Lorillard Tobacco Co. v. Montrose Wholesale Candies & Sundries, Inc., No. 03 C 5311 & 03 C 4844, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jul. 27, 2007) (Cole, J.).*
Judge Cole recommended granting plaintiff Lorillard Tobacco’s (“Lorillard”) petition for attorneys fees, but reduced the requested fees by about $80,000. Lorillard received a default judgment against defendants in 2006 and, as a result, brought this petition seeking its fees and costs. The Court’s opinion is an excellent guide for anyone preparing a fee petition. The Court refused to consider Lorillard’s costs because although Lorillard submitted a list of costs, it did not total the costs or discuss them in its petition and supporting declaration. Next, the Court accepted most of the costs for the four attorneys whose billing rates were explained in the supporting declaration, but denies any fees for the other nineteen people whose fees were not explained in the declaration. The Court notes that these nineteen people could be partners, associates or paralegals, but the Court cannot assess the reasonableness of their rates or billed activities without knowing their roles. And even for the four, the Court notes that it would have preferred some explanation of each attorney’s experience in past Lanham Act cases, in order to judge whether the attorneys’ billing rates were commensurate with their experience.
Coilcraft, Inc. v. Inductor Warehouse, Inc., No. 98 C 0140, 2007 WL 2071991 (N.D. Ill. Jul. 18, 2007) (Cole, J.).
Judge Cole recommended that the Court grant plaintiff’s motion for contempt. The parties previously settled this trademark case and agreed to a consent judgment which required, among other things, that defendants include “prominent” disclaimers on any advertisements, including webpages, offering plaintiff’s products for sale from the secondary market. Plaintiff filed a motion for contempt arguing that defendant’s website did not include prominent disclaimers. The Court agreed, explaining that prominence could be achieved in several ways, but that “fine print” was not one of them:
Being a relational and contextual concept, “prominence” may be achieved in any number of ways: placement of words, type size, typeface, text color, etc. Prominence, however, is not achieved by the use of fine print disclaimers that are substantially smaller than any other print on a page.
Practice tip: When drafting settlement agreements, or other contracts, watch out for subjective words like “prominence.” If you expect that you may need to enforce the agreement* later, try to define subjective terms in more objective ways. For example, plaintiff in this case could have required that the disclaimer be at the top of each page in bolded font at least four points larger than the largest print on the page.
* If you expect that the agreement might be enforced against you, subjective terms may be beneficial.
Fast Food Gourmet, Inc. v. Little Lady Foods, Inc., No. 05 C 6022, 2007 WL 1673563 (N.D. Ill. Jun. 8, 2007) (Cole, J.).
Judge Cole denied plaintiff Fast Food Gourmet, Inc.’s ("FFGI") motion to compel responses to interrogatories, in this trade secret case involving frozen pizzas (you can read more about this case in the Blog’s archives). FFGI served defendants with an interrogatory seeking information regarding which brands of frozen pizza (aside from the accused DiGiorno Thin Crispy Crust Pizza) defendants baked in the ovens which were allegedly part of FFGI’s trade secret crust-making process for stone hearth oven, thin crust, frozen pizzas. Defendants objected to the interrogatory, which led to a meet and confer between the parties on February 15, 2007, two weeks before the close of fact discovery on March 1. The meet and confer did not resolve the dispute. On April 1, FFGI submitted its expert reports and then, six weeks after the close of discovery, FFGI moved to compel responses to the interrogatories. But FFGI failed to notice the motion until more than one month later on May 18. The Court noted that, while it had discretion to grant the motion, motions to compel filed after the close of fact discovery are generally held to be untimely unless accompanied by a "reasonable and persuasive justification" for the delay. FFGI, however, provided no justification for its delay.