BRANDYWINE PRODUCT GROUP INTERNATIONAL, INC. v. UNIVERSAL DISTRIBUTION CENTER LLC, et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge William J. Martini on 9/27/16. (gh, )
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
BRANDYWINE PRODUCT GROUP
Civ. No. 2:16-cv-02248 (WJM)
UNIVERSAL DISTRIBUTION CENTER
WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.:
This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary
injunction. Plaintiff, Brandywine Product Group International, alleges that
Defendant Universal Distribution Center LLC is selling household air freshener
products that infringe Plaintiff’s trade dress and design patent. For the reasons that
follow, the Plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunctive relief is DENIED.
The following facts are drawn from the Plaintiff’s Complaint and the parties’
submissions in connection with Plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction.
A. Plaintiff’s Business
Since 2006, Plaintiff Brandywine Product Group International (“BPG”) has
produced household air fresheners under the brand “Bright Air®” for retail and
wholesale markets throughout the United States. Compl. 6. The instant action
concerns BPG’s “flagship product,” a 14 oz. polymer cylinder containing a
fragrance-emitting gel. Each air freshener features an ornamental lid that is colorcoded to signify the type of fragrance emitted by the gel; for example, an orange top
denotes a scent of “Mandarin Orange & Fresh Lemon.” Heflin Decl. ¶ 10. The
Complaint further describes each lid as featuring “an array of oval slot openings
radiating outwardly from the center in offset rings that are suggestive of petals of a
flower.” Heflin Dec. ¶ 8. BPG was issued design patent D641, 464S (the “464
Patent”) in 2011 claiming “[t]he ornamental design for an air fresher dispenser lid.”
Compl. Ex. A. BPG has not registered for trade dress protection with the United
States Patent and Trademark Office.
B. The Instant Action
Plaintiff BPG brought this action in April of 2016 after discovering that
Defendant Universal’s air fresheners were being sold by Jack’s World in midtown
Manhattan.1 BPG brings claims for willful design patent infringement, trade dress
infringement and false designation of origin, deceptive acts and practices, and unfair
competition.2 On May 19, 2016, BPG moved to enjoin Universal from producing,
selling, marketing or distributing the allegedly infringing products, and to recall
those products previously distributed to third parties.
Without providing specific information about the scale of its production, BPG
asserts that it has built considerable goodwill and reputation for the product line at
issue. BPG reports investing at least $5 million in trade marketing activities, though
it does not specify what portion of this amount was spent on this particular line of
products. Heflin Decl. ¶ 15.
Universal’s products unquestionably resemble BPG’s Bright Air® products,
particularly as to the ornamental lid claimed in Patent 464.3 Universal argues that
Patent 464 is invalid because BPG has been selling its patented air freshener (or
some variation thereof) since 2006, and was therefore barred from receiving
protection under the Patent Act’s prior art rule when applying for protection in 2011.
35 U.S.C. § 102(b) (barring patent protection for inventions sold more than one year
prior to filing of patent application). BPG insists that the vent pattern claimed in
Patent 464 did not exist before 2011, and Universal has not produced actual evidence
to the contrary. Pl.’s Reply Mem. 10.
Jack’s World was initially named as a co-defendant in this lawsuit but was dismissed without
prejudice on 05/09/2016 by Order of this Court pursuant to Rule 41(a)(1).
Only the patent and trademark claims are discussed in BPG’s Memorandum of Law.
Universal’s products sell for $0.99, compared with BPG’s $2.99 products.
A preliminary injunction is an “extraordinary remedy, which should be
granted only in limited circumstances.” Novartis Consumer Health, Inc. v. Johnson
& Johnson-Merck Consumer Pharm Co., 290 F.3d 578, 586 (3d Cir. 2002). A
plaintiff must show (1) it is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) denial will cause it
irreparable harm; (3) granting the injunction will not result in irreparable harm to the
Defendant; and (4) granting the injunction is in the public interest. Nutrasweet Co.
v. Vit-Mar Enterprises, 176 F.3d 151, 153 (3d Cir. 1999). “The burden lies with the
plaintiff to establish every element in its favor, or the grant of a preliminary
injunction is inappropriate.” P.C. Yonkers, Inc. v. Celebrations the Party and
Seasonal Superstore, LLC, 428 F.3d 504, 508 (3d Cir. 2005) (citations omitted).
Because BPG has failed to demonstrate that irreparable harm is likely absent
injunctive relief, its motion for preliminary injunctive relief is denied.
A. Irreparable Harm
The Patent Act authorizes courts to grant injunctive relief “according to the
principles of equity.” 35 U.S.C.A. § 283; eBay v. MercExchange, LLC, 547 U.S.
388, 393-94 (2006).4 For the “extraordinary remedy” of an injunction, Plaintiff BPG
must provide a “clear showing” that irreparable harm is likely absent such relief.
Ferring Pharm., Inc. v. Watson Pharm., Inc., 765 F.3d 205, 217 (3d Cir. 2014). A
mere “possibility” of harm will not suffice. Id. BPG fails to meet this standard
because it offers no evidence that irreparable harm is likely.
In Ferring Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the Third Circuit held that presuming
irreparable harm from a finding of likely success on the merits “is inconsistent with
. . . [the] principles of equity” that guide a court’s decision of whether to grant
preliminary injunctive relief. Ferring Pharm., Inc. v. Watson Pharm., Inc., 765 F.3d
205, 217 (3d Cir. 2014). See 7-Eleven, Inc. v. Sodhi, 2016 WL 541135, at *5–6
(D.N.J. Feb. 9, 2016); Buzz Bee Toys, Inc., 20 F.Supp.3d 483, 494-95 (D.N.J. 2014)
(explaining that “irreparable harm must be established as a separate element,
regardless of whether a plaintiff has shown infringement.”) (quoting eBay v.
MercExchange, LLC, 547 U.S. 388, 393-94 (2006)). Enjoining Universal absent
some minimal evidentiary showing would require a presumption of irreparable harm
As the Plaintiff observes, the same analysis applies in design patent and trade dress cases. 15
U.S.C. § 1116(a) (Lanham Act); Ferring Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Watson Pharmaceutircals,
Inc., 765 F.3d 205 (2014).
and “would relieve the plaintiff of her burden to make such a showing.” Ferring
Pharm., Inc., 765 F.3d at 217.
To begin with, BPG provides no evidence of the reputation or brand loyalty it
argues is likely to sustain irreparable harm. MHA, LLC v. Siemens Healthcare
Diagnostics, Inc., 2015 9304543, at *4 (D.N.J. Dec. 21, 2015). For instance, the
record contains no consumer feedback in the form of surveys or consumer reviews
or evidence that BPG’s product has been featured in trade publications. Def. Memo.
Opposing Prelim. Inj. 4. Nor does BPG state what percentage of its revenue comes
from sales of its “flagship” product line. The Court thus has no basis for estimating
the likely extent of BPG’s injury relative to the size of the company. The Court
cannot find, for instance, that diminished sales would seriously jeopardize BPG’s
future by depriving it of critical revenue. See Janssen Prod. L.P. v. Lupin Ltd., 109
F. Supp., at 702 (testimony of financial expert shows “that the competition with
[plaintiff’s] direct competitor will lead directly to the destruction of [plaintiff’s]
BPG also fails to provide evidence that the volume and regional scope of
Universal’s activity is sufficient to damage BPG’s brand or diminish its market
share. Conair Corp. v. Barbar, Inc., No. 6:14-CV-831-ORL-31, 2014 WL 2993724,
at *2 (M.D. Fla. July 3, 2014) (finding no irreparable harm where “volume of
Defendants’ sales is de minimis”). Rather, BPG asks the Court to hold that
irreparable harm is imminent and likely based on the sale of allegedly infringing
products at a single retail location. As it stands, BPG reports substantial revenue
growth in spite of Universal’s entry into the market; certainly it has not demonstrated
that it has already been harmed. See Am. Beverage Corp. v. Diageo N. Am., Inc., 936
F. Supp. 2d 555, 614–15 (W.D. Pa. 2013) (denying relief where plaintiff failed to
show “a measurable decrease in the plaintiff's sales . . . correspond[ing] to sales
increases for the defendant.”). See also Janssen Prod., L.P. v. Lupin Ltd., No. 105954 (WHW), 2016 WL 1029269 (D.N.J. Mar. 15, 2016) (“A showing of lost market
share and sales can support a finding of irreparable harm required for injunction in
patent infringement action.”). The Court has little factual record on which to rule
that irreparable harm to BPG’s place in the market is likely and imminent.
Similarly, BPG cannot meet its burden of production merely by stating that
“potential damage to BPG’s reputation and brand loyalty” is likely to ensue from
Universal’s conduct. While evidence of intangible harm is often elusive, the law
nonetheless requires BPG to “demonstrate that irreparable injury” of such nature is
likely to flow from the sale of Universal’s products. Winter v. Natural Res. Def.
Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 22 (2008) (emphasis added); 7-Eleven, Inc. v. Sodhi, 2016
WL 541135, at *5–6 (D.N.J. Feb. 9, 2016) (denying injunctive relief where plaintiff
failed to provide “a factual basis for why harm is likely to occur.”). BPG correctly
observes that copying design patterns “creates a potential for [the] owner to lose
control of its property rights . . . [and] cause damage to the owner’s reputation,” Pl.’s
Mot. 32; but irreparable harm must be likely, not “potential.” Buzz Bee Toys, Inc.,
20 F.Supp.3d, at 513.
BPG argues that the similarity in appearance of the two product lines “will
likely result in consumers mistakenly purchasing Defendant’s products under the
incorrect assumption that they are purchasing BPG’s products, and any defect or
problem with the Defendant’s product would inappropriately be attributed to BPG.”
Mem. Supp. Mot. Prelim. Inj. 32. That concern is not unreasonable. As in Buzz Bee
Toys, Inc., however, “Plaintiff has not shown that any consumers blame [the Plantiff]
for or associate [the Plaintiff] with [the Defendant’s] product failures, if any.” Buzz
Bee Toys, Inc., 20 F.Supp.2d, at 513. Nor has BPG specified any aspect of
Universal’s product design likely to generate consumer dissatisfaction. Hypothetical
or speculative harm cannot provide a basis for enjoining Universal without further
development of the record. Am. Beverage Corp. v. Diageo N. Am., Inc., 936 F. Supp.
2d 555, 614–15 (W.D. Pa. 2013). Finally, Groupe SEB USA v. Euro-Pro Operating
LLC is inapposite, because that case involved a defendant’s false statements of fact
claiming the plaintiff’s product to be inferior, from which the court could reasonably
infer that harm to goodwill and reputation was likely. 774 F.3d 192 (3d Cir. 2014).
Here, the mere fact that Universal has sold allegedly infringing products does not
permit such an inference.
B. Likelihood of Success on the Merits
Given BPG’s failure to demonstrate the irreparable harm required for
injunctive relief, the Court limits its analysis of likely success on the merits to the
following observations. See, e.g., Checker Cab of Philadelphia, Inc. v. Uber
Technologies, Inc., --- Fed. Appx. ----, 2016 WL 929310, at *2 n. 6 (3d Cir. 2016)
(where plaintiff fails to meet one of the four elements required for a preliminary
injunction, a court need not determine whether the other elements have been met).
The statutory presumption of patent validity applies at all stages of litigation,
including preliminary injunction proceedings. 35 U.S.C. § 282. See Canon
Computer Sys., Inc. v. Nu-Kote Int’l, Inc., 134 F.3d 1085, 1088 (Fed. Cir. 1998). To
rebut the presumption of validity based on prior art, Universal must show “by clear
and convincing evidence” that the vent pattern claimed in Patent 464 existed more
than one year prior to BPG’s filing with the United States Patent and Trademark
Office. Ethicon v. End-Surgery, Inc. v. Covidien, Inc., 796 F.3d 1312, 1328 (Fed.
Cir. 2015). Universal has offered no such evidence. Further, based on the record
provided by the parties, the Court acknowledges the obvious similarity in the parties’
respective product lines. See Egyptian Goddess, Inc. v. Swisa, Inc., 543 F.3d 665,
676 (Fed. Cir. 2008).
Analysis of the merits of BPG’s trade dress infringement claim is premature
and unnecessary at this stage of the litigation.
Because Plaintiff has not made the requisite showing for a preliminary injunction,
the motion is DENIED.
/s/ William J. Martini
WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.
September 27, 2016
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