the officer directly participates in
conduct that constitutes a tort.”); see also id. § 7.01 (“Unless
an applicable statute provides otherwise, an actor remains
subject to liability although the actor acts as an agent or an
employee, with actual or apparent authority, or within the scope
Paul’s personal contributory liability is
dependent on her own knowledge and control over the vendors’
alleged infringement, regardless of whether her actions or
omissions were taken in an official or personal capacity.8
Polo Fashions, Inc. v. Craftex, Inc., 816 F.2d 145, 149 (4th
Cir. 1987) (recognizing that a corporate official may be held
personally liable for trademark infringement even though he
acted to benefit the corporation).
The Same Contributory Liability Standard Applies to All
Paul next argues that, even if her individual knowledge and
conduct may be considered, she cannot be held personally liable
because she was not the “moving, active, conscious force who
caused the infringement.”9
To the extent that the test Paul
Thus, Coach need not pierce the corporate veil if Paul’s own
conduct would render her personally liable. See, e.g., Babbit
Elecs,, Inc. v. Dynascan Corp., 38 F.3d 1161, 1184 (11th Cir.
1994) (“[A] corporate officer who directs, controls, ratifies,
participates in, or is the moving force behind the infringing
activity, is personally liable for such infringement without
regard to piercing of the corporate veil.”); Restatement (Third)
of Agency § 7.01 cmt. d (“If an organizational officer
participates in wrongful conduct, the officer is subject to
liability . . . . [I]t is not necessary to ‘pierce the
corporate veil’ or ‘disregard the corporation’s existence as a
separate legal entity’ . . . .”).
Paul also argues that a corporate officer is only liable for
contributory or direct copyright infringement if he or she
“knowingly participates” in the infringing activity. See, e.g.,
cites is construed to impose a different standard than that
applicable to any other individual or entity charged with
contributory infringement,10 I disagree and decline to apply it
Many courts have used the “moving, active, conscious force”
language to analyze a corporate officer’s liability for
trademark, copyright, and patent infringement under both direct
and secondary theories of liability.
See, e.g., Chanel, 931
F.2d at 1477-78 & n.8 (direct trademark infringement); Power
Arista Records, 2006 WL 842883, at *17 (“[A]n officer or
director of a corporation who knowingly participates in
[copyright] infringement can be held personally liable, joint
and severally, with the corporate defendant.” (second alteration
in original) (quoting Columbia Pictures Indus., Inc. v. Redd
Horne, Inc., 749 F.2d 154, 160 (3d Cir. 1984)); see also 1 Niel
Boorstyn, Boorstyn on Copyright § 10.06, at 10–21 (1994)
(“[T]he common law doctrine that one who knowingly participates
in or furthers a tortious act is jointly and severally liable
with the prime tortfeasor, is applicable under copyright law.”).
To the extent that a “knowing participation” requirement implies
a different standard than that applicable to any other
individual or entity charged with contributory copyright
infringement, I decline to adopt it for the same reasons that I
discuss in the trademark context.
For instance, courts have interpreted the “moving, active
conscious force” standard to require that a corporate officer
“actively and knowingly caused the infringement.” See, e.g.,
Chanel, 931 F.2d at 1477. In contrast, an individual or entity
may generally be held liable for contributory infringement if it
fails to act once it has actual knowledge, has reason to know,
or is willfully blind to the fact that it is supplying a service
to one who is engaging in direct trademark infringement. See,
e.g., Inwood, 456 U.S. at 854; Hard Rock, 955 F.2d at 1149
(citing Restatement (Second) of Torts § 877(c) & cmt. d).
Lift, Inc. v. Lang Tools, Inc., 774 F.2d 478, 481 (Fed. Cir.
1985) (inducing patent infringement); Int’l Mfg. Co. v. Landon,
Inc., 336 F.2d 723, 728-29 (9th Cir. 1964) (same); Warren v.
John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 952 F. Supp. 2d 610, 618-19 (S.D.N.Y.
2013) (contributory copyright infringement); Microsoft Corp. v.
Suncrest Enter., No. C03-5424 JF (HRL), 2006 WL 1329881, at *7
(N.D. Cal. May 16, 2006) (contributory trademark infringement);
see also Major League Baseball Promotion Corp. v. Colour-Tex,
Inc., 729 F. Supp. 1035, 1043 (D.N.J. 1990) (corporate officer
who was the “conscious, dominant and active force” behind
infringing activity held liable for direct trademark and
The standard has also been employed in
at least one analogous flea market case.
Coach Inc. v. Kim’s
Management, Inc., No. 1:10-CV-02746-jJOF, slip op. at 36-37
(N.D. Ga. Feb. 28, 2012) (contributory trademark infringement).
Nevertheless, this precedent does not persuade me that the
standard should be applied to Coach’s claims against Paul.
The phrase “moving, active conscious force” first appeared
in Marks v. Polaroid Corp., 237 F.2d 428, 435 (1st Cir. 1956),
which considered whether a corporate officer could be held
liable under the Patent Act for “actively induc[ing]
infringement of a patent.”11
See 35 U.S.C. § 271(b).
standard was adopted by several courts considering § 271(b)
claims over the following three decades before it was first
extended beyond the patent context in Polo Fashions, Inc. v.
Branded Apparel Merch., Inc., 592 F. Supp. 648, 652 (D. Mass.
1984) (holding a corporate officer personally liable for a
corporation’s direct trademark infringement).
Without citing to
any section of the Lanham Act, the Polo Fashions court posited
that “[a]lthough a corporate officer is not always individually
liable for torts committed while acting on behalf of the
corporation, if the officer is a ‘moving, active conscious force
behind [the defendant corporation’s] infringement,’ then the
officer will be held personally liable” for trademark
Id. (second alteration in original) (quoting
Marks, 237 F.2d at 435).
The Polo Fashions court failed to provide any explanation
for this statement beyond its citation to Marks.
It also failed
to explain that it was borrowing a standard construing a
specific subsection of the Patent Act for application in the
trademark context, this despite the lack of an analogous
Marks was the first case to interpret § 271(b) following
Congress’s codification of secondary liability for patent
infringement in 1952.
provision in the Lanham Act.
The omission is particularly
notable given that the statutory provision at issue in Marks
dealt with “active induce[ment]” of patent infringement, see
35 U.S.C. § 271(b), rather than a separate Patent Act provision
prohibiting “contributory infringe[ment].”
See 35 U.S.C.
Lastly, it failed to acknowledge the Supreme Court’s
then recent statement that the “trademark right ‘has little or
no analogy’ to copyright or patent.”
See Sony, 464 U.S. at 439
The Supreme Court did not reference - much less rely on - the
Patent Act or cases construing it when it announced its twopronged standard for contributory trademark infringement. See
Inwood, 456 U.S. at 854. There is nevertheless a notable
similarity between the Inwood trademark standard and the two
subsections of the Patent Act concerning secondary liability for
patent infringement. Compare id. (“[I]f a manufacturer or
distributor  intentionally induces another to infringe a
trademark, or if it  continues to supply its product to one
whom it knows or has reason to know is engaging in trademark
infringement, the manufacturer or distributor is
contributorially responsible for any harm done as a result of
the deceit.”), with 35 U.S.C. § 271(b) (“Whoever actively
induces infringement of a patent shall be liable as an
infringer.”), and id. § 271(c) (“Whoever offers[,] . . .
sells[,] or imports . . . a component of a patented machine . .
. constituting a material part of the invention, knowing the
same to be . . . especially adapted for use in an infringement
of such patent . . . shall be liable as a contributory
infringer.”). Since Marks, courts have applied the “moving,
active conscious force” standard to § 271(b) “active inducement”
claims with some frequency, whereas no court has applied it to a
§ 271(c) “contributory infringement” claim. But cf. Rohm & Haas
Co. v. Dawson Chem. Co., Inc., 557 F. Supp. 739, 819 (S.D. Tex.
1983) (applying the “moving, active conscious force” standard
without clarifying which provision of the Patent Act it was
relying upon), rev’d sub nom. Rohm & Haas Co. v. Crystal Chem.
Co., 722 F.2d 1556 (Fed. Cir. 1983).
n.19 (quoting United Drug Co. v. Theodore Rectanus Co., 248 U.S.
90, 97 (1918)).
Courts following Polo Fashions have continued to apply the
“moving, active, conscious force” standard to determine whether
a corporate officer is personally liable in trademark (and
copyright) infringement claims, generally without explanation
beyond citation to prior cases.
Notwithstanding this line of
cases – none of which is binding on this court - the application
of a unique liability standard to a discreet class of defendants
in trademark and copyright infringement cases does not withstand
Contributory trademark and copyright infringement are
federal common law doctrines, and there is no common law basis
for imposing an alternative tort liability standard based solely
on a defendant’s status as an agent of an organization.
e.g., Restatement (Third) of Agency § 7.01 & cmt. d; Restatement
(Second) of Torts § 877(c) & cmt. d.
personal liability for contributory infringement will be judged
under the same standard that would apply to any other defendant.
See Sapatis, 2014 DNH 021, 14-15 (citing Lockheed Martin Corp.
v. Network Solutions, Inc., 194 F.3d 980, 984 (9th Cir. 1999);
Fonovisa, 76 F.3d at 265; Hard Rock, 955 F.2d at 1148–49)
(“[T]he relevant inquiry is . . . whether the defendant had
sufficient control over the individuals directly engaging in
Accordingly, I first consider Paul’s knowledge of the
vendors’ alleged trademark and copyright infringement before
determining whether she “had sufficient control over the
individuals directly engaging in” the infringement.
Paul’s Knowledge of the Infringing Activity
The threshold inquiry is whether Paul knew, or had reason
to know, of particular instances of trademark and copyright
infringement at the Flea Market.
See Goodfellow, 717 F.3d at
503 (citing Inwood, 456 U.S. at 854); see also Sony, 464 U.S. at
487 (Blackmun, J., dissenting) (citing Gershwin Publ’g Corp. v.
Columbia Artists Mgmt., Inc., 443 F.2d 1159, 1162 (2d Cir.
1971)) (“Contributory infringement has never depended on actual
knowledge of particular instances of infringement; it is
sufficient that the defendant have reason to know that
infringement is taking place.”).
Willful blindness of
infringing activity is sufficient to meet this standard.
e.g., Goodfellow, 717 F.3d at 503 (citing Hard Rock, 955 F.2d at
1149) (“[A] flea market operator who deliberately fails to
investigate suspected infringing activity by vendors . . . may
be subject to contributory liability.”); Luvdarts, LLC v. AT & T
Mobility, LLC, 710 F.3d 1068, 1073 (9th Cir. 2013) (citing
Global–Tech Appliances, Inc. v. SEB S.A., 131 S. Ct. 2060, 2070
(2011)) (“In order to allege willful blindness, [plaintiff] must
allege that [defendants] (1) subjectively believed that
infringement was likely occurring . . . and that they (2) took
deliberate actions to avoid learning about the infringement.”).
A reasonable jury could certainly find that Paul had
sufficient knowledge of specific acts of trademark infringement
at the Flea Market as of June 26, 2011, if not earlier.
date, Morrow accompanied two private investigators hired by
Coach as they inspected the Flea Market and served cease and
desist letters to approximately thirty vendors selling
counterfeit Coach products.
Paul was present at the Flea Market
and aware of the inspection as it was occurring.
from Morrow soon afterward that some vendors had been issued the
letters for selling counterfeit Coach products and that these
vendors had been asked to leave the Flea Market.
Paul testified that following the inspection, “I didn’t go
up there and [personally] tell [the identified vendors to
leave], because I don’t know who they are.”
Doc. No. 42-11.
But after her conversation with Morrow – a TABA employee
reporting directly to Paul with firsthand knowledge of the
infringing vendors’ identities - Paul clearly had reason to know
of particular instances of alleged infringement by particular
Paul was ultimately responsible for all aspects of the
Flea Market’s operations, including its anti-counterfeiting
efforts; if she neglected to ask Morrow to identify the relevant
vendors or failed to personally investigate the matter further,
she was likely willfully blind to the vendors’ unlawful conduct.
See, e.g., UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Sinnott, 300 F. Supp. 2d 993,
1000 (E.D. Cal. 2004).
Accordingly, Paul cannot credibly claim
that she lacked sufficient knowledge of the alleged trademark
Paul’s Control Over Vendors and Contribution to Their
Paul next argues that she did not “continue to supply
[services]” to vendors whom she knew or had reason to know were
infringing Coach’s trademarks because she did not exercise
“sufficient control over the individuals directly engaging in
It is unclear whether Morrow or Paul was aware that vendors
were allegedly infringing Coach’s copyrights as well as their
trademarks at the time of the June 26 inspection. The first
letter Paul received from Coach on August 2, 2011 only
references trademark infringement. Doc. No. 36-1. However, the
second letter that Paul received from Coach on or about May 14,
2012 alleges ongoing copyright infringement at the Flea Market.
Doc. No. 36-3. This second letter was sufficient to put Paul on
notice of the vendors’ alleged copyright infringement, at least
as of this later date.
DNH 021, 14-15.
See Inwood, 456 U.S. at 854; Sapatis, 2014
Paul’s responsibilities and conduct at the Flea Market
permit a reasonable inference that she “had sufficient control
over the individuals directly engaging in [trademark]
See Sapatis, 2014 DNH 021, 14-15.
typical presence at the Flea Market’s concession stand, Paul was
in close proximity to the infringing vendors every day that the
Flea Market was open.
She clearly had the right and ability to
police their conduct.
Cf. Perfect 10, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc.,
508 F.3d 1146, 1174 (9th Cir. 2007) (noting the significance in
Fonovisa that the defendant “had the ability to identify and
police infringing activity by patrolling its premises”); Gata,
2011 WL 2358671, at *7 (“The issue of proximity [between the
defendant and the infringing vendors] . . . is related to the
issue of control, which is a key component of the analysis.”).
Although Paul delegated many tasks to others, she actively
checked vendors in, assigned their spaces, verified their
compliance with policies she had helped to create, and received
Most importantly, TABA leased the space and provided the
support services necessary for vendors to allegedly sell
counterfeit Coach goods at the Flea Market.
Cf. Perfect 10,
Inc. v. Visa Int’l Serv. Ass’n, 494 F.3d 788, 799 (9th Cir.
2007) (“The swap meet operator in Fonovisa . . . increased the
level of infringement by providing a centralized place . . .
where infringing works could be collected, sorted, found, and
bought, sold, or exchanged.”); Fonovisa, 76 F.3d at 264 (“[I]t
would be difficult for the infringing activity to take place in
the massive quantities alleged without the support services
provided by the [flea market].
These services include, inter
alia, the provision of space, utilities, parking, advertising,
plumbing, and customers.”).
As the owner, manager, and sole
member of TABA, Paul bound TABA to contracts with third parties,
see, e.g., Doc. No. 30-5, and was ultimately responsible for the
decision to enter into, terminate, or refrain from terminating
vendors’ lease agreements.
See, e.g., Doc. No. 36-5
(“Counterfeit . . . items are not to be brought/sold at the flea
market. . . .
Management . . . reserves the right to refuse
admission to any vendor . . . at any time.”).
A jury could reasonably infer based on these facts that
Paul had the right and ability to exercise “[d]irect control and
monitoring of the instrumentality used by a third party to
infringe the plaintiff’s mark” and “to remove infringing
material . . . or directly stop their distribution” at the Flea
See Visa Int’l, 494 F.3d at 807 (quoting Lockheed
Martin, 194 F.3d at 984).
This is sufficient to render Paul
potentially liable for contributory infringement.
2014 DNH 021, 14-18, 23-25.
For the reasons discussed above, I deny the motion for
summary judgment.14 (Doc. No. 42).
United States District Judge
June 23, 2014
Erin Corbally, Esq.
Jeffrey K. Techentin, Esq.
Kyle Zambarano, Esq.
Lisa Snow Wade, Esq.
Robert S. Carey, Esq.
Jeremy T. Walker, Esq.
Nicholas F. Casolaro, Esq.
TABA has also moved for summary judgment with respect to
Coach’s state law unfair competition claim. Doc. No. 42. Coach
has since waived that claim with respect to both TABA and Paul.
Doc. No. 47-1. Consequently, I deny TABA’s motion as moot.
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