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WM. Wrigley Jr. Co. v. Cadbury Adams USA LLC

June 26, 2006

WM. WRIGLEY JR. COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CADBURY ADAMS USA LLC DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Samuel Der-yeghiayan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the court on Defendant Cadbury Adams USA LLC's ("Cadbury") motion for a more definite statement and a motion in the alternative to dismiss Counts I, II, VII and VIII. For the reasons stated below, we grant in part and deny in part the motion for a more definite statement and deny the motion to dismiss.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff WM. Wrigley Jr. Company ("Wrigley") alleges in its second amended complaint that Wrigley has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in developing its various gum lines and packaging for those lines. Wrigley asserts that when it introduced its Orbit gum line in 2001, Cadbury began losing a significant market share in the gum market. According to Wrigley, in order to recover its loss of the market, Cadbury has released a line of gum called Stride and that the packaging and presentation of the Stride gum line and Cadbury's new packaging of Trident E-Z Close Packs, and DENTYNE Soft Chew Packs mirrors the packaging of Wrigley's Orbit gum line. Wrigley brought the instant action alleging a federal unfair competition claim (Count I), a trademark infringement claim based on the Stride line (Count II), a trade dress infringement claim based on the Stride line (Count III), a trade dress infringement claim based on the Trident line (Count IV), a trade dress infringement claim based on the DENTYNE line (Count V), a trademark infringement claim based on the Trident line (Count VI), a common law unfair competition claim (Count VII), and an Illinois Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act ("IUDTPA"), 815 ILCS § 501/1 et seq., claim (Count VIII). Cadbury has moved for a more definite statement pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e) ("Rule 12(e)") and Cadbury moves in the alternative to dismiss Counts I, II, VII and VIII.

LEGAL STANDARD

Rule 12(e) provides the following:

If a pleading to which a responsive pleading is permitted is so vague or ambiguous that a party cannot reasonably be required to frame a responsive pleading, the party may move for a more definite statement before interposing a responsive pleading. The motion shall point out the defects complained of and the details desired . . . .

Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 (e).

In ruling on a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) the court must draw all reasonable inferences that favor the plaintiff, construe the allegations of the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and accept as true all well-pleaded facts and allegations in the complaint. Thompson v. Illinois Dep't of Prof'l Regulation, 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002); Perkins v. Silverstein, 939 F.2d 463, 466 (7th Cir. 1991). The allegations of a complaint should not be dismissed for a failure to state a claim "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); see also Baker v. Kingsley, 387 F.3d 649, 664 (7th Cir. 2004)(stating that although the "plaintiffs' allegations provide[d] little detail . . . [the court could not] say at [that] early stage in the litigation that plaintiffs [could] prove no set of facts in support of their claim that would entitle them to relief"). Nonetheless, in order to withstand a motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege the "operative facts" upon which each claim is based. Kyle v. Morton High School, 144 F.3d 448, 454-55 (7th Cir. 1998); Lucien v. Preiner, 967 F.2d 1166, 1168 (7th Cir. 1992). Under current notice pleading standard in federal courts, a plaintiff need not "plead facts that, if true, establish each element of a 'cause of action . . . .'" See Sanjuan v. American Bd. of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc., 40 F.3d 247, 251 (7th Cir. 1994)(stating that a "[a]t this stage the plaintiff receives the benefit of imagination, so long as the hypotheses are consistent with the complaint" and that "[m]atching facts against legal elements comes later").

The plaintiff need not allege all of the facts involved in the claim and can plead conclusions. Higgs v. Carver, 286 F.3d 437, 439 (7th Cir. 2002); Kyle, 144 F.3d at 455. However, any conclusions pled must "provide the defendant with at least minimal notice of the claim," id., and the plaintiff cannot satisfy federal pleading requirements merely "by attaching bare legal conclusions to narrated facts which fail to outline the bases of [his] claims." Perkins, 939 F.2d at 466-67. The Seventh Circuit has explained that "[o]ne pleads a 'claim for relief' by briefly describing the events." Sanjuan, 40 F.3d at 251; Nance v. Vieregge, 147 F.3d 589, 590 (7th Cir. 1998)(stating that "[p]laintiffs need not plead facts or legal theories; it is enough to set out a claim for relief").

DISCUSSION

Cadbury contends that the second amended complaint does not contain a clear statement of the trademark that Wrigley alleges was infringed upon in Count II. Cadbury also contends that Wrigley has not provided a clear basis for the federal and common law unfair competition claims or the IUDTPA claim.

I. Trademark Infringement Claim (Count II)

Cadbury contends that the allegations concerning the alleged trademark infringement in Count II are ambiguous. The second amended complaint includes references to US Trademark Registration 2,617,873 ("873 Registration"), which is allegedly owned by Wrigley and also makes references to common law rights possessed by Wrigley. (SA Compl. Par. 14). Cadbury argues that the "scope and direction of the action will change dramatically based on whether Wrigley is asserting infringement of the 873 Registration or the common law rights." (Mem. 3). Wrigley responds by asserting that it has provided sufficient details to plead a claim in Count I based upon an infringement of the 873 Registration. (Ans. 3-4). However, Wrigley's answer fails to provide any explanation for the vague assertion in the second amended complaint after the reference to the 873 Registration that Wrigley "also owns common law rights." (SA Compl. Par. 14). Such a statement is confusing and Cadbury should not be required to proceed onward in these proceedings absent a clearer statement of the basis of the claims being brought against it. Such clarity is also essential to prevent any unfair surprises to Cadbury should Wrigley choose to pursue a claim based on the "common law rights" later in these proceedings. Also, Cadbury is entitled to such clarity in order to determine if it will exercise its right to seek a dismissal of the trademark infringement claim at the pleadings stage. Wrigley must ...


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