Int'L Bancorp v. Societe Des Bains De Mer, No. 02-1364.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtLuttig
Citation329 F.3d 359
PartiesINTERNATIONAL BANCORP, LLC; International Services, Incorporated; International Lotteries, LLC; Las Vegas Sportsbook, Incorporated; Britannia Finance Corporation, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. SOCIETE DES BAINS DE MER ET DU CERCLE DES ETRANGERS A MONACO, Defendant-Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 02-1364.
Decision Date19 May 2003
329 F.3d 359
INTERNATIONAL BANCORP, LLC; International Services, Incorporated; International Lotteries, LLC; Las Vegas Sportsbook, Incorporated; Britannia Finance Corporation, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
SOCIETE DES BAINS DE MER ET DU CERCLE DES ETRANGERS A MONACO, Defendant-Appellee.
No. 02-1364.
United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.
Argued: December 3, 2002.
Decided: May 19, 2003.

Page 360

ARGUED: Anthony James DeGidio, Jr., Toledo, Ohio, for Appellants. George Reynolds Hedges, Quinn, Emanuel, Urquhart, Oliver & Hedges, L.L.P., Los Angeles, California, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: James W. Pravel, Alexandria, Virginia, for

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Appellants. Gregory P. Barbee, Quinn, Emanuel, Urquhart, Oliver & Hedges, L.L.P., Los Angeles, California; Carl J. Nichols, Boies, Schiller & Flexner, L.L.P., Washington, D.C., for Appellee.

Before NIEMEYER, LUTTIG, and MOTZ, Circuit Judges.

Affirmed by published opinion. Judge LUTTIG wrote the majority opinion, in which Judge NIEMEYER joined. Judge DIANA GRIBBON MOTZ wrote the dissenting opinion.

OPINION

LUTTIG, Circuit Judge:


Plaintiff companies appeal from the district court's summary judgment that their registration and use of forty-three domain addresses infringe a foreign corporation's rights under the Lanham Act and violate the Anticybersquatting Act, where the foreign corporation advertised its trademark domestically, but only rendered services under it abroad. We conclude that the district court's judgment, although not its reasoning, was correct, and therefore affirm.

I.

Appellee, Societe des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Etrangers a Monaco ("SBM"), owns and operates historic properties in Monte Carlo, Monaco, including resort and casino facilities. One of its properties, a casino, has operated under the "Casino de Monte Carlo" trademark since 1863. The mark is registered in Monaco, but not in the United States. SBM promotes this casino, along with its other properties, around the world. For 18 years, SBM has promoted its properties from a New York office staffed with four employees. SBM's promotions within the United States, funded with $1 million annually, include trade show participation, advertising campaigns, charity partnerships, direct mail solicitation, telephone marketing, and solicitation of media coverage.

Appellants, the plaintiff companies, are five companies formed and controlled by a French national, which operate more than 150 web sites devoted to online gambling. Included in this roster are 53 web sites whose domain addresses incorporate some portion of the term "Casino de Monte Carlo."1 These web sites, along with the gambling software they employ, also exhibit pictures of the Casino de Monte Carlo's exterior and interior, contain renderings that are strikingly similar to the Casino de Monte Carlo's interior, and make allusion to the geographic location of Monte Carlo, implying that they offer online gambling as an alternative to their Monaco-based casino, though they operate no such facility.

When SBM learned of the plaintiff companies' web sites and their uses of the "Casino de Monte Carlo" mark, it challenged them in the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). A WIPO panel ruled against the plaintiff companies and ordered the transfer of the 53 domain addresses to SBM. To escape this judgment, the plaintiff companies brought suit in federal court against SBM seeking declaratory judgment, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a), that they are entitled to the disputed domain names. SBM counterclaimed under the Lanham Act (15 U.S.C. § 1111 et seq.) for trademark infringement under section 1125(a);2 trademark dilution

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under section 1125(c); cybersquatting under section 1125(d)(1); and unfair competition in violation of section 1126(h). The district court ruled against SBM on its section 1125(c) trademark dilution claim, because SBM had not shown actual economic harm, and on its section 1126(h) unfair competition claim. But the court ruled in favor of SBM on its trademark infringement claim and on its cybersquatting claim, awarding SBM $51,000 in statutory damages and transfer of 43 of the 53 contested domain addresses.3 The plaintiff companies now appeal from that adverse judgment.

II.

Although the district court decided this case on motions for summary judgment, factual determinations underlay its ultimate ruling (e.g., findings as to likelihood of confusion and secondary meaning). The plaintiff companies contend that the court exceeded its summary judgment authority by resolving such questions of fact. Two factors present in this case justify the judicial posture taken by the court, however. First, the parties, having prepared for a bench trial, agreed to submit the voluminous record to the court for dispositive decision at the time of the summary judgment motions, see J.A. at 1002-03 (the court: "there is really no reason why the Court should not dispose of this matter on the current record; isn't that right?" Attorney for the plaintiff companies: "I believe that's correct, your Honor." Attorney for SBM: "I think that sounds sensible, your Honor." Attorney for defendant Levy: "That's exactly what I would ask for, your Honor." The court: "All right.").

Secondly, the court's disposition of the case was consistent with the fact that the parties did not contradict one another's proffered facts, but only disputed the inferences that a fact finder would draw from those underlying facts. With the parties' voluntary submission of the record, comprised of only uncontroverted proffers, before it, and being en route to a bench trial anyway, the court properly proceeded to judgment in the case. Cf. Matter of Placid Oil Co., 932 F.2d 394, 398 (5th Cir.1991) ("[I]t makes little sense to forbid the judge from drawing inferences from the evidence submitted on summary judgment when that same judge will act as the trier of fact, unless those inferences involve issues of witness credibility or disputed material facts. If a trial on the merits will not enhance the court's ability to draw inferences and conclusions, then a district judge properly should draw his inferences without resort to the expense of trial." (quotations and citations omitted)).

Because the court decided the case on summary judgment motions, we review its legal determinations de novo, see Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon, Inc. v. Alpha of Virginia, Inc., 43 F.3d 922, 928 (4th Cir. 1995). But since it also engaged in fact-finding to dispose of the matter, we review its findings of fact for clear error. See, e.g., Petro Stopping Centers, L.P. v. James River Petroleum, Inc., 130 F.3d 88, 91-92 (4th Cir.1997) ("This circuit reviews district court determinations regarding likelihood of confusion under a clearly erroneous

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standard."); RFE Industries, Inc. v. SPM Corp., 105 F.3d 923, 925 (4th Cir. 1997) ("[The] district court's findings [as to secondary meaning] may be disturbed on appeal only if they are clearly erroneous.").4

III.

The plaintiff companies first challenge the district court's determination that their use of 43 domain addresses violated 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a) of the Lanham Act, infringing on SBM's trademark. Central to their challenge is the claim that SBM did not have a protectable interest in the "Casino de Monte Carlo" mark, a prerequisite to SBM's ability to claim against the plaintiff companies under the Act. See 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)(1) (allowing only a person "who believes that he or she is or is likely to be damaged" by the defendant's use of a confusing mark to bring a civil action); see also Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon, Inc., 43 F.3d at 930 (proving trademark infringement under 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a) requires a plaintiff to prove it has a protectable mark).

This circuit requires that an unregistered trademark satisfy two requirements if its owner is to have a protectable interest in the trademark: The mark must be used in commerce, see 15 U.S.C. § 1051 (only trademarks "used in commerce," or which a person has a bona fide intention to use in commerce, can be registered, signaling Lanham Act protectability); see also Larsen v. Terk Technologies Corp., 151 F.3d 140, 146 (4th Cir.1998) ("to receive protection under [1125(a)] a trademark... must be `in use' in commerce"), and it must be distinctive, see Sara Lee Corp. v. Kayser-Roth Corp., 81 F.3d 455, 464 (4th Cir.1996) (noting that the degree of protection a mark may receive is directly related to its distinctiveness). The plaintiff companies argue that the district court erred in concluding that SBM met these two requirements. We address both arguments in turn.

A.

Both parties have agreed, in their briefs and at oral argument, that the critical question in assessing whether SBM "used its mark in commerce" is whether the services SBM provided under the "Casino de Monte Carlo" mark were rendered in commerce. As shown below, the Lanham Act's plain language makes this conclusion unavoidable and the parties' agreement unsurprising.

We must first contend with a threshold matter, however. This circuit has never directly addressed the scope of the term "commerce" within the Lanham Act. Because of the clarity of the Act's own definition of the term, see 15 U.S.C. § 1127 (defining "commerce" as "all commerce which may lawfully be regulated by Congress"), we now hold that "commerce" under

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the Act is coterminous with that commerce that Congress may regulate under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. The other circuits to address this question have concluded the same. See, e.g., United We Stand America, Inc. v. United We Stand, America, NY, Inc., 128 F.3d 86, 92-93 (2nd Cir. 1997); Planetary Motion v. Techsplosion, 261 F.3d 1188, 1194 (11th Cir.2001). Of course, Article I of the Constitution provides that,

[t]he Congress shall have Power ... to regulate Commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes[.]

U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl...

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  • Rosenruist-Gestao E Servicos v. Virgin Enterprises, No. 06-1588.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • December 27, 2007
    ...under the Lanham Act are entitled to "great weight." Int'l Bancorp, LLC v. Societe des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Etrangers a Monaco, 329 F.3d 359, 378 (4th Cir.2003); see also In re Dr. Pepper Co., 836 F.2d 508, 510 (Fed.Cir. 1987) ("While the interpretations of the statute by the board......
  • Cottonwood Financial Ltd. v. the Cash Store Financial Serv. Inc., Civil Action No. 3:10–CV–1650–N.
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    ...rendered in commerce.” 15 U.S.C. § 1127; see, e.g., Int'l Bancorp, LLC v. Societe des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Etrangers a Monaco, 329 F.3d 359, 373 (4th Cir.2003) (recognizing “the two distinct aspects of the statutory ‘use in commerce’ requirement” and that its “ conjunctive command”......
  • Bros. of the Wheel M.C. Exec. Council, Inc. v. Mollohan, Civil Action No. 2:11–cv–00104.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Southern District of West Virginia
    • November 14, 2012
    ...may regulate under the Commerce Clause.” International Bancorp, LLC v. Societe des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Etrangers a Monaco, 329 F.3d 359, 364 (4th Cir.2003); Bosley Medical Institute, Inc. v. Kremer, 403 F.3d 672, 677 (9th Cir.2005) (“ ‘Use in commerce’ is simply a jurisdictional p......
  • Pizzuto v. Blades, No. 16-36082
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • August 14, 2019
    ...15, the comparable practice under federal procedure); Int'l Bancorp, LLC v. Societe des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Etrangers a Monaco , 329 F.3d 359, 362 (4th Cir. 2003) ; Matter of Placid Oil Co. , 932 F.2d 394, 398 (5th Cir. 1991) ; Fox v. Johnson & Wimsatt , 127 F.2d 729, 737 (D.C. Ci......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
99 cases
  • Rosenruist-Gestao E Servicos v. Virgin Enterprises, No. 06-1588.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • December 27, 2007
    ...under the Lanham Act are entitled to "great weight." Int'l Bancorp, LLC v. Societe des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Etrangers a Monaco, 329 F.3d 359, 378 (4th Cir.2003); see also In re Dr. Pepper Co., 836 F.2d 508, 510 (Fed.Cir. 1987) ("While the interpretations of the statute by the board......
  • Cottonwood Financial Ltd. v. the Cash Store Financial Serv. Inc., Civil Action No. 3:10–CV–1650–N.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Texas
    • March 31, 2011
    ...rendered in commerce.” 15 U.S.C. § 1127; see, e.g., Int'l Bancorp, LLC v. Societe des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Etrangers a Monaco, 329 F.3d 359, 373 (4th Cir.2003) (recognizing “the two distinct aspects of the statutory ‘use in commerce’ requirement” and that its “ conjunctive command”......
  • Bros. of the Wheel M.C. Exec. Council, Inc. v. Mollohan, Civil Action No. 2:11–cv–00104.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Southern District of West Virginia
    • November 14, 2012
    ...may regulate under the Commerce Clause.” International Bancorp, LLC v. Societe des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Etrangers a Monaco, 329 F.3d 359, 364 (4th Cir.2003); Bosley Medical Institute, Inc. v. Kremer, 403 F.3d 672, 677 (9th Cir.2005) (“ ‘Use in commerce’ is simply a jurisdictional p......
  • Pizzuto v. Blades, No. 16-36082
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • August 14, 2019
    ...15, the comparable practice under federal procedure); Int'l Bancorp, LLC v. Societe des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Etrangers a Monaco , 329 F.3d 359, 362 (4th Cir. 2003) ; Matter of Placid Oil Co. , 932 F.2d 394, 398 (5th Cir. 1991) ; Fox v. Johnson & Wimsatt , 127 F.2d 729, 737 (D.C. Ci......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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