Hickory Farms, Inc. v. SnackmastersSnackmasters, Inc., No. 05 C 4541, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Apr. 2, 2008) (Kennelly, J.).

Judge Kennelly awarded defendant approximately $350,000 in attorney’s fees, costs and interest, based upon defendant’s fee petition. The Court previously held that plaintiff’s “Beef Stick” and “Turkey Stick” marks were generic and ordered their cancellation — click here for more on this case in the Blog’s archives. The Court also denied plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration of the genericness decision and held that defendant had a right to its reasonable attorney’s fees and costs because the case was exceptional. There were several noteworthy rulings in the opinion:

  • The Court held that defendant was owned not just its fees from the litigation, but also from the related TTAB because the substantive work and research in the earlier TTAB proceeding formed the core of defendant’s successful motion for summary judgment of genericness. It did not matter that defendant initiated the TTAB proceeding.

  • The Court awarded defendant its attorney’s fees for time spent searching the internet for third party uses of “Beef Stick” and “Turkey Stick.” Internet searching was not clerical work because review of each use of the marks required legal analysis. Furthermore, the Court relied on the fruits of that research in granting summary judgment.

  • The Court denied attorney’s fees for work related to the Seventh Circuit’s mediation program. The Seventh Circuit appeal was a separate proceeding and, therefore, it was not appropriate for the Court to award fees for work done that did not further this case, as the work in the TTAB proceeding did.

  • The Court held that an administrative charge of 4% of an attorney’s billings was reasonable and awarded it as part of attorney’s fees, as opposed to costs. Defendant’s counsel used the 4% administrative charge as a standard billing practice, instead of tracking long-distance telephone, copying, faxing and other incidental charges for each client and case. The Court held that 4% was a modest amount and was an “appropriate device” for estimating fees without incurring substantial overhead for monitoring those fees precisely.