by Dennis Crouch
I previously wrote about the case of Bank v. Al Johnson’s Swedish Rest., Docket No. 19-01880 (Fed. Cir. 2019). The dispute is over whether the USPTO should cancel Al Johnson’s registered trademark for goats on a green roof. To be clear – the mark is not the image of goats on a roof, but instead is an actual building with live goats walking around on the roof. [Goat Cam]
Bank challenged the registration on several grounds, including improper functionality and disparaging (toward the goats and their human friends). The problem in the case for Bank is that he is not a competitor or customer. Banks is not injured by the mark in any concrete way other than being offended by its existence.
The TTAB dismissed the opposition for lack of standing. That decision was then affirmed on appeal since Bank provided neither a real interest nor a reasonable basis for his belief of damage. The court noted that the “offense” injury was substantially undermined by Tam.
- Discussion of the Federal Circuit Decision;
- Discussion of the Supreme Court Petition, subsequently denied.
In its original decision, the Federal Circuit also awarded attorney fees to Swedish Restaurant under Fed. R. App. P. 38:
If a court of appeals determines that an appeal is frivolous, it may, after a separately filed motion or notice from the court and reasonable opportunity to respond, award just damages and single or double costs to the appellee.
Id. The court found that the Banks appeal was frivolous. Banks is an attorney and represented himself in the appeal. Usually pro se parties are given more leeway because of their lack of training and experience in the system. However, an attorney representing himself is not given such leeway:
Even though Mr. Bank appears pro se before us, he is an attorney and bears the commensurate obligations. Accordingly, we grant Swedish Restaurant’s motion for costs and attorney fees, including the costs and fees incurred in relation to the parties’ sanctions motions, and
deny Mr. Bank’s motion for sanctions.
Costs and attorney fees to Swedish Restaurant.
Following the court’s decision, there was some debate on attorney fees. In particular, Swedish Restaurant requested that the court clerk enter the attorney fee award. Banks protested — arguing that attorney fee awards must be calculated and awarded by the court, not the clerk. The Federal Circuit agreed on that point and today awarded all of Swedish Restaurant’s requested fees of $28,523.00. (The Clerk separately taxed the costs at $241.54.)