United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
AMENDED ORDER AND REASONS [*]
J. BARBIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Alliance for Good Government's
(“Alliance”) Motion for Attorney's
Fees (Rec. Doc. 61) and Coalition for
Better Government's (“Coalition”) related
Motion to Strike (Rec. Doc. 64).
Both sides were allowed opportunity to file opposition and
reply memoranda regarding each of these motions and did so.
Having considered the motions, memoranda, and the applicable
law, the Court finds that Alliance's motion should be
GRANTED and Coalition's motion should be
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
case arises from a trademark dispute between two nonprofit
political companies, Alliance and Coalition. Both entities
used their marks (“Alliance Marks” and
“Coalition Marks, ” respectively) or allowed
their marks to be used as an indication of endorsement of a
particular political candidate. As Coalition's counsel
admitted during oral argument, Alliance is the senior
trademark holder to its mark.
2016, Coalition used the Coalition Marks to endorse several
political candidates. Alliance filed a complaint alleging
among other claims, that Coalition had infringed its
trademark under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1114.
Coalition responded with its own counterclaim, motion to
dismiss, and motion for summary judgment. On October 11,
2017, the Court heard oral argument on the parties'
cross-motions for summary judgment.
hearing the Court ruled from the bench that Plaintiff was
entitled to summary judgment for trademark infringement under
15 U.S.C. § 1114. The Court found that despite
Coalition's assertions that one mark featured a
“hawk” and the other an “eagle, ” the
birds that formed the centerpiece of each mark were virtually
identical, if not exactly. The Court further found that the
only discernable difference in the marks was that
“Coalition” was substituted for
“Alliance” and that “better” was
substituted for “good, ” each being a synonym for
the word it replaced. The Court subsequently entered its
written judgment granting an injunction against
Coalition's use of the Coalition Marks or any other
similar marks likely to give rise to confusion and dismissed
all other claims.
final judgment, Plaintiff motioned for attorney's fees.
Defendant in turn motioned to strike language from
Plaintiff's motion and in opposition, requested the Court
bifurcate the determination of whether to grant fees from the
calculation of amount of fees and requested a hearing to
determine the amount in fees through oral testimony.
requests sixty-eight thousand two hundred thirty-seven
dollars and twenty-five cents ($68, 237.25) in attorney's
fees pursuant to section 1117(a) of the Lanham Act. Plaintiff
argues that this case meets the bar for
“exceptional” in the plain-meaning sense: this
case stands out from others. Plaintiff further argues it wins
on two independent grounds: the (1) strength of its
litigating position against defendant and (2) the
unsuccessful party's unreasonable litigation of the case.
support of its argument, Plaintiff claims that Coalition
unnecessarily expanded the litigation by (1) filing baseless
motions to dismiss and (2) counterclaims, (3) motioning for
summary judgment without record evidence, (4) issuing
redundant subpoenas, and (5) unreasonably refusing to
postpone depositions. Alliance further maintains that it had
an exceptionally strong case and that Defendant did all of
the above not with a reasonable expectation of succeeding on
the merits, but instead with the hope of bankrupting
Plaintiff with a deluge of court and attorney's fees.
support of its accusation, Alliance notes that as a nonprofit
its funding was a matter of public record and prior to
litigation, its available funds were listed at only $31, 275.
Coalition's lead counsel (also its president and
director) on the other hand, “earns millions of dollars
as a highly successful plaintiff's attorney as well as
from significant real estate holdings.” Alliance
attached the state court decision that was the basis for this
statement regarding Coalition's lead counsel's income
to its Motion.
takes exception to all of Alliance's accusations, but
particularly the quoted language above. Coalition claims that
this egregious conduct-Alliance's paraphrasing of the
public state court decision-will harm Coalition's lead
counsel's reputation by being a part of this matter's