Federal Judge Rejects Falcon's Claim That Rino's Products Are Not ASME Compliant

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In response to Falcon Stainless, Inc.'s request for a preliminary injunction against competitor Rino Companies, a federal judge has rejected Falcon's trademark infringement arguments, finding that Falcon was unlikely to succeed on those claims. The court also rejected Falcon's argument that Rino's products failed to comply with standards promulgated by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

Falcon Stainless, Inc., the nation's largest maker of stainless steel, corrugated water connectors, has sued competitor Rino Companies in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, case number SA CV 08-926 AHS. As part of its lawsuit, Falcon also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against Rino. The federal court has now decided Falcon's preliminary injunction motion and has rejected Falcon's primary claims.

Falcon asserts in its lawsuit that Rino is liable for trademark infringement for using a numbering system on its connectors that is similar to the numbering system used by Falcon. The federal court rejected that argument, ruling that Falcon was unlikely to prevail on its claim. The court found that the numbering system is functional and therefore "not subject to trademark protection under the Lanham Act."

The court also rejected Falcon's argument that Rino is liable for trademark infringement for using a mark on its connectors similar to Falcon's diamond "F" mark, finding that Falcon is unlikely to prevail on that claim as well. The court found ruled that Falcon's mark and Rino's mark are different; Falcon uses a diamond and Rino uses a square, and the parties use different letters inside their geometric shapes. The court also ruled that Falcon cannot prove secondary meaning for its mark and was therefore unable to prove that it has "a protectable trademark interest in its diamond 'F' mark."

The court also rejected Falcon's argument regarding ASME compliance. Rino advertises that its products satisfy ASME standards. Falcon asserted in its preliminary injunction motion that Rino's products do not satisfy ASME standards and, therefore, that Rino is engaged in false advertising when it claims otherwise. The court sided with Rino. The court noted that IAPMO has certified Rino's products as ASME A112.18.6 compliant and that Falcon did not provide evidence that IAPMO's certification of Rino's products was invalid or false. Therefore, according to the court, Falcon was unable to prove that it is likely to prevail on its claim that Rino's advertisement of its ASME 112.18.6 certification is false.

In response to Falcon's lawsuit, Rino has filed counterclaims against Falcon for, among other things, antitrust violations, false advertising, and defamation. Rino intends to pursue those counterclaims aggressively in the months ahead.

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