Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A reason to bring coordinate state law claims in Lanham Act cases

I am often dismissive of coordinate unfair trade practices claims in Lanham Act cases.  In most circumstances, they add little value, and you get these pro forma paragraphs or even sentences in the briefs and opinions, "the analysis is the same."  When courts do it, this can have toxic effects in later cases where the state unfair trade practices law is actually different in some relevant way that wasn't at issue in the earlier Lanham Act case.  That is why I don't like the automatic use of such claims: it does nothing to help and may create bad precedent.  However, Michael Atkins reports on a case in which the coordinate state claim did help the plaintiff: as a prevailing plaintiff on the Washington state law claims, it automatically received attorneys' fees on those claims, without needing to prove exceptionality on the Lanham Act claims.  (I'd think you'd need to segregate out time spent on each, but if the standards are the same ....  Also, here, the prevailing plaintiff limited its fee request in other ways that the court found appropriate.)

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