A blog about patent, copyright and trademark law in the U.S. District Court
for the Southern District of New York

Dilution and Unfair Competition Claims Dismissed on Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

In an August 12, 2013 ruling, Judge Laura Taylor Swain granted defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings dismissing plaintiff Allied Interstate LLC's complaint against them.  Allied Interstate provides debt collection, among other services.  The defendants, Kimmel & Silverman P.C., are a law firm specializing in Fair Debt Collection Practices Act cases, and operate a website, www.creditlaw.com, to promote their services.  Allied Interstate asserted federal and state unfair competition-related and dilution claims arising from the defendants' alleged use of "Allied Interstate" on their website, in the metadata for the site (which is not typically viewable by a user of the site), and in their purchase of the phrase as part of Google's AdWords program.  Without reaching the issue of whether "Allied Interstate" is a famous mark, Judge Swain dismissed the dilution claims finding:  (1) the claim is inapplicable where the defendant uses the mark to refer to the mark owner's goods or services as defendants used the mark here; (2) defendants' use of the mark was a fair use; and (3) to the extent that defendants used the mark to draw a distinction between Allied Interstate's services and their own, the use fell within the comparative advertising exception to a dilution claim under 15 U.S.C. §1125(c)(3)(A)(i).  Concerning the unfair competition and false designation of origin claims, the Court found the allegations to be implausible formulaic conclusions.  Focusing on defendants' actual use of the "Allied Interstate" mark, Judge Swain ruled:
Defendants are plainly soliciting complaints about Plaintiff's services and inviting searchers and visitors to Defendants' website to consider suing the Plaintiff.  Nothing alleged in or attached to the Complaint provides any plausible factual support for the confusion element of Plaintiff's unfair competition and false designation of origin claims.  The Court finds that Plaintiff's generalized, conclusory assertions that Defendants' conduct constitutes a false designation of origin or association with Plaintiff's mark that is likely to confuse consumers are not supported by plausible factual pleading.
At plaintiff's request, the Court did grant plaintiff leave to file a motion to amend the complaint.
The general information and thoughts posted to this blog are provided only as an informational service to the web community and do not constitute solicitation or provision of legal advice. Nothing on this blog is intended to create an attorney-client relationship and nothing posted constitutes legal advice. You should understand that the posts by the author, who is an attorney at U.S. law firm Allegaert, Berger & Vogel, may or may not reflect the views of that firm and that the author of this blog is only authorized to practice law in the jurisdictions in which he is properly licensed to do so. For additional information, click here.