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Omission of "Made in China" Label Makes Manufacturer Liable

Here’s a local Lanham Act case with interesting facts. It’s about the sale of waterproof notebooks used by the U.S. military.

Defendant J.L. Darling, Corp. manufactures waterproof paper, which it used in notebooks it sold to the military through its distributor, plaintiff Ira Green, Inc. After Darling terminated the Green’s distributorship, Green found a new source of waterproof paper located in China and proceeded to compete with Darling by selling notebooks using the new paper. However, Green did not place any “made in China” labels on its notebooks until after a Customs and Border Patrol Agent ordered it to do so.

Among various patent, trademark, and false advertising claims the parties allege against each other, Darling claimed that Green’s omission of the “made in China” labels amounted to falsely marking the country of origin of its notebooks, thereby deceiving consumers. Green responded that the issue was moot because it corrected its omission and that Darling provided no evidence that customers were deceived or that Darling suffered any resulting injury.

The parties brought cross-motions for summary judgment on their claims and counterclaims, including on Darling’s two Lanham Act claims for false designation of origin.

On Oct. 9, Western District Judge Robert Bryan granted Darling’s motion and denied Green’s.

It found: “While there is an issue of fact over when and how many of Green’s notebook products eventually received the correct ‘made in China’ stickers, there is no issue of fact that Green did not place the proper country of origin on its notebook products when it first distributed those products. Because the lack of sticker placement was a literally false omission, causation and damages are presumed unless Green can rebut this presumption. Green has shown no facts to rebut. Because Darling and Green both request summary judgment on these two claims, summary judgment should be granted and judgment of liability only entered for Darling, and summary judgment should be denied for Green, on Darling’s second and third Lanham Act claims (Counts II and III).

The case cite is Ira Green, Inc. v. J.L. Darling, Corp., No. 11-05796, 2012 WL 4793005 (W.D. Wash. Oct. 9, 2012) (Bryan, J.).

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Reader Comments (1)

Let this be known to any distributors who are looking to switch suppliers, especially when those suppliers reside in different countries. Though it may not have been intended, it can very well be construed as "deceiving" customers.
November 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay Kenney

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