Wheel Specialties, Ltd. v. Starr Wheel Group Inc., 071913 FED6, 12-3330

Docket Nº:12-3330
Opinion Judge:CLAY, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:WHEEL SPECIALTIES, LTD, d/b/a Custom Wheels Unlimited, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. STARR WHEEL GROUP, INC., et al., Defendants, and NINGBO BAODY AUTO PARTS CO., LTD., Defendant-Appellee.
Judge Panel:BEFORE: SILER, CLAY, and GIBBONS, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:July 19, 2013
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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WHEEL SPECIALTIES, LTD, d/b/a Custom Wheels Unlimited, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

STARR WHEEL GROUP, INC., et al., Defendants,

and

NINGBO BAODY AUTO PARTS CO., LTD., Defendant-Appellee.

No. 12-3330

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

July 19, 2013

NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION

ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO

BEFORE: SILER, CLAY, and GIBBONS, Circuit Judges.

CLAY, Circuit Judge.

This appeal arises out of the second lawsuit between Plaintiff Wheel Specialties and Defendant Ningbo Baody Auto Parts. Following their first lawsuit involving Plaintiff's claims of Defendant's breach of contract, the parties entered into a Settlement Agreement which contained a mutual release of claims. The district court dismissed Plaintiff's current suit, which alleges violations of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1051 et seq.; the Ohio Deceptive Trade Practices Act, Ohio Rev. Code § 4165.01 et seq.; and Ohio defamation law, because the district court concluded that Plaintiff had released those claims under the terms of the Settlement Agreement. For the following reasons, we REVERSE the district court's dismissal of Plaintiff's claims and REMAND for further proceedings.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Wheel Specialties, Ltd. is a designer, distributor, and seller of custom aftermarket car wheels. Plaintiff sells its wheels under a variety of registered trademarks, including MIROR ALLOYS, ROX, BIGG WHEELS, MEZZANO ALLOYS, and RADD ("Plaintiff's Marks"). In 2004, Plaintiff contracted with Chinese auto-parts manufacturer Defendant Ningbo Baody Auto Parts Co. to manufacture wheels for Plaintiff bearing Plaintiff's Marks. According to Plaintiff, Defendant, as part of the 2004 contract, agreed to produce exclusively for Plaintiff the styles that Plaintiff ordered. When Plaintiff received its April 2008 shipment of wheels, Plaintiff contended that Defendant had provided Plaintiff with defective wheels, and Plaintiff refused to accept those wheels. Plaintiff further contended that Defendant was selling the wheel styles to Plaintiff's competitors that were supposed to be exclusive to Plaintiff.

Based on these perceived breaches, Plaintiff sued Defendant in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in November 2009 for breach of contract, fraud, and related claims. At the same time, Defendant asserted, though not in any legal proceeding, that Plaintiff owed it payment for the wheels that Plaintiff had rejected. The parties settled this first lawsuit on March 6, 2010 with Defendant paying Plaintiff approximately $2000. The terms of that settlement were embodied in a Settlement Agreement, which contained a broad mutual release of claims that stated, in relevant part:

5. Mutual Release. In consideration of the foregoing, [Plaintiff] CWU hereby releases and discharges [Defendant] Baody and its present and former officers, directors, shareholders, employees, agents, representatives, parent companies, subsidiaries, related companies, affiliates, predecessor companies, receivers, insurers, successors and assigns (hereinafter collectively, the "Additional Releasees"), from any and all claims, actions, causes of actions, suits, debts, dues, accounts, contracts, controversies, agreements, promises, representations, or damages, including but not limited to, all consequential and incidental damages, awards, demands, expenses, including attorneys' fees, interest and costs, or judgments, whatsoever in law or in equity, which CWU ever had, now has, or hereafter may have against Baody or the Additional Releasees whether known or unknown, suspected or unsuspected, fixed or contingent, directly or indirectly arising out of, by reason of, in any way connected to the Parties' business relationship, the Lawsuit1, the Baody Claim2 or otherwise, or in any way connected with or arising out of any matter, act...

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