Lexmark's Standing Rule Inapplicable To Aluminum Foil Trade Dress Dispute

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By Anandashankar Mazumdar  

July 21 --The Supreme Court's Lexmark decision did not apply to a claim by Reynolds that Handi-Foil had infringed its trade dress for aluminum foil, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled July 18.

The Lexmark decision required a plaintiff in a false advertising claim to show standing by pleading a harm to its sales or reputation caused by the alleged false statements, the court said.

However, the court said, Lexmark was not relevant to the question of whether there was substantial evidence to support a jury's verdict of trade dress infringement.

Reynolds Consumer Products Inc. of Lake Forest, Ill., is the producer of Reynolds Wrap, a well-known brand of aluminum foil. Reynolds claimed trade dress rights in its blue-and-pink Reynolds Wrap packaging.

Reynolds Wrap Maker Sues Handi-Foil

Handi-Foil Corp. of Wheeling, Ill., is a competitor of Reynolds. In 2012, Handi-Foil launched a new line of products and Reynolds sued, alleging trade dress infringement and related claims.

In March, a jury handed down a verdict of willful infringement of the Reynolds Wrap trade dress. Handi-Foil moved for judgment as a matter of law.

Lexmark Not Applicable

The court first rejected Handi-Foil's argument that the jury's verdict had not been supported by substantial evidence of injury as required under Lexmark Int'l, Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc., No. 12-873 (U.S., March 25, 2014) (58 PTD, 3/26/14).

Lexmark involved a dispute between a producer of laser printer toner cartridges and a producer of aftermarket parts for reusing cartridges. The plaintiff had communicated with the defendant's clientele, alleging that the defendant's goods were infringing. The defendant then initiated a claim of false advertising based on the letters.

According to Handi-Foil, Lexmark required that Reynolds must demonstrate substantial evidence of commercial or reputational injury as a matter of standing.

However, the court emphasized that Lexmark was about a false advertising claim, not a trade dress infringement claim. Reynolds had brought a false advertising claim against Handi-Foil, but Handi-Foil had not disputed the jury's verdict on that claim.

The court said that “Handi-Foil's attempt to broaden the ruling in Lexmark--which applies specifically to standing in false advertising claims--to the issue of whether Reynolds provided substantial evidence to support the jury's finding of trade dress infringement is entirely unavailing.”

The court also determined that the jury's finding of likelihood of confusion was supported by substantial evidence.

Similarly, the court rejected Handi-Foil's motion for a new trial. The court again found substantial support for the jury's conclusion, stating that “the similarity between the overall impressions of the two boxes in each set is striking. This is the case even if the boxes' color schemes are put aside.”

After rejecting several other motions by Handi-Foil, the court affirmed the jury's verdict of willful trade dress infringement and granted Reynolds's motion for a permanent injunction.

The court's opinion was authored by Judge Liam O'Grady. Reynolds was represented by Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, Washington, D.C., and Jones Day, Washington, D.C. Handi-Foil was represented by Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Washington, D.C.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anandashankar Mazumdar in Washington at amazumdar@bna.com  

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Naresh Sritharan at nsritharan@bna.com


Text is available at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/REYNOLDS_CONSUMER_PRODUCTS_INC_Plaintiff_v_HANDIFOIL_CORPORATION_.