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United Food Imports, Inc v. Baroody Imports

June 8, 2011

UNITED FOOD IMPORTS, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
BAROODY IMPORTS, INC., ET. AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Debevoise, Senior District Judge

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

This trademark infringement action arises out of competing uses of the "Basma" brand name on frozen food products. The Plaintiff, United Food Imports, Inc. ("United Food"), is a wholesale distributor of packaged food imported from Egypt. United Food alleges that Defendants, Paradise Halal Meat, LLC ("Paradise Halal") and its owner and operator, Abdelgawad Elsayed (collectively, "Defendants"), infringed its rights to the Basma trademark through the unauthorized sale of counterfeit goods bearing the name and associated graphics. Defendants contend that a third party, Orouba Agrifoods Processing Co. ("Orouba"), the producer of the allegedly infringing goods, is the rightful owner of the Basma trademark. Plaintiff counters that Orouba's claims over the Basma trademark have been twice ruled invalid by the United States Patent and Trademark Office's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ("TTAB").

Plaintiff now moves for summary judgment on liability. For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's motion is GRANTED.

I.BACKGROUND

Plaintiff United Food is a wholesale distributor of packaged food products imported from Egypt. (Def. SOF ¶ 1). United Food markets the products primarily to the Middle Eastern community in the United States. Id. at ¶ 2. Plaintiff distributes goods under the trademark "Basma," which means "smile" in Arabic. The Basma trademark and associated packaging and graphics have been registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") under registration number 3,398,369. (Pl. Ex. 1).

Defendant Paradise Halal is a retailer and wholesale distributer of packaged foods. (Def. SOF ¶ 4). Paradise Halal is owned and controlled by Defendant Abdelgawad Elsayed. Id. at ¶ 6.

In 2004, Paradise Halal began distributing products bearing the Basma trademark with packaging and graphics that are substantially identical to those used by Plaintiff. (Pl. Exs 2A, 2B). Paradise Halal also displayed the Basma logo on its delivery trucks. (Def. SOF ¶ 23). In addition, in 2009, Paradise Halal took out an advertisement in a newspaper claiming that it was the exclusive distributor of Basma branded products in the United States. Id. at ¶ 22. Plaintiff submits that these actions constitute trademark infringement and unfair competition as prohibited under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1051 et seq.

Notably, Defendants do not dispute their use of the Basma trademark to sell goods within the United States. (Def. SOF ¶¶ 20-23). Defendants instead contest the validity of United Food's ownership of the mark. Defendants claim that the Basma trademark was first used by Orouba, an Egyptian company that registered the mark in Egypt, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Germany.*fn1 Defendants contend that they have entered into contracts with Orouba that give them the exclusive right to distribute Basma branded products within the United States. (Def. Br. 6). Defendants further claim that Orouba representatives told them that Plaintiff's good were "forged" or "counterfeit" goods smuggled into the United States through Italy. Id. at 12-13.

Orouba is not a party to this action, but has twice sought to prevent United Food from using the Basma trademark in the United States. In 2004, when United Food applied for the registration of the Basma trademark, Orouba attempted to oppose the application. (Pl. Ex. 4). But despite being served with an order to show cause warning that the case would be dismissed, Orouba never provided any evidence to support its opposition. (Pl. Ex. 6). On February 12, 2008, Orouba's opposition was dismissed with prejudice by the TTAB. (Pl. Ex. 7). On March 23, 2009, Orouba filed a Petition of Cancellation, again attempting to terminate United Foods's Basma trademark. (Pl. Ex. 8). This petition was also dismissed with prejudice in an opinion by the TTAB dated December 28, 2010. (Pl. Ex. 11).

Plaintiff brought this infringement action against Defendants on June 11, 2009. (Doc. No. 1). Defendants filed an answer with counterclaims asserting Orouba's rights to the Basma trademark on January 6, 2010. (Doc. No. 20). In an opinion dated April 6, 2010, this Court dismissed Defendant's counterclaims, but permitted Defendants to assert defenses based on its relationship with Orouba and the alleged superiority of Orouba's claims over the Basma trademark. (Doc. No. 36). Defendants also filed a Third Party Complaint for contribution and indemnification against Orouba based on its representations to the Defendants that it is the rightful owner of the Basma mark. However Defendants never effected service of the Third Party Complaint. (Doc. No. 68). Nor have Defendants proffered any documentary evidence of either Orouba's superior rights or their ability to assert them.

On the basis of these facts, Plaintiff moves for summary judgment.

II.DISCUSSION

A. Standard of ...


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