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Weems Industries Inc v. Plews Inc

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division

April 13, 2017

WEEMS INDUSTRIES, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
PLEWS, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          LINDA R. READER JUDGE.

         TABLE OF CONTENTS

         I. INTRODUCTION ....................................... 1

         II. RELEVANT PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND .................... 2

         III. FACTUAL BACKGROUND ................................ 3

         A. Parties .......................................... 3

         B. Overview of the Dispute .............................. 3

         IV. ANALYSIS ........................................... 5

         A. Acquired Distinctiveness ................................ 7

         B. Functionality ...................................... 12

         V. CONCLUSION ....................................... 17

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The matter before the court is Defendant Plews, Inc.'s (“Plews”) “Partial Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Common Law Trademark Infringement Claim” (“Motion”) (docket no. 25).

         II. RELEVANT PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On October 28, 2016, Plaintiff Weems Industries, Inc. (“Weems”), filed an Amended Complaint (docket no. 16)[1] asserting the following claims: (1) Plews infringed on Weems's registered trademark by using the color chartreuse on the body of its compressed air hoses in violation of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1114(1), 1125(a); (2) Plews infringed on Weems's common law trademark by using the color chartreuse on the body of its compressed air hoses; (3) Plews contributed to the infringement of Weems's trademark by supplying chartreuse air hoses to third parties for sale; (4) Plews interfered with Weems's contractual relations by employing one of Weems's prior employees despite having knowledge that such employee had entered into a non-compete agreement with Weems; (5) Plews misappropriated Weems's trade secrets in violation of Iowa's version of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, Iowa Code § 550.4; (6) Plews interfered with Weems's prospective contractual relations by misappropriating trade secrets and using them to coopt Plews's business relationships with third parties; (7) Plews's use of the color chartreuse on the body of its air hoses and distribution to third parties constitutes unfair competition under federal law; and (8) Plews's misappropriation of trade secrets and trademark infringement constitutes unfair competition under Iowa law.

         On November 17, 2016, Plews filed the Motion. On that same date, Plews filed an Answer (docket no. 26), generally denying liability and setting forth affirmative defenses. In the Answer, Plews did not respond to the factual allegations regarding Count II, but stated that it had “separately moved to dismiss” Weems's common law trademark claim. See Answer at 18. On December 5, 2016, Weems filed a Resistance (docket no. 27). On December 12, 2016, Plews filed a Reply (docket no. 28). Neither party has requested oral argument and the court finds that oral argument is unnecessary. The Motion is fully submitted and ready for decision.

         III. ...


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