March 10, 2011

Trademark Plaintiff Denied Infringement Damages

Rodgers v. Wright, 04 Civ. 01149 (RJH), NYLJ 1202484847172, at *1 (SDNY, Decided March 1, 2011)

Judge Holwell holds (1) plaintiff is not granted damages; (2) plaintiff is not granted attorneys' fees; and (3) the permanent injunction need not be modified.

Plaintiff Nile Rodgers, a founder of the music group Chic, brought the trademark infringement action against two singers who once performed as part of Chic, defendants Norma Jean Wright and Luci Martin. Rogers is the owner of a registered trademark in "Chic," and, along with his late partner Bernard Edwards, has exploited the mark in commerce continuously since 1977. Wright and Martin claimed no ownership of the mark, but had performed in the United States and abroad as "Ladies of Chic" and "Original First Ladies of Chic," and sometimes simply as "Chic." The Court previously found (1) that plaintiff's mark was protectable; (2) that defendants' uses of "Chic," "Ladies of Chic," and "Original First Ladies of Chic," were likely to cause confusion; (3) that defendants could not establish a fair use defense; and (4) that any relevant injunction should have extraterritorial effect. Thereafter, the Court permanently enjoined defendants and each of their agents, servants, employees, attorneys, and persons in active concert or participation with them from using or commercially exploiting the word "Chic" anywhere in the world, generally and specifically in connection with concert promotion, publicity, and performance; and also established other restrictions.

Plaintiff sought defendants' profits under Section 35 of the Lanham Act. The Court concluded that plaintiff had failed to establish that defendants acted with willful deception, and therefore that plaintiff was not entitled to an award of profits. "Having not presented any evidence of willfulness, and as it appears that defendants' actions were not willful, awarding damages in this case would be inappropriate."

Plaintiff also sought attorneys' fees. The Court denied the motion because plaintiff failed to show oppressive litigation tactics or bad faith.