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Midwest Canvas Corp. v. Commonwealth Canvas

January 16, 2008

MIDWEST CANVAS CORP., AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMONWEALTH CANVAS, INC., A MASSACHUSETTS CORP., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan B. Gottschall

Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Midwest Canvas Corp. ("Midwest") has filed suit against defendants Commonwealth Canvas, Inc. ("Commonwealth"), Raw Equipment Corporation ("Raw"), and Constructioncomplete.com ("CC.com") alleging, inter alia, violations by Commonwealth and Raw of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a) (Count V); the Uniform Trade Deceptive Practices Act, 815 ILCS 510/1 (Count VI); and state common law unfair competition (Count VII); and violation by Commonwealth and CC.com of the Lanham Act (Count VIII); the Uniform Trade Deceptive Practices Act (Count IX); and state common law unfair competition (Count X). Before the court is Commonwealth's motion to dismiss Counts V-X and Raw's motion to dismiss Counts V-VII. For the reasons set forth below, Commonwealth's and Raw's motions to dismiss are granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Midwest and Commonwealth are competing corporations engaged in the manufacture of, among other items, concrete curing blankets. Pl.'s First Amended Compl. ¶¶ 1-2. Concrete curing blankets are employed to cover freshly poured concrete. The blanket protects the surface of the concrete and its insulating qualities trap the heat released as the concrete cures and thus accelerates the hardening process; this is particularly important during construction in cold weather. Raw is a corporation engaged in the marketing and distribution of Commonwealth's products, including its curing blankets. Pl.'s First Amended Compl. ¶¶ 3-4.

One of Commonwealth's curing blankets, with the trade name "Cure-All," is listed on the website of the New York Department of Transportation ("NYDOT") on the page presenting the "Technical Services -- Materials -- Approved List" of form insulation materials for winter concreting (Form 711-07). Pl.'s First Amended Compl. ¶¶ 40-41; see also https://www.nysdot.gov/portal/page/portal/divisions/engineering/ technical-services/technical-services-repository/alme/pages/310-1.html (last visited Jan. 8, 2008). Commonwealth's blanket is one of seventeen curing blankets manufactured by eleven different corporations (including two of Midwest's "Insul-Tarp" products) that are listed as approved for use in NYDOT construction projects. Id.; Pl.'s First Amended Comp. Exh. C. The NYDOT website lists the Commonwealth "Cure-All" blanket as having a thickness of 25 mm (1"). Pl.'s First Amended Compl. ¶ 42. No pricing or direct ordering information are listed on the website. Pl.'s First Amended Comp. Exh. C.

In April 2007, after the initial complaint in this suit was filed*fn1 , Tim Dunphy ("Dunphy"), who was employed as a sales manager by Midwest, placed an order with Raw for a 25 mm "Cure-All" curing blanket, the same as listed on the NYDOT website. Pl.'s First Amended Compl. ¶ ¶ 43-44. Raw duly delivered a curing blanket, together with an invoice describing it as a "CLOSED CELL 1" NYSDOT CURING BLANKETS (sic) 6'x 25'." Pl.'s First Amended Compl. ¶¶ 45-46, Exh. D. Midwest claims that Dunphy, upon inspecting the curing blanket received from Raw, discovered that it was not 25 mm in thickness. Pl.'s First Amended Compl. ¶¶ 47-48.

Previously, in February 2007, Dunphy had likewise ordered a 1/2 " (CC2) and 1" ("CC4") curing blankets from CC.com, which advertises and sells Commonwealth curing blankets. Pl.'s First Amended Compl. ¶¶ 62-65, Exh. E. The order was confirmed via email and, later, two curing blankets, together with a work order describing the blankets as being "CC2 6x25 2 LAYER FOAM CONCRETE CURING BLANKET" and "MISC CC-2 4 LAYER FOAM CONCRETE CURING BLANKET," were received by Midwest. Pl.'s First Amended Compl. ¶¶ 66-68, Exhs. F-G. Midwest claims that the received blankets were not 1/2 " and 1" respectively in thickness. Pl.'s First Amended Compl. ¶ 69.

Count V of Midwest's first amended complaint claims that the invoice accompanying the curing blanket received from Raw constitutes commercial advertising as defined by the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a), and that Raw's provision of a curing blanket that was not 25 mm in thickness thereby constituted materially false and misleading representations about the nature and quality of the curing blanket. Counts VI and VII are pendant state and common law claims that Raw's actions respectively constituted a violation of the Illinois Uniform Trade Practices Act, 815 ILCS 510/1 et seq. and "New York and other state common law unfair competition."

Similarly, Count VIII of Midwest's amended complaint claims that the work order received with the blankets from CC.com constitutes false advertising in violation of the Lanham Act and that Commonwealth and CC.com's actions in selling the blankets are misleading and false. Counts IX and X claim respectively violations of the Illinois Uniform Trade Practices Act, 815 ILCS 510/1 et seq., and unfair competition under Illinois common law. Commonwealth has filed a motion to dismiss Counts V-X under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and Raw has filed a motion to dismiss Counts V-VII on the same theory. Raw has also moved to dismiss the amended complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b), alleging that Midwest has failed to plead fraud with the required particularity. Because the issues in both motions are essentially identical, the court considers both of these motions together.

II. ANALYSIS

To survive a motion to dismiss under 12(b)(6), "the complaint need only contain a 'short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Equal Opportunity Comm'n v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)). The complaint "must describe the claim in sufficient detail to give the defendant 'fair notice of what the . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests' . [and] its allegations must plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a 'speculative level'; if they do not, the plaintiff pleads itself out of court." Concentra, 496 F.3d at 776 (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, --- U.S. ----, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 1973 n.14 (2007)).

A. Midwest's Counts V-VII

Count V claims specifically that the invoice accompanying Raw's shipment of the blanket to Midwest constituted advertising under the Lanham Act, and that Commonwealth and Raw's collective actions of selling blankets that are purported to be 1" thick but are not constitute material false and ...


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