American Taxi Dispatch, Inc. v. American Metro Tax & Limo Co., __ F. Supp.2d __, 2008 WL 4616855 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 20, 2008) (St. Eve, J.).
Judge St. Eve permanently enjoined defendants’ (collectively “Metro”) use of trademarks infringing plaintiff American Taxi’s American Taxi marks, and awarded American Taxi damages in the amount of Metro’s gross sales as well as attorney’s fees. American Taxi began using its marks in 1975. Metro incorporated and began using their American Metro Taxi marks in early 2007. American Taxi filed the instant suit for trademark infringement, Lanham Act unfair competition and related state law claims. Metro initially defended itself, but after repeatedly missing deadlines th Court entered a default judgment and allowed American Taxi to submit proofs, which led to this opinion.
Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(c), the award could not exceed in form or amount what was demanded in the pleadings. The Court held that the complaint justified a permanent injunction. American Taxi alleged that Metro’s infringing acts harmed American Taxi’s goodwill, and the Seventh Circuit has held that damage to goodwill can constitute irreparable harm. And American Taxi backed up its complaint with an affidavit detailing actual confusion between the marks. Furthermore, a tailored injunction would not put Metro out of business. In fact, Metro’s owner claimed that Metro had been dissolved. So, the balance of harms weighed in American Taxi’s favor. And finally, there is a public interest in knowing whom they conduct business with, which favored an injunction. The Court, therefore, permanently enjoined Metro and its affiliates, successors and assigns from using its marks or any others that were confusingly similar to the American Taxi marks.
The Court then awarded damages in the amount of Metro’s provable gross sales. The Court focused its analysis on the Seventh Circuit’s recent WMS Gaming, Inc. v. WPC Prods. Ltd. decision in which the Seventh Circuit held that plaintiff need only prove gross sales and then the burden shifts to defendant to prove its costs — click here to read the Blog’s post about that decision. As a result, where defendant is in default, plaintiff’s may be awarded defendant’s gross profits.
Finally, the Court held that the case was exceptional, warranting an award of attorney’s fees. But the Court limited the amount of fees because the request was “less than a model of clarity” and it was not clear from the submission which of the time entries were appropriate.