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Waukesha Floral & Greenhouses, Inc. v. Possi

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

March 8, 2016

WAUKESHA FLORAL & GREENHOUSES, INC., d/b/a Waukesha Floral and Waukesha Floral & Greenhouse, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES POSSI and YOUR FLORIST LLC, Defendants.

DECISION AND ORDER ON PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

NANCY JOSEPH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

On November 3, 2015, Waukesha Floral & Greenhouses, Inc. filed a complaint against James Possi and Your Florist LLC in Waukesha County Circuit Court. (Docket # 1-1.) Waukesha Floral raises eight claims for relief, including violations of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1051, et seq., common law trademark violation, tradename infringement, unfair competition, violation of Wis.Stat. § 100.18, and violation of a 2000 stipulation and order for dismissal between Waukesha Floral and Possi. (Id.) The defendants subsequently removed the case to federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441(c) and 1446. (Docket # 1.)

Currently before me is Waukesha Floral’s motion for a preliminary injunction. (Docket # 26.) Waukesha Floral argues that the defendants are violating its trademark “Waukesha Floral” and tradename “Waukesha Floral & Greenhouse” and requests a preliminary injunction ordering the defendants to cease using any name substantially similar to its trademark and tradename. Waukesha Floral also requests an order either assigning or disconnecting telephone numbers associated with the defendants that are allegedly causing confusion. For the reasons stated below, Waukesha Floral’s motion for a preliminary injunction is granted.

BACKGROUND

Waukesha Floral alleges that it has engaged in the retail florist business in the Waukesha, Wisconsin area since 1901. (Compl. ¶ 4, Docket # 1-1.) Waukesha Floral operates under the names “Waukesha Floral” and “Waukesha Floral & Greenhouse.” (Id. ¶ 1.) The trademark “Waukesha Floral” was registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on October 10, 2000 and renewed in 2010. (Id. ¶ 28, Exh. K.) Waukesha Floral alleges that the defendants are using the following seven names, in violation of its trademark and tradenames: Waukesha Flower And Greenhouse, Waukesha Flower and Greenhouse, Waukesha Flower & Greenhouse, Waukesha Florals, Waukesha Florists, Florist in Waukesha WI, and Florist in Waukesha Wisconsin. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 19, 22.) Waukesha Floral further alleges that the parties were engaged in a previous lawsuit in 2000. (Id. ¶ 29.) “At the heart” of that lawsuit was the defendants’ use of the name “Waukesha Florist & Greenhouse” and “Waukesha Florist.” (Id. ¶ 31.) The parties reached a stipulation and order for dismissal in August 2000 regarding the use of those terms. (Id.) Waukesha Floral alleges that the defendants violated this stipulation and order for dismissal. (Id. ¶¶ 61-65.)

ANALYSIS

1. Preliminary Injunction Standard

“[A] preliminary injunction is an extraordinary and drastic remedy, one that should not be granted unless the movant, by a clear showing, carries the burden of persuasion.” Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 (1997) (citations omitted) (emphasis in original). Granting a preliminary injunction involves the “exercise of a very far-reaching power” and is “never to be indulged in except in a case clearly demanding it.” Roland Mach. Co. v. Dresser Indus. Inc., 749 F.2d 380, 389 (7th Cir. 1984) (citations omitted).

To justify a preliminary injunction, Waukesha Floral must first make a threshold showing that it has a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits, no adequate remedy at law exists, and it will suffer irreparable harm if a preliminary injunction is denied. Ezell v. City of Chicago, 651 F.3d 684, 694 (7th Cir. 2011). If Waukesha Floral makes this preliminary showing, I will then consider whether the irreparable harm Waukesha Floral will suffer without injunctive relief is greater than the harm the defendants will suffer if the preliminary injunction is granted, and whether a preliminary injunction will harm the public interest. Starsurgical, Inc. v. Aperta, LLC, 832 F.Supp.2d 1000, 1002 (E.D. Wis. 2011). However, if Waukesha Floral does not establish a likelihood of success on the merits or that it will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted, “then the district court’s analysis ends and the preliminary injunction should not be issued.” Adams v. City of Chicago, 135 F.3d 1150, 1154 (7th Cir. 1998) (citation omitted).

Waukesha Floral can establish that it is likely to succeed on the merits by showing that its chances of prevailing are better than negligible. Omega Satellite Prods. v. City of Indianapolis, 694 F.2d 119, 123 (7th Cir.1982); see also Brunswick Corp. v. Jones, 784 F.2d 271, 275 (7th Cir. 1986) (citation omitted) (“Although the plaintiff must demonstrate some probability of success on the merits, ‘the threshold is low. It is enough that the plaintiff’s chances are better than negligible . . . .’”). A district court may grant a preliminary injunction based on less formal procedures and on less extensive evidence than a trial on the merits. Dexia Credit Local v. Rogan, 602 F.3d 879, 885 (7th Cir. 2010); see also Ty, Inc. v. GMA Accessories, Inc., 132 F.3d 1167, 1171 (7th Cir. 1997) (“Affidavits are ordinarily inadmissible at trials but they are fully admissible in summary proceedings, including preliminary-injunction proceedings.”).

2. Likelihood of Success on the Merits

The defendants argue that Waukesha Floral is not entitled to a preliminary injunction for two reasons. First, the equitable doctrine of laches bars Waukesha Floral’s claims. In other words, Waukesha Floral cannot show a likelihood of success on the merits because it cannot show that it can overcome the defendants’ affirmative defense of laches. See AM Gen. Corp. v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 311 F.3d 796, 822 (7th Cir. 2002). Second, the defendants argue that even if laches does not preclude Waukesha Floral’s claims, Waukesha Floral has failed to show that it will suffer irreparable harm.

2.1 Trademark and Tradename Infringement

As an initial matter, the defendants do not argue the merits of whether Waukesha Floral has shown a likelihood of success in establishing trademark and tradename infringement. Rather, they rest on their argument that laches bars all of the plaintiff’s claims. However, considering the merits of Waukesha Floral’s infringement claims, I find that Waukesha Floral’s chances of prevailing on these claims are better than negligible. Waukesha Floral seeks injunctive relief against the defendants’ use of the names “Waukesha Florals, ” “Waukesha Florists, ” “Florist in Waukesha WI, ” and “Florist in Waukesha Wisconsin” under the Lanham Act for infringement of its registered trademark “Waukesha Floral.” It seeks injunctive relief against the defendants’ use of the names “Waukesha Flower And Greenhouse, ” ...


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