Central Manufacturing, Inc. v. Brett et al. 492 F. 3d 876 (7th Cir. 2007)
Central Manufacturing, Inc. (“Central”), the registrar of the “Stealth” trademark for baseballs, brought a Lanham Act and state law infringement action against Brett Brothers Sports (“Brett Bros.”), a baseball bat manufacturer that produced a bat of the same name. Brett Bros. is owned in part by Baseball Hall of Famer George Brett. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted summary judgment which Central subsequently appealed. The issues on appeal are whether the evidence presented by Central was sufficient for a finding of infringement, whether the district court abused its discretion by ordering cancellation of the registration, and whether the granting of attorney’s fees to Brett Bros. was warranted. The district court’s judgment was affirmed.
Central製造公司是有關棒球相關製品“Stealth”商標之所有人，其對Brett Brothers Sports公司，該公司係由棒球名人堂成員George Brett部分持股，提起聯邦商標和州法商標侵權訴訟。美國伊利諾州北區地方法院准予即決判決，Central製造公司隨後提起上訴，上訴的爭點在於，Central所提呈的證據是否足以認定對造侵權，法院是否濫用裁量為撤銷商標註冊令，是否判決應給付Brett Brothers律師費係有正當理由，二審維持一審之判決。
An action for trademark infringement can only succeed if the plaintiff owns the mark. Registration provides prima facie evidence of ownership that can be rebutted by competent evidence. More importantly, the mark must be used in commerce to ensure that entrepreneurs do not reserve brand names, making their competitors’ products more costly. If a court decision raises doubts about the validity of a trademark registration, a court may cancel the mark, so long as there is no abuse of discretion. Attorney’s fees and other costs may be awarded to the prevailing party “in exceptional circumstances.”
In 1984, Central’s owner and sole shareholder, Leo Stoller registered the Stealth mark for a variety of sporting goods and registered the mark for baseball bats in 2001.
Brett Bros. sold its first Stealth bat in 1999 and has sold 25,000 since.Stoller has licensed the mark and sent various cease-and-desist letters to business such as Kmart, Panasonic and even the stealth bomber.Similarly, Stoller sent a letter to Brett Bros. demanding $100,000. Brett Bros. argued that the mark was never used in commerce and requested that Stoller produce evidence to the contrary. The district court found that no valid evidence was produced that the mark was ever used in commerce and the court of appeals agreed. The court of appeals also found that there was no abuse of discretion in cancelling the mark as the registrant’s asserted rights to the mark were invalid.Finally, the court of appeals determined that under the Lanham Act there was no clear error in awarding attorney’s fees as Central’s actions in bringing the case were oppressive. The court of appeals affirmed the district court’s finding that Central produced no evidence of trademark infringement in that no documents were filed, that Stoller mislead the court with his testimony, and that his documents made a mockery of the proceeding. Therefore, the cancellation of the mark and the grant of attorney’s fees were justified.
1984年Central公司的所有人兼唯一股東Leo Stoller將Stealth標記申請註冊於運動用品，同時於2001年將該標記申請商標註冊於棒球棒。 Brette Bros於1999年售出印有Stealth第一枝棒球棒，從那時起共賣出25,000枝。Stoller有將該商標予以授權，同時發出警告信予諸如像Kmart, Panasonic ，甚至像stealth bomber等廠商。同樣地，Stoller對Brette Bros.發出警告函，要求100,000的賠償金。Brette Bros爭執該標記從未用於商業使用，要求Stoller提出證據。地方法院判決無任何有效證據可證該標記曾用於商業，上訴審亦同此見解。終審法院亦認定撤銷商標註冊無濫用裁量，商標權人主張就該標記有商標權，是無效的。最終，終審法院認定Central's提起本件訴訟判予律師費係苛刻的，在藍能法下並無明顯錯誤。 終審法院確認地院判決Central公司提不出商標侵害之證據，而Stoller用其證詞誤導法院，同時其文件對訴訟程序無助。是故，撤銷該商標及判賠律師費予以判決確定。