Herb Reed Enters., LLC v. Fla. Entm't Mgmt., Inc., No. 12–16868.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtMcKEOWN
Citation736 F.3d 1239
PartiesHERB REED ENTERPRISES, LLC, a Massachusetts company, Plaintiff–counter–defendant–Appellee, v. FLORIDA ENTERTAINMENT MANAGEMENT, INC., a Nevada company; Larry Marshak, Defendants–counter–claimants–Appellants.
Docket NumberNo. 12–16868.
Decision Date02 December 2013

736 F.3d 1239

HERB REED ENTERPRISES, LLC, a Massachusetts company, Plaintiff–counter–defendant–Appellee,
v.
FLORIDA ENTERTAINMENT MANAGEMENT, INC., a Nevada company; Larry Marshak, Defendants–counter–claimants–Appellants.

No. 12–16868.

United States Court of Appeals,
Ninth Circuit.

Argued and Submitted March 12, 2013.
Filed Dec. 2, 2013.


[736 F.3d 1242]


Cameron Sean Reuber (argued) and Yuval H. Marcus, Leason Ellis LLP, White Plains, New York; Jacob A. Reynolds, Hutchison & Steffen, LLC, Las Vegas, NV, for Defendants–Appellants.

Eric Miller Sommers (argued), Sommers Law, PLLC, Portsmouth, New Hampshire; John Lund Krieger, Lewis and Roca LLP, Las Vegas, NV, for Plaintiff–Appellee.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Nevada, Miranda Du, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. 2:12–cv–00560–MMD–GWF.
Before: J. CLIFFORD WALLACE, M. MARGARET McKEOWN, and Sandra S. Ikuta, Circuit Judges.

Opinion by Judge MCKEOWN; Concurrence by Judge WALLACE.

OPINION

McKEOWN, Circuit Judge:

“The Platters”—the legendary name of one of the most successful vocal performing groups of the 1950s—lives on. With 40 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 List, the names of The Platters' hits ironically foreshadowed decades of litigation—“Great Pretender,” “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” “Only You,” and “To Each His Own.” Larry Marshak and his company Florida Entertainment Management, Inc. (collectively “Marshak”) challenge the district court's preliminary injunction in favor of Herb Reed Enterprises (“HRE”), enjoining Marshak from using the “The Platters” mark in connection with any vocal group with narrow exceptions. We consider an issue of first impression in our circuit: whether the likelihood of irreparable harm must be established—rather than presumed, as under prior Ninth Circuit precedent—by a plaintiff seeking injunctive relief in the trademark context. In light of Supreme Court precedent, the answer is yes, and we reverse the district court's order granting the preliminary injunction.

Background

The Platters vocal group was formed in 1953, with Herb Reed as one of its founders. Paul Robi, David Lynch, Zola Taylor, and Tony Williams, though not founders, have come to be recognized as the other “original” band members. The group became a “global sensation” during the latter half of the 1950s,1 then broke up in the 1960s as the original members left one by one. After the break up, each member continued to perform under some derivation of the name “The Platters.”

[736 F.3d 1243]

Marshak v. Reed, No. 96 CV 2292(NG)(MLO), 2001 WL 92225, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. and S.D.N.Y. Feb. 1, 2001) (“ Marshak I ”).

Litigation has been the byproduct of the band's dissolution; there have been multiple legal disputes among the original members and their current and former managers over ownership of “The Platters” mark. Much of the litigation stemmed from employment contracts executed in 1956 between the original members and Five Platters, Inc. (“FPI”), the company belonging to Buck Ram, who became the group's manager in 1954. As part of the contracts, each member assigned to FPI any rights in the name “The Platters” in exchange for shares of FPI stock. Marshak I, 2001 WL 92225, at *3. According to Marshak, FPI later transferred its rights to the mark to Live Gold, Inc., which in turn transferred the rights to Marshak in 2009. Litigation over the validity of the contracts and ownership of the mark left a trail of conflicting decisions in various jurisdictions, which provide the backdrop for the present controversy. What follows is a brief summary of the tangled web of multi jurisdictional litigation that spans more than four decades.

In 1972, FPI sued Robi and Taylor for trademark infringement in California, resulting in a 1974 judgment in Robi's favor, which held that FPI “was a sham used by Mr. Ram to obtain ownership of the name ‘Platters.’ ” Robi v. Five Platters, Inc., 838 F.2d 318, 320 (9th Cir.1988) (“Robi I ”) (quoting the 1974 decision). By contrast, an analogous dispute between FPI and Williams in New York resulted in a 1982 decision holding that FPI had lawfully acquired exclusive ownership of the name. Marshak I, 2001 WL 92225, at *7 (citing the 1982 decision). Williams attempted to circumvent the New York decision by seeking declaratory judgment in the Central District of California based on the 1974 judgment in favor of Robi. He was ultimately unsuccessful; on appeal, we reasoned that Williams could not avoid the claim preclusive effect of the New York judgment by relying on issue preclusion from another case in which he was not a party. Robi I, 838 F.2d at 328. We upheld the judgment in favor of Robi, id. at 330, and later affirmed the district court's award of compensatory and punitive damages to Robi as well as its cancellation of FPI's three registered trademarks using the words “The Platters.” Robi v. Five Platters, Inc., 918 F.2d 1439, 1441 (9th Cir.1990) (“Robi II ”).

In 1984, FPI sued Reed for trademark infringement in the Southern District of Florida. Marshak I, 2001 WL 92225, at *9. The court denied Reed's motion for summary judgment based on the preclusive effect of the 1974 California judgment against FPI. Id. Preferring to avoid trial, Reed signed a court-approved stipulation of settlement in 1987, under which he assigned to FPI all rights he had in FPI stock, retained the right to perform as “Herb Reed and the Platters,” and agreed not to perform under the name “The Platters.” However, the settlement included an “escape clause”:

In the event that a court of competent jurisdiction enters a final order with all appeals being exhausted that provides that The Five Platters, Inc. has no right in the name “The Platters,” then nothing contained herein shall be construed to limit Herbert Reed's rights in the name “The Platters” and this agreement shall not inure to any party other than The Five Platters, Inc., and its successors and assigns or Herbert Reed.

A key question is whether the escape clause has now been triggered.


In 2001, Marshak, FPI, and other plaintiffs sued Reed and others for trademark infringement in the Eastern District of New York; Reed counterclaimed, also alleging trademark infringement.

[736 F.3d 1244]

Marshak I, 2001 WL 92225, at *1. The court interpreted the 1987 settlement as “barr[ing] Reed from asserting that he has any right to the name ‘The Platters' as against FPI or those claiming through FPI except as specifically allowed in that agreement, or from otherwise interfering with plaintiffs' rights to the use of ‘The Platters.’ ” Id. at *15. The court determined that the settlement's escape clause had not been triggered either by Robi I, because the Ninth Circuit reversed the judgment in favor of Williams indicating that FPI still had some rights to “The Platters” mark, or by Robi II, because cancellation of FPI's federal mark registration did not resolve the question whether FPI was entitled to use the name “The Platters.” Id. at *19–20. The district court enjoined Reed from, among other things, interfering with FPI and Marshak's use of the name “The Platters” except as permitted in the 1987 settlement (“the 2001 injunction”). Id. at *21. The Second Circuit affirmed. Marshak v. Reed, 13 Fed.Appx. 19 (2d Cir.2001).

Reed appealed Marshak I a second time on the basis that an unpublished Ninth Circuit memorandum issued around the same time triggered the 1987 settlement's escape clause.2 The Second Circuit vacated and remanded Marshak I, Marshak v. Reed, 34 Fed.Appx. 8 (2d Cir.2002), but later affirmed the district court's decision to adhere to its earlier decisions because the Ninth Circuit memorandum left “open the possibility, however remote, that FPI can establish a common law trademark right to the name ‘The Platters.’ ” Marshak II, 229 F.Supp.2d at 185,aff'd,Marshak v. Reed, 87 Fed.Appx. 208 (2d Cir.2004).

HRE, which manages Reed's business affairs and holds his rights, sued FPI and other defendants for trademark infringement in the District of Nevada in 2010. To get around the restrictions in the 1987 settlement, HRE creatively alleged that it owned the “Herb Reed and the Platters” mark and that defendants used a confusingly similar mark, namely “The Platters.” Herb Reed Enters., Inc. v. Bennett, No. 2:10–CV–1981 JCM (RJJ), 2011 WL 220221, at *1 (D.Nev. Jan. 21, 2011). FPI was not represented—according to Marshak, FPI was by this time a defunct corporation that had already transferred and no longer owned any rights to “The Platters” mark. The action resulted in a 2011 default judgment and permanent injunction declaring that (1) FPI “never used the mark ‘The Platters' in a manner that [was] not false and misleading and thus never acquired common law rights to the mark,” and (2) “Reed, having first used the mark ‘The Platters' in commerce in 1953, and having continuously used the mark in commerce since then has superior rights to the mark to all others,” including FPI and “anyone claiming rights from or through” FPI. Herb Reed Enters., Inc. v. Monroe Powell's Platters, LLC, 842 F.Supp.2d 1282, 1287 (D.Nev.2012) (quoting the 2011 judgment).

In 2012, HRE successfully obtained a preliminary injunction against Monroe Powell, FPI's former performer employee, and his company in a trademark infringement action in the District of Nevada.

[736 F.3d 1245]

Id. at 1284. Because Powell claimed to have acquired rights to “The Platters” mark through FPI, there was a question as to whether the 1987 settlement limited Reed's ability to pursue a remedy. The district court held that, “even assuming that the 1987 stipulation applies, the escape clause has been triggered and no longer bars Reed from suing FPI or those claiming through FPI for trademark infringement.” Id. at 1288. The court reasoned that the 2011 Nevada default judgment, which “determined that FPI ‘has no right in the name “The Platters' ” as required by the 1987 stipulation,” was “a final order with all appeals being exhausted” because the judgment was...

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    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
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    ...68, 80 (2d Cir. 2010). Next, the Ninth Circuit refused to apply the presumption in Herb Reed Enterprises, LLC v. Fla. Entm't Mgmt., Inc., 736 F.3d 1239 (9th Cir. 2013). Its analysis was cursory, as the Ninth Circuit stated, "[f]ollowing eBay and Winter, we held that... actual irreparable ha......
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