Autotech Techs. Ltd. Partnership v. AutomationDirect.com, Inc., No. 05 C 5488, 2007 WL 2388794 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 17, 2007) (Holderman, C.J.).
Judge Holderman denied the parties’ cross-motion for summary judgment regarding the parties’ opposing trademark infringement claims regarding the “EZTOUCH” and “EZTEXT” marks. For approximately five years, the parties worked together with plaintiff manufacturing and defendant exclusively distributing a line of operator interface panels using the “EZTOUCH” and “EZTEXT” marks. When the business relationship deteriorated the parties disputed ownership of the marks and each attempted to register them with the PTO, as well as filing suits which were consolidated into this suit. The Court held that in a dispute between manufacturers and distributors, trademark ownership is first governed by contract and, if not resolved by contract, then presumed to be with the manufacturer. In this case, the parties agreed by contract that the trademark ownership was disputed. The Court, therefore, looked to a series of factors to determine whether ownership could be determined. The Court held that the parties raised factual disputes and competing positions which the trier of fact must weigh to determine ownership. The parties each presented evidence that they created and first used the marks in commerce. The parties both used their names in connection with the marks and controlled the quality of the products sold. And both parties paid for advertising involving the marks. The Court, therefore, could not decide trademark ownership or summary judgment.