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Bodum USA, Inc. v. A Top New Casting Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

June 12, 2019

Bodum USA, Incorporated, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
A Top New Casting Incorporated, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued May 30, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 16-cv-02916 - Matthew F. Kennelly, Judge.

          Before Flaum, Manion, and Barrett, Circuit Judges.

          Flaum, Circuit Judge.

         Bodum USA, Inc. ("Bodum") produces and sells what design magazines and art museums have recognized as an iconically designed houseware product-the Chambord French press coffeemaker. Bodum sued A Top New Casting, Inc. ("A Top") for selling a French press that Bodum claimed infringes on its unregistered trade dress in the Chambord. After a five-day trial, a jury returned a ver- diet in favor of Bodum, finding that A Top had willfully infringed on Bodum's trade dress in the Chambord and awarding Bodum $2 million in damages. The district court denied A Top's post-trial motion for judgment as a matter of law, in which A Top argued that Bodum failed to prove the Chambord design was nonfunctional. A Top also moved for a new trial because the court excluded evidence of various utility patents covering French press coffeemakers; the district court denied this motion as well. We affirm.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff-appellee Bodum has been selling French press coffeemakers since the 1970s. A French press is a nonelectric coffeemaker consisting of a cylindrical carafe and a plunger attached to a filter screen. The user adds boiling water to coffee grounds in the carafe and, after the grounds have steeped, presses the filter down slowly through the carafe to separate the used grounds from the brewed coffee.

         Bodum began distributing the Chambord, its flagship French press, in 1983. The Chambord's design originated in France in the 1930s and is based on the towers of the Chambord Chateau, a castle in France's Loire Valley. Its features include a metal cage with a band around the top of the carafe, metal pillars ending in four curved feet, a C-shaped handle, and a domed lid topped with a spherical knob. Bodum's Chambord French press is pictured below:

         (Image Omitted)

         Bodum acquired exclusive rights to distribute the Chambord in 1991 and has spent millions of dollars promoting it in print and television advertisements and at trade shows worldwide. Bodum sells the Chambord in department stores, at Starbucks coffee shops, and online, including through Amazon. The Chambord design has been recognized as classic by such institutions as Phaidon Design Classics and the Museum of Modern Art. Bodum actively polices whatever it believes to be infringement of this design; it has sent dozens of cease-and-desist letters over the past twenty-five years and has filed lawsuits against alleged infringers when they did not stop selling their products in response to Bodum's requests.

         In 2014, defendant-appellant A Top began selling a competing French press coffeemaker called the SterlingPro exclusively through Amazon. The SterlingPro is similar in appearance to the Chambord, with the same metal cage, metal pillars ending in curved feet, C-shaped handle, and domed lid topped with a spherical knob. The two coffeemakers are pictured side-by-side below, with the Chambord on the left and the SterlingPro on the right:

         (Image Omitted)

         Bodum filed a complaint against A Top in the Northern District of Illinois on March 7, 2016, bringing claims for trade dress infringement under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a); common law unfair competition; and violation of the Illinois Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act, 815Ill.Comp.Stat. § 510/1 et seq. According to Bodum's complaint, A Top intentionally adopted the overall appearance of the Chambord for its SterlingPro product, infringing on its unregistered trade dress in the design. A Top moved for summary judgment on Bodum's claims twice, but the district court denied these motions and the case proceeded to a jury trial on March 28, 2018.

         The jury returned a verdict in Bodum's favor, finding that A Top willfully infringed on Bodum's Chambord trade dress and awarding Bodum $2 million in damages. A Top timely moved for judgment as a matter of law under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50 and for a new trial under Rule 59. As relevant here, A Top claimed that it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law because Bodum had failed to prove its Chambord trade dress elements were nonfunctional. And A Top said it was at least entitled to a new trial because the district court erred in excluding evidence under Rule 403 of utility patents that, it said, disclosed the Chambord's trade dress features (demonstrating the functionality of those features). The district court denied both motions on June 6, 2018.

         On August 21, 2018, the district court granted Bodum's motion for enhanced damages, awarding prejudgment interest and doubling the damages award to $4 million, and it denied Bodum's motion for attorney's fees. Further, the court granted Bodum's request for a permanent injunction to prevent A Top from continuing to sell its infringing SterlingPro products. The district court entered final judgment on August 23, and A Top timely appealed.

         II. Discussion

         A Top pursues two arguments on appeal. First, A Top says that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because Bodum did not meet its burden of demonstrating that the elements of the claimed Chambord trade dress were nonfunctional (as required for it to be enforceable under the Lanham Act). Second, A Top claims that it is entitled to a new trial ...


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