Geisha LLC d/b/a Japonais v. Tuccillo, No. 05 C 5529, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Mar. 13, 2009) (Pallmeyer, J.).*
Judge Pallmeyer denied plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment regarding its Lanham Act false designation claim. Plaintiff began using the Japonais mark in conjunction with its Chicago area European/Japanese fusion restaurant in 2003. Plaintiff later opened New York and Las Vegas locations. But plaintiff did not register the Japonais mark. In 2004, defendant filed an intent to use trademark application for the Japonais mark to be used in connection with restaurants. In order to receive the registration, defendant was required to use the mark in commerce. Once that use occurred and was properly documented, defendant’s mark would have a 2004 constructive use date, as opposed to the later date of actual first use. Defendant has filed a verified statement of use, so the parties agree that defendant’s registration is a formality. Plaintiff, however, believed that it would succeed in a cancellation proceeding against the mark.
The Court noted that as the senior user, plaintiff had a right to use the mark in the Chicago area. But there was a question of fact as to whether plaintiff’s later opened New York restaurant had sufficiently penetrated the New York market before defendant’s 2004 constructive use date. Furthermore, to the extent plaintiff had actual notice of defendant’s application, any rights plaintiff might have had in New York would not be enforceable against defendant. Furthermore, the Court noted that granting plaintiff’s motion could result in the bizarre outcome of defendant being liable for violating plaintiff’s trademark today, but tomorrow, after issuance of defendant’s mark, defendant may be able to assert the trademark against plaintiff.