Brighton Collectibels, Inc. v. Marc Chantal USA, Inc. 2009 US Dist LEXIS 72362
Plaintiff sued Defendant for trade dress infringement as well as infringement of its “Brighton” trademark for Defendant’s use of the mark “Bristol” and its dangling heart trademark. Plaintiff prevailed on the trade dress claim, the jury finding that Defendant had willfully enggaged in infringment and unfair competition. Defendant prevailed on the other infringment claims. Part of the action was also voluntarily dismissed prior to trial. Both sides requested, and were denied, attorneys fees.
The court noted that an award of attorneys fees is discretionary and should only be granted in “exceptional” cases, which this was not. On the plaintiff’s side a finding of willfullness does not make a case exceptional. This was not a clear cut case of obvious infringment. Additionally, the jury awarded Plaintiff with Defendant’s net sales which were five times Defendant’s claimed net profits, therefore the compensatory award alone was sufficient to fulfill the Lanham Act’s goal of making acts of deliberate trademark infringment unprofitable.
On the Defendant’s side, the court noted that a case is only exceptional for the defense where a plaintiff’s case is groundless, unreasonable, vexatiour or pursued in bad faith.
District Judge Marilyn L. Huff
Plaintiff’s Counsel: Keith J. Wesley, Peter W. Ross, Browne Woods George LLP, Steven Winton, Winton, Larson & Solecki LLP
Defendant’s Counsel: Elizabeth Stanley, Kimberly Diane Howatt, Matthew Murphey, Steven Lawson, Gordon Rees LLP