false association wasn’t plausible given clear comparative statements

Dynatemp Int’l, Inc. v. R421A, LLC, No. 5:20-CV-142-FL, 2021
WL 3284799 (E.D.N.C. Jul. 30, 2021)

Dynatemp and another company sued defendants for false
advertising and related claims; defendant RMS counterclaimed similarly.

Notable holdings: RMS didn’t plausibly allege that
plaintiffs falsely designated their goods. Instead, it alleged that their
customers displayed a Dynatemp R421A product and the Dynatemp brand alongside
RMS’s trade dress and trademarks. But RMS failed to allege any facts that allow
the court to infer that these plaintiffs controlled the content on those
websites. RMS alleged that their behavior “confused even their own customers,”
but this was a conclusory assertion.

The allegations were particularly speculative in light of
Dynatemp statements that RMS attached to its counterclaims, such as, “for a
number of years we have distributed the Choice® R421A product with a lubricant
additive. Recently, we began a transition to producing and distributing our own
Dynatemp R421A™ product. It contains a different lubricant that we believe you
will find works even better.” Also: “Our new proprietary Dynatemp R421A™
contains a different premium lubricant than Choice® R421A, and it is sold
exclusively under our own Dynatemp brand.” And: “[a]s we make our transition to
producing and distributing our new Dynatemp R421A™ product and phasing Choice®
R421A out of our product line-up, we are continuing to sell our remaining
inventory of Choice® 421A.” These statements “reflect an effort to distinguish
its products from RMS’s products, to associate its products with the Dynatemp
R421A™ brand, and to associate RMS’s R-421A product with RMS’s trade dress and
trademarks.”

 

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