This summer, attorney Lisa Michelle Kömives of BoltNagi briefed and argued a winning appeal on behalf of Defendants, Virgin Island Sailing School and its founder, H. Scott Dempster, where the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the District Court of the Virgin Islands’ (“District Court”) dismissal of trade dress infringement and unjust enrichment claims asserted against the Defendants by Fair Wind Sailing, Inc. (“Fair Wind”).
Fair Wind is a Michigan-based corporation that runs sailing schools throughout the country, including the U.S. Virgin Islands. Fair Wind claimed that Virgin Island Sailing School, among other things, was infringing on its trade dress—or the overall image or presentation of its services— in violation of the Lanham Act. For example, Fair Wind claimed that Virgin Island Sailing School used the same size and type of boats, similar marketing techniques, similar teaching curricula and similar feedback procedures.
The District Court found that Fair Wind failed to adequately state claims for both trade dress infringement and unjust enrichment. Attorney Kömives demonstrated to both the District Court and the Third Circuit that Fair Wind did not plead a sufficiently clear definition of the features that it claimed constituted its “trade dress.” Furthermore, she also demonstrated that the “trade dress” allegedly infringed upon was nonfunctional, was not inherently distinctive, nor had it acquired such a distinctiveness through Fair Wind’s use of the same. In her arguments, Attorney Kömives demonstrated that all of the products and features Fair Wind sought to claim as its “trade dress” were simply types of boats, marketing techniques and teaching methods that any sailing school might use, or even need to use, and together they did not form any sort of visual effect that was entitled to protection.
On Attorney Kömives’ motion, the District Court also awarded the Defendants the majority of the attorneys’ fees incurred in defending the case. On appeal, also briefed and argued by Attorney Kömives, the Third Circuit Court of Appeal upheld a portion of the attorneys’ fee award and remanded to the District Court to consider the balance of the award under a standard newly articulated by the United States Supreme Court while the appeal to the Third Circuit was pending.
This case is another example of the value-added litigation services provided to clients by the litigation team at BoltNagi, a highly respected U.S. Virgin Islands law firm.