FN Herstal SA v. Clyde Armory Inc.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
Citation838 F.3d 1071,120 U.S.P.Q.2d 1186
Docket NumberNo. 15–14040,15–14040
Parties FN Herstal SA, Plaintiff–Counter Defendant–Appellee, v. Clyde Armory Inc., Defendant–Counter Claimant–Appellant.
Decision Date27 September 2016

Charles H. Hooker, III, Jennifer Fairbairn Deal, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, LLP, William Scott Creasman, Jeffrey R. Kuester, Taylor English Duma, LLP, Atlanta, GA, Burton S. Ehrlich, John P. Luther, Boris Umansky, Ladas & Parry, Chicago, IL, for PlaintiffCounter DefendantAppellee.

Glenn Dean Bellamy, Paul J. Linden, Wood Herron & Evans, LLP, Cincinnati, OH, Michael C. Daniel, Prior Daniel & Wiltshire, LLC, Athens, GA, for DefendantCounter ClaimantAppellant.

Before MARTIN and JORDAN, Circuit Judges, and COOGLER,* District Judge.

COOGLER, District Judge:

This trademark infringement action arises out of the parties' use of the marks “SCAR” and “SCAR–Stock” in the firearms industry. Appellant Clyde Armory Inc. (Clyde Armory) appeals the district court's partial grant of summary judgment in favor of Appellee FN Herstal SA (FN), its grant of FN's motion to strike Clyde Armory's jury demand, its denial of Clyde Armory's motion to amend the proposed pretrial order, and its entry of judgment against Clyde Armory following a bench trial. After careful review of the record and briefs of the parties, and having the benefit of oral argument, we affirm the district court on all issues raised on appeal.

A. Facts1
1. FN's SCAR Mark

In January 2004, the United States Special Operations Command (“USSOCOM”) issued a solicitation requesting bids from firearms manufacturers to design and manufacture a new fully automatic assault-rifle system for various units of the United States military, including Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, and Green Berets. The solicitation and other documents referred to the rifle as the “Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle,” abbreviated with the acronym SCAR. However, the U.S. military did not use SCAR as a trademark or otherwise claim any rights in the name SCAR. The solicitation generated significant publicity and media coverage in the firearms community, as it was the first open competition for a new military rifle since the M16 trials held in the 1960s.

FN is a firearms and weapons manufacturer headquartered in Belgium. In 2004, FN and other firearm manufacturers, including Colt Defense LLC and Cobb Manufacturing, Inc., submitted prototypes in response to USSOCOM's solicitation. While not required to do so, FN chose to label its submission with the SCAR mark, placing the mark above the firearm's trigger. FN branded its rifles as such to draw on the double entendre from the military's use of the term and the everyday meaning of “scar” as a mark left by the healing of injured tissue. For instance, FN's brochures and other promotional materials drew on the ordinary meaning of “scar” through slogans like “BATTLE SCARS.”

On November 5, 2004, FN won the competition, and USSOCOM awarded it a ten-year contract, placing a large initial order for SCAR firearms totaling over $634,000. From that point forward, FN regularly shipped SCAR-branded rifles to the U.S. military for use by special forces. By November 2007, FN had sold over $11 million in SCAR rifles and accessories to the military pursuant to the USSOCOM contract.

The media, law enforcement, and civilian firearms consumers closely followed the USSOCOM competition and FN's development of the SCAR rifle. In the years 2004 to 2006, journalists regularly sought to examine FN's SCAR rifles, and at least one article per month covered FN's development and distribution of the SCAR rifle in publications such as Small Arms Review , National Defense , Army Times , and Guns and Ammo . As the district court found, an expectation exists in the firearms market that guns developed for the military will subsequently be offered to law enforcement and civilians. As a result, FN received many inquiries concerning when FN's SCAR rifles would be available for general consumption.

On February 22, 2005, FN began promoting its SCAR rifle to law enforcement and civilians, though it did not yet have a semi-automatic version of the weapon available for purchase by civilian consumers. Indeed, FN dedicated one-fourth of its advertising budget to promote the SCAR rifle to the firearms market. Throughout 2005 and 2006, FN showcased its military SCAR rifle at hundreds of trade shows, including one of the largest firearms shows in the world, the Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade Show (“SHOT Show”), as well as National Rifle Association shows, the National Defense Industrial Association Small Arms forum, the Association of the United States Army show, International Chiefs of Police shows, the National Sheriff Show, the Mock Prison Riot, the SWAT Round Up, the Police and Security Expo, and others. At these shows, FN routinely told attendees that it intended to introduce a semi-automatic version within two years. FN also distributed hats, T-shirts, key chains, brochures, flyers, and other promotional materials with the SCAR mark. Public interest in the rifle was high; for example, at the February 2006 SHOT Show held in Las Vegas, Nevada, hundreds of people lined up at FN's booth to see FN's SCAR rifle, and FN had to dedicate three employees to answering attendees' nonstop questions about its weapon. According to Bucky Mills, the Senior Director of Law Enforcement Sales and Training at FN, FN's SCAR rifle was “big news” and was “the number one talked about firearm at the whole SHOT Show in 2006.” The fact that ninety percent of SHOT Show attendees are not affiliated with the U.S. military but are instead comprised of law enforcement personnel, distributors and retailers of firearms, and civilian consumers, speaks to the excitement among civilians about the prospect that FN would be introducing a semi-automatic SCAR rifle. In March 2006, FN issued a press release entitled, “The Making of the 21st Century Assault Rifle: SCAR SOF Combat Assault Rifle,” which detailed the ongoing development of its SCAR rifle for USSOCOM. The press release also announced that the semi-automatic version of the SCAR [would] potentially be available in the next two years.”

FN was not able to release the civilian version of the SCAR rifle until November 2008 because, according to the testimony of Frank Spaniel (“Spaniel”), the Assistant Vice President of Research and Development at FN, it took several years to test the prototypes in various environments, make modifications that would prevent a civilian from converting it into a fully automatic weapon, and ensure that its factories could produce increasing quantities of the weapons while maintaining quality. FN also had to seek government approval from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (the “ATF”) to sell the semi-automatic SCAR to the wider commercial market, which took months. Finally, FN was contractually obligated to fill military orders before satisfying civilian demand for the weapon. However, the pent-up demand from 2004 to 2008 resulted in FN selling over $100 million worth of SCAR firearms after receiving ATF approval.

To enforce its rights in the SCAR mark, FN filed three trademark applications with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). The first was for the use of SCAR on firearms and related items, which at the point of the district court proceedings was still pending before the USPTO. The second was for SCAR (and Design) for use in connection with firearms and related items, which indicated a date of first use of November 1, 2008. The USPTO registered the SCAR and Design mark in June 2010. The third was for SCAR for use in connection with games, toy replicas of weapons, and other related items, which was registered by the USPTO in February 2012.

2. Clyde Armory's SCAR–Stock Mark

Clyde Armory is a firearms retailer located in Georgia owned by Andrew Clyde (Clyde). Clyde has been in the firearms business since 1991. He has long been familiar with FN, having sold FN products since 2002. He was also an FN distributor from approximately 2006 to 2011.

In 2005, Clyde contacted Sage International, Ltd. (“Sage”) President John Klein (“Klein”) about manufacturing a replacement stock for certain rifles made by Sturm Ruger & Co., including the Mini–14, Mini–30, and AC–556. At the February 2006 SHOT Show, the same show in which long lines of attendees waited to see FN's SCAR rifle, the two met and planned the specific configuration for this replacement stock.

In April 2006, Clyde Armory selected the name SCAR–Stock or SCAR–CQB–Stock in connection with its replacement stocks. Clyde Armory claims that its use of the term SCAR is an acronym for Sage Clyde Armory Rifle” stock. However, Klein had no recollection of this. At the time Clyde Armory adopted the SCAR–Stock mark, Clyde knew about the USSOCOM solicitation to create a combat rifle system. Clyde further knew that the rifle was abbreviated as the SCAR, and that USSOCOM had awarded FN the development contract to produce it, as he had seen an article in Small Arms Review announcing that FN won the bid to create the SCAR for USSOCOM.

Joshua Smith (“Smith”), Clyde Armory's former Chief Operations Officer, testified that FN's SCAR rifle was well known in the firearms world. He stated that when Clyde disclosed his plan to use SCAR–Stock in association with its stocks, Smith expressed concern that the SCAR “name was already taken ... [b]y FN.” Smith testified that Clyde Armory's intent was to “take advantage of marketing of the SCAR being a popular name already” and to “take advantage of the SCAR product name being on the market.” Although Clyde testified that such a discussion never occurred, and although Smith left Clyde Armory in 2009 under bad circumstances, the district court found Smith's testimony credible in light of Clyde's admitted knowledge about FN's SCAR rifles.

Throughout the spring and summer of 2006, Clyde Armory worked...

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