NEW ORLEANS – A recent ruling by a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana in a trademark dispute involving two nonprofit political groups leaves one party paying the other's attorney's fees.
U.S. District Judge Carl J. Barbier, in a June 21 ruling, granted a motion filed by the Alliance for Good Government for attorney’s fees and denied a motion by the Coalition for Better Government to strike paying the fees, which amount to more than $68,000. Barbier's order is based on the Lanham Act, which allows for a prevailing party’s attorney's fees to be paid by the opposing party in exceptional cases.
The case stems from a 2016 compliant filed by the alliance claiming the coalition's trademark is similar to the trademark the alliance had adopted 15 years previous to coalition using the symbol. The alliance was granted summary judgment for trademark infringement.
After the judgment, the alliance motioned for $68,237.25 in fees, but "Coalition motioned to strike language from plaintiff’s motion and in opposition, requested the court bifurcate the determination of whether to grant fees from the calculation of amount of fees and requested a hearing to determine the amount in fees through oral testimony,” according to the order.
The alliance claims the coalition continued the litigation as long as possible knowing the nonprofit was only worth limited funds. By filing untrue motions and counterclaims, delivering similar subpoenas and refusing to postpone depositions, the alliance alleged that the coalition attempted to cause them bankruptcy in what they considered an “exceptional” case.
“The court also finds Coalition’s behavior in discovery unreasonable; for example, Coalition’s refusal to postpone depositions following this court’s summary judgment finding for Alliance, thereby necessitating a protective order,” Barbier wrote in the order. “Examining the totality of the circumstances, this case qualifies as ‘exceptional.’”
Next, Barbier addressed the actual amount of attorney fees, writing in the order "the court finds that it would be an unnecessary and wasteful act to grant Coalition’s request to bifurcate determination of whether to grant fees and the calculation of the amount in fees.”
After breaking down the alliance’s attorney's fees based on allotted hours and time sheets, Barbier came up with a final sum and determined that the amount of $68,237.25 was appropriate.