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AARP v. Sycle

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

January 17, 2014

AARP, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL SYCLE, Defendant

Page 235

For AARP, Plaintiff: John J. Dabney, MCDERMOTT WILL & EMERY LLP, Washington, DC.

OPINION

Page 236

MEMORANDUM OPINION

COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Plaintiff AARP (" AARP" ) filed suit against Defendant Michael Sycle (" Sycle" ) on April 30, 2013 alleging trademark counterfeiting and infringement under the Lanham Act and District of Columbia law. See Compl., Dkt. No. [1]. Although properly and timely served with the Complaint and Summons, Defendant failed to respond to the Complaint, and the Clerk of the Court, upon motion by Plaintiff, entered default against Defendant on July 19, 2013. See Clerk's Entry of Default as to Michael Sycle, Dkt. No [8]. Plaintiff subsequently filed a [10] Motion for Default Judgment, which was granted-in-part and held-in-abeyance in part. See Order (Nov. 27, 2013), ECF No. [11]. Specifically, the Court granted AARP's Motion for Default Judgment as to Sycle's liability and AARP's requests for injunctive relief and attorneys' fees, but held the motion in abeyance with respect to AARP's request for statutory damages pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1117(c). The Court directed AARP to file a supplemental memorandum providing further support for its damages request, as well as documentation in support of its request for attorneys' fees and costs.

Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's [13] Supplemental Memorandum in Support of its Motion for Default Judgment. Having thoroughly considered Plaintiff's submissions [1], including the attachments thereto, applicable case law, statutory authority, and the record of the case as a whole, the Court GRANTS those portions of Plaintiff's [10] Motion for Default Judgment held in abeyance by this Court's November 27, 2013 [11] Order. Plaintiff is entitled to a monetary judgment in the amount of $600,940.40 which consists of: (a) $583,200.00 in statutory damages pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1117(c); (b) $17,150.40 in reasonable attorneys' fees

Page 237

pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1117(a); and (c) $590.00 in reasonable costs pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1117(a).

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed a Complaint in the above-captioned case on April 30, 2013, alleging (1) trademark counterfeiting, trademark infringement, unfair competition, false designation of origin, and false advertising under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § § 1114, 1125, and (2) trademark infringement, unfair competition, and false designation of origin under District of Columbia common law. Compl. ¶ ¶ 24-37. Plaintiff is a non-profit organization with its principal place of business in Washington, D.C. that works to promote the interests of persons age 50 and over. Id. ¶ ¶ 7-8. As is relevant to the instant case, Plaintiff is the owner of all rights in and to several trademarks relating to insurance and insurance-related services (Reg. Nos. 1,046,998; 1,335,496; 2,461,155; 3,236,039; 3,493,206) (hereinafter " AARP Marks" ). Pl.'s Mem. at 1; see also Compl. ¶ 11. Through its licensees, Plaintiff offers a wide variety of products and services under the AARP mark, including insurance. Compl. ¶ 9. Plaintiff receives royalties from the use of its marks in connection with the sale of insurance. Id. ¶ 10.

Defendant is an insurance broker operating under the name M& G Insurance Group, Inc. Id. ¶ 2. Defendant uses " AARP" to advertise and promote his insurance business without Plaintiffs permission. Id. ¶ ¶ 3, 13. Despite the fact that he does not sell AARP-branded insurance, Defendant falsely offers to sell " AARP Life Insurance" on his website, alifetimeinsurance.com. Id. ¶ ¶ 13-14. He has also falsely advertised his ability to sell " AARP Life Insurance" through Internet advertisements and YouTube videos directing viewers to his website and toll-free telephone number. Id. ¶ ¶ 14-16.

Prior to initiating this litigation, Plaintiff demanded that Defendant cease his use of the AARP Marks. Id. ¶ 17. However, even after being contacted by Plaintiff, Defendant continued to use Plaintiffs AARP Marks to promote his insurance business and create the false impression that his company sells AARP-branded insurance. Id. ¶ ¶ 17-18. Consequently, Plaintiff commenced this trademark counterfeiting and infringement action on April 30, 2013. Defendant was served with the Complaint and Summons on June 14, 2013 and was therefore required to respond by July 5, 2013. See Return of Service/Affidavit, Dkt. No. [5]; see also Pl.'s Mot. for Entry of Default, Dkt. No. [6]. Defendant failed to file an answer or otherwise respond to Plaintiffs Complaint, and Plaintiff moved for entry of default as to Defendant. See Pl.'s Mot. for Entry of Default, Dkt. No. [6]. On July 19, 2013, the Clerk of the Court entered default against Defendant. See Clerk's Entry of Default as to Michael Sycle, Dkt. No. [8]. As of the date of Plaintiffs motion, Defendant continued to employ AARP marks on his website and maintain YouTube videos falsely advertising that his company offers AARP-branded insurance.

Plaintiff subsequently filed a [10] Motion for Default Judgment, which was granted-in-part and held-in-abeyance in part. See Order (Nov. 27, 2013), ECF No. [11]. Specifically, the Court granted AARP's Motion for Default Judgment as to Sycle's liability and AARP's requests for injunctive relief and attorneys' fees, but held the motion in abeyance with respect to AARP's request for statutory damages pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1117(c). Id. The ...


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