In March 2013, The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry (“National Grange”) brought an action for trademark infringement and unfair competition against the California Guild (“California Guild”), previously trading as the California State Grange. On July 14, 2015, the District Court for the Eastern District of California granted the National Grange’s Motion for Summary Judgment, and the final judgment was entered on September 30, 2015. Then, on August 20, 2016, the District Court granted the National Grange’s motion for attorneys’ fees, and on September 12, 2016, the District Court ordered the California Guild to pay $144,715.70 in attorneys’ fees for willfully violating the court’s September 30, 2015 order.
The California Guild then appealed the summary judgment decision and the award of attorneys’ fees to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and the National Grange cross-appealed the September 30, 2015 judgment. On February 16, 2018, oral argument was held before the panel of judges comprising of the Honorable Andrew J. Kleinfeld, the Honorable Richard C. Tallman, and the Honorable Stephen J. Murphy, III (United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan, sitting by designation). SGR Attorneys James Bikoff and Bruce McDonald argued on behalf of the National Grange.
A month later, on March 22, 2018, the Ninth Circuit issued its decision affirming the District Court’s decision. The panel rejected the California Guild’s argument that the National Grange acquiesced because it found the National Grange “moved quickly to attack the Guild’s infringing conduct.” The panel also found that awarding the National Grange attorneys’ fees was not an abuse of discretion because “[t]he Guild had plenty of time to comply with the injunction, but chose not to do so. There was also evidence the Guild’s infringing conduct had deceived numerous members of the National Grange.”
In addition, consistent with the National Grange’s brief, the Ninth Circuit panel noted that the SunEarth decision that was decided after the district court decision was a lower standard than the one the National Grange had met and thus the National Grange “satisfied SunEarth’s relaxed ‘totality of the circumstances’ standard.” While the panel did not impose a broader permanent injunction as requested by the National Grange, overall this decision is yet another success by the National Grange against the California Guild.