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Idaho Golf Partners, Inc. v. Timberstone Management, LLC

United States District Court, D. Idaho

March 27, 2018

IDAHO GOLF PARTNERS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
TIMBERSTONE MANAGEMENT, LLC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          J B. Lynn Winmill, Chief U.S. District Court Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         Pending before the Court are Plaintiff's claims for declaratory relief, Defendant's claims for injunctive relief, and Defendant's Motion to Reconsider the Court's August 17, 2017 Memorandum Decision and Order. (Dkt. 142). For the reasons described below, the Court will deny Defendant's motion to reconsider, and will enter a limited permanent injunction governing Plaintiff's use of the TimberStone mark in Southwestern Idaho

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On August 17, 2017, the Court entered a Memorandum Decision and Order addressing the parties' post-trial motions in this case. (Aug. 17, 2017 Order, Dkt. 137).[1] At that time, it reserved ruling on the parties' requests for equitable relief. Id. at 3. The Court found that IGPI was entitled to a new trial on TimberStone Management's trademark dilution claim, on the grounds that there was a clear lack of evidence to establish the necessary “fame” element of the claim. Id. at 19. The Court further found that the jury did not apportion its lump-sum damages award between the claims on which it found that TimberStone Management prevailed. Id. at 35. Because the Court set aside the jury's verdict on trademark dilution, it held that the issue of damages on both claims must be re-submitted to the jury. Id. at 37. The parties subsequently waived their rights to a new trial on these issues. See Plaintiff's Notice, Dkt. 139.

         The August 17, 2017 Order also disposed of several other post-trial issues. Most relevant to this decision, the Court denied IGPI's motion for a new trial on TimberStone Management's unfair competition and false designation claims after finding that there was no inconsistency in the jury's verdict. Aug. 17, 2017 Order at 22, Dkt. 137. The jury found for TimberStone Management on these claims, and IGPI argued that this finding was inconsistent with the jury's finding against TimberStone Management on its federal and common law infringement claims. Id. at 20. Drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of TimberStone Management, the Court upheld the verdict. Id. at 22. The Court found that to the extent the jury verdict appeared inconsistent, it could be reconciled if the jury had found that IGPI established its affirmative defense of continuous prior use. Id.

         Finally, the Court noted in its Order that it was inclined to issue only a limited permanent injunction, requiring IGPI to take reasonable steps to avoid any further confusion. Id. at 38. Before doing so, however, the Court directed the parties to meet and confer for the purposes of drafting mutually-agreeable terms for a permanent injunction. Id. at 38-29. The Court also allowed the parties to submit proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law on these issues, and directed them to file a proposed injunction. Id. at 38.

         On September 8, 2017, IGPI filed its proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law, and permanent injunction regarding any continued use of the TimberStone mark by IGPI. See Proposed Findings of Fact by IGPI, Dkt. 141. TimberStone Management filed its own proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law that same day, and also filed its Motion for Reconsideration. See Motion for Reconsideration, Dkt. 142; Proposed Findings of Fact by TimberStone Management, Dkt. 143. On September 15, 2017, TimberStone Management filed its proposed injunction. See Notice, Dkt. 144.

         The Court will first address TimberStone Management's Motion for Reconsideration, and then will issue its findings of fact and conclusions of law on the issues of declaratory and injunctive relief.

         ANALYSIS

         1. Motion for Reconsideration

         TimberStone Management asks the Court to reconsider a single line in its August 17, 2017 Order. Specifically, TimberStone Management takes issue with the Court's statement that it is inclined to issue a limited permanent injunction “given the jury's finding that IGPI established its good faith remote use defense.” Aug. 17, 2017 Order at 38, Dkt. 137. TimberStone Management argues both that the jury did not expressly find that IGPI established its continuous use defense, and that such a finding would be inconsistent with the jury's determination that IGPI acted willfully. Def.'s Br. at 4, 7, Dkt. 142-1.

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not expressly authorize a motion for reconsideration, but a “district court has the inherent power to reconsider and modify its interlocutory orders prior to entry of judgment . . . .” Smith v. Massachusetts, 543 U.S. 462, 475 (2005) (internal quotations omitted); cf. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 54(b). Nevertheless, reconsideration is “an extraordinary remedy, to be used sparingly. . . .” Carroll v. Nakatani, 342 F.3d 934, 945 (9th Cir. 2003). Absent highly unusual circumstances, a motion for reconsideration will not be granted “unless the district court is presented with newly discovered evidence, committed clear error, or if there is an intervening change in controlling law.” Kona Enters., Inc v. Estate of Bishop, 229 F.3d 877, 890 (9th Cir. 2000).

         In a strange turn of events, TimberStone Management has filed this motion to reconsider on the grounds that the Court clearly erred when it upheld a verdict in TimberStone Management's favor. Def.'s Br. at 4, Dkt. 142-1. In the context of reconciling the jury's special verdict responses, this Court held that a reasonable jury could find that IGPI had established its continuous use defense. Aug. 17, 2017 Order at 22, Dkt. 137. This finding is sufficient to support the Court's ruling that the verdicts were consistent. See Atl. & Gulf Stevedores, Inc. v. Ellerman Lines, Ltd., 369 U.S. 355, 364 (1962) (finding that so long as there is “a view of the case that makes the jury's answers to special interrogatories consistent” the Court must find them consistent.). TimberStone Management disagrees with the Court's finding, though not with its result.[2]

         TimberStone Management argues that a finding that IGPI established a continuous use defense would be inconsistent with the jury's finding that IGPI acted maliciously, fraudulently, or willfully. In support of its case, it cites a Ninth Circuit opinion decided almost a year after the jury entered its verdict in this case. See Special Verdict Form, Dkt. 117 (entered September 30, 2016) and Stone Creek, Inc. v. Omnia Italian Design, Inc., 862 F.3d 1131, 1133 (9th Cir. 2017) (decided July 11, 2017). TimberStone Management cites Stone Creek for the proposition that “there can be no ‘good faith' remote use defense where a junior user had prior knowledge of a senior user's rights.” Def.'s Br. at 6, Dkt. 142-1. They argue that the jury's finding that IGPI acted maliciously, fraudulently, or willfully requires a finding that IGPI acted with knowledge of TimberStone Management's rights, and that IGPI's knowledge would therefore negate any showing of good faith under Stone Creek. See, e.g., Def.'s Reply at 6-7, Dkt.146.

         The Court disagrees. At the time the jury answered the special verdict questions, Stone Creek had not yet been decided, and there was no rule in this Circuit stating that knowledge of a senior user's rights negates a showing of good faith. The Court's finds that its determination of the consistency of the jury's verdict is governed by the law in place at the time the verdict was issued. A subsequent change in law does not retroactively render a jury's verdict inconsistent, though it may provide grounds for a motion to alter or amend the judgment, based on principles of fairness and justice. See Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 59(e); Kona Enters., Inc, 229 F.3d at 890. As TimberStone Management notes, there has been no such motion in this case. Because Stone Creek was handed down during the pendency of the parties' equitable claims, however, the Court will apply Stone Creek in determining ...


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