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- TigerLaw didn't show at this stage that Law Tigers used marks unlawfully
- Defendant argued Law Tigers violated state law as lawyer referral service
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(Reuters) - The American Association for Motorcycle Injury Lawyers – a nationwide group of law firms that does business as Law Tigers – on Tuesday defeated a Chicago lawyer's bid to dismiss claims that his use of the name TigerLaw infringes its trademarks.
U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman in Chicago rejected an argument made by Howard Piggee – whose firm HP3 Law advertises as TigerLaw – that Law Tigers' trademarks were unenforceable in Illinois because its business model violates state law.
Law Tigers and its attorneys Brad Hartman of Hartman Titus and Belinda Scrimenti of Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, and neither did HP3 Law or its attorneys Constance Grieves and Christopher May of Massey & Gail.
Law Tigers sued Howard Piggee and HP3 Law – where he is the sole attorney – last August, alleging his use of "TigerLaw" with pictures of tigers to advertise his firm is meant to profit from Law Tigers' marks and deceive consumers.
HP3 Law moved to dismiss the case in October, arguing among other things that Law Tigers' business model violates Illinois law as a for-profit client referral service, rendering its trademarks unenforceable in the state because they're used to advertise unlawful conduct.
But Feinerman said Tuesday that it was unclear whether the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals even recognizes the "unlawful use" defense, and if it does, "it is uncertain whether an alleged infringer may rely on a trademark owner's violation of state law to defend against a claim of federal trademark infringement."
And even if the defense is available, HP3 Law didn't show at this stage in the case that Law Tigers violates Illinois law. Law Tigers' website specifically states that it isn't a referral service, and it would be a "substantial leap to hold on the pleadings, without the benefit of an evidentiary record, that an organization stating on its website that it 'does not endorse specific lawyers or function as a referral service' in fact holds itself out as a lawyer referral service," Feinerman said.
Law Tigers' claim that TigerLaw diluted its "Law Tigers" mark also survived the motion. Feinerman said Law Tigers' complaint sufficiently alleged that the mark was famous enough to sustain a dilution claim, noting among other things that it's been used for over 20 years in 42 U.S. markets in a wide variety of media.
The case is American Association of Motorcycle Injury Lawyers Inc v. HP3 Law LLC, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, No. 1:20-cv-04866.
For Law Tigers: Brad Hartman of Hartman Titus; and Belinda Scrimenti of Pattishall McAuliffe Newbury Hilliard & Geraldson
For HP3 Law: Constance Grieves and Christopher May of Massey & Gail