Articles Tagged with Chicago business litigation and trial lawyers near Hinsdale and Naperville

We all know that the Supreme Court is responsible for interpreting and clarifying the law. When a dispute between two or more parties reaches the Supreme Court, the Court’s decision in that case has the potential to influence American laws for decades to come. Sometimes, the rulings made by the Supreme Court influence not just the laws, but how those laws are enforced, including when a decision can be appealed to a higher court.

Appealing a Consolidated Lawsuit

For example, in a recent dispute that the Supreme Court will hear this term, multiple lawsuits that have been filed alleging manipulation of the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). A number of those lawsuits have been consolidated into one complaint. Courts will sometimes do this when one plaintiff is facing multiple lawsuits in which the complaints are all the same or similar. By combining them into one large lawsuit, the courts can deal with the case more efficiently and avoid repeating itself by dealing with the same issues again and again.

Many times, when dealing with a lawsuit that has multiple complaints, a court will dismiss some of the complaints while allowing others to continue through the court system. The question then becomes whether plaintiffs can appeal the court’s dismissal to a higher court. When plaintiffs tried to do this in the recent case involving alleged manipulation of the LIBOR, the Second Circuit Court declined to hear the case, claiming that, because the lower court had only dismissed some of the complaints, the Second Circuit Court lacked the jurisdiction for an appeal. The plaintiffs then appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which will hear the case this term. The Supreme Court’s decision will determine whether such cases can move up the appellate courts piece by piece, or as one consolidated case.

The Defendant’s Burden in Moving a Class Action Lawsuit to Federal Court

The Supreme Court will also rule on the application of the 2005 Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). This act gave defendants the power to have a class action lawsuit moved to federal court, if the case fit certain requirements, in order to prevent plaintiffs from filing the lawsuit in the court that would be most likely to rule in their favor, also known as “forum shopping”. In order to move a case to federal court, the class of plaintiffs must consist of members from more than one state and the amount in dispute must be more than $5 million.

In Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Company, LLC v. Owens, the district court and the Tenth Circuit Court both remanded the case back to state court because the defendant did not provide sufficient evidence that the amount in dispute is more than $5 million. The defendant argues that the courts should not need evidence of the amount in dispute until the plaintiff denies the amount. The Supreme Court’s ruling in this case will determine the amount of evidence a defendant needs to provide in order to have a case moved to federal court. Continue reading ›

 

In the tricky world of trademarks, sometimes it boils down to a simple matter of who was there first. For example, Kraft has been labeling some of its cheeses with the name “Cracker Barrel” since 1954. Fifteen years later, in 1969, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. was founded. The low-priced restaurant has since grown to a chain of about 620 restaurants.

Recently, Cracker Barrel has announced that it plans to use its name, “Cracker Barrel Old Country Store” to sell various pork products, such as ham, lunchmeat, bacon, and jerky, to be sold in supermarket stores. After the announcement of these plans, Kraft Foods Group Brand sued Cracker Barrel for trademark infringement. The complaint argued that “consumers will be confused by the similarity of the logos and think that food products so labeled are Kraft products, with the result that if they are dissatisfied with a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store product, they will blame Kraft.”

The district court found that Kraft was likely to prevail in its claim so the court issued a preliminary injunction against Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, barring the restaurant from using its logo to sell pre-packaged meat products. Cracker Barrel appealed the decision and the case went to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

The appellate court agreed with Kraft that, if a consumer was dissatisfied with one of Cracker Barrel’s products, she might blame Kraft. As a result, said the court, “Kraft’s sales of Cracker Barrel cheeses are likely to decline.” The court further asserted that such an event was no minor consideration for Kraft and was unlikely to be an isolated incident. Instead, the court stated that, “The likelihood of confusion seems substantial and the risk to Kraft of the loss of valuable consumer goodwill and control therefore palpable.”

This remains true even though the logos of the two products are different. The court further asserted that, even if the products are sold in different parts of the store, labeling the two products with the same name is still sufficient for consumers to forget the difference between the two logos and mistakenly think that they are produced by the same company. Given that Kraft has been selling cheeses with the name “Cracker Barrel” for sixty years, the court noted that consumers by now have most likely grown familiar with the label. That familiarity might cause consumers to attribute any product bearing the “Cracker Barrel” name to Kraft, even if the logos are different. This is especially true when considering the fact that companies are constantly updating their logos in an attempt to look “fresh” and up-to-date. A consumer may assume that the “Cracker Barrel” cheese they are buying is still from Kraft, even if she does notice that the label is different.

The appellate court therefore concluded that, if Cracker Barrel was to be allowed to sell pre-packaged meat products bearing the name “Cracker Barrel Old Country Store”, the products would likely be distributed through the same channels, which would only serve to cause more confusion among consumers. For these reasons, the appellate court upheld the ruling of the district court and the injunction remains in effect.

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