6th Cir. Reverses Dismissal of Trademark Claim

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A federal district court, in granting summary judgment on a trademark infringement claim, gave insufficient weight to affidavits of two of the defendant's former employees in which they said that they were aware that the defendant had used the plaintiff's trademarks without permission, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held March 7 in an opinion designated as not for publication (Slep-Tone Entertainment Corp. v. Karaoke Kandy Store Inc., 6th Cir. 11-4258, 3/7/13, unpub).

In the affidavits, the employees said that when they were employed by the defendant, Karaoke Kandy Stores Inc., they copied karaoke CDs made by the plaintiff, Slep-Tone Entertainment Corp., and then sold these discs to customers. Despite these affidavits, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio granted Karaoke Kandy summary judgment on Slep-Tone's federal trademark infringement claim. The affidavits contained “vague and conclusory statements without foundation,” the district court said. It said the affidavits did not contain the “specific facts” that were needed “to overcome summary judgment.”

The appeals court disagreed. “We believe that a reasonable jury could infer, based upon [the former employee's] affidavit, that Karaoke Kandy Store … committed unauthorized actions with respect to Slep-Tone's marks,” the court said. It thus reversed the summary judgment order.

Text is available at http://pub.bna.com/ptcj/KaraokeKandyMarch0713.pdf.