Now This is Swift Justice...Trade Dress Infringement Case Resloved in 48 Hours

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Trade Dress Infringement Case Resolved in 48 Hours

"The wheels of Justice grind slow…" a phrase often attributable to Sun Tzu, trial lawyers and judges alike in trying to console away a litigants' frustration over the length of time it takes to resolve a dispute in the court system.

However, a recent Trade Dress Infringement case was resolved, in a remarkable forty-eight (48) hours, something not commonly heard of in the civil litigation arena.

Plaintiff*, a leading manufacturing of woodworking products, filed for binding arbitration pursuant to a binding arbitration clause in a distribution agreement against Defendant*. Plaintiff alleged trade dress infringement and unfair competition by Defendant, who terminated the distribution agreement and went into competition with Plaintiff. Plaintiff sought injunction and damages.

According to Orange County Attorney Douglas Pettibone, Defendant a former distributor for Plaintiff, allegedly used photographs of Plaintiff's products in its catalog and on its website and was believed to have been selling actual Plaintiff product as Defendant's own. Plaintiff alleged Defendant then contacted Plaintiff's customer's, using a list obtained when Defendant was a distributor. According to Plaintiff, Defendant then offered similar products to those of customers at discounted rates. In its arbitration response Defendant, who responded without an attorney, denied the allegations and claimed Plaintiff was using its power and money to bully Defendant out of a legitimate business operation.

Once the parties agreed to arbitration Plaintiff's attorneys promptly moved for an emergency order restraining Defendant from contacting any customers and to redact the catalog and pictures on the website. The application was granted. According to Plaintiff's attorney Douglas Pettibone, after the application was granted, the arbitrator then turned the hearing into a settlement conference.

Pettibone says, "The entire case was resolved, from the date of filing the application for temporary restraining order, start to finish in less than 48 hours." However, according to Pettibone the credit clearly goes to the judge who took the initiative to get settlement talks going right away, after the restraining order was granted which the parties voluntarily agreed to do that same day.

Trade dress infringement is a form of infringement in which a product has an exterior design which mimics that of another product.

Most experts say such cases can sometimes be challenging to try, especially if a company has not been aggressive about protecting its trade dress in the past. Companies, such as the Plaintiff, protected their trade dress because they are concerned about consumer confusion.

While it is said that imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, in cases of Trade Dress Infringement this may not always be the case.

  • Plaintiff's name is omitted because of confidential mediation.
  • Defendant's name is omitted because of confidential mediation.


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Douglas Pettibone
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