A federal judge this week ordered a Naugatuck laundry technology company to pay more than $1 million in attorney fees and contempt sanctions to its former parent company in a trademark case.
U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill of the District of Connecticut wrote in his opinion that Voss Laundry Solutions, formerly called Lavatec Inc., blatantly ignored his 2014 preliminary injunction barring the company from infringing the trademark of Lavatec GmBh, Voss’ former parent company. Voss not only continued to manufacture and sell parts under the Lavatec name, the judge said, but also pursued “frivolous” counterclaims in the suit, which warranted the sanctions.
“Enough is enough,” Underhill wrote in his Jan. 9 opinion. “I hereby hold Voss in contempt of court.”
A representative for Voss did not immediately reply to a request for comment. The company was represented by John C. Linderman of McCormick, Paulding & Huber.
David Slossberg, of Hurwitz, Sagarin, Slossberg & Knuff was co-lead counsel for Lavatec GmBh in the case, along with the firm of Klein Moynihan Turco.
Lavatec GmBh, a German company, filed its lawsuit in 2013. After a five-day bench trial, Underhill ruled in 2014 that the trademark for Lavatec belonged to Lavatec GmBh and barred the subsidiary from using the Lavatec name. But Voss repeatedly violated the order in various ways, such as using Lavatec as a domain name for emails and advertising under the Lavatec name in a trade show, Underhill wrote.
According to the opinion, Voss made various arguments to defend its actions, including rehashing the ownership arguments the judge already ruled on and arguing the judge’s order was unclear. Underhill wrote in his opinion this week that he had “no doubt that Voss’s conduct constitute[d] contempt of court.”
As a result, the judge ordered Voss to pay $5,000 as a coercive contempt sanction. In addition, the court made a finding that Voss’ misconduct made the lawsuit an “exceptional case” under the Lanham Act, and therefore warranted payment of attorney fees.
Slossberg, who has practiced law for nearly 30 years, said he could not remember ever having a case where the grounds for a judge’s ruling was the defendant’s conduct.
“I’ve had my share of crazy cases, but this had its novelty,” Slossberg said.
Slossberg added that the judge’s description of how to award the attorney fees and costs, which amounted to $959,315.85 and $41,602.90, respectively, was plainly laid out and could serve as a “roadmap” for attorneys going forward.
“I don’t want to create the impression that [the judge] was starting from scratch or reinventing the wheel, but I do think it is not terribly common that you recover almost a million dollars worth of attorneys’ fees in a trademark case,” Slossberg said.
While the ruling is likely the end of the case, there is a possibility Voss could appeal.
In the meantime, Slossberg is elated with the result.
“I’m really happy for the result for the client,” he said. “This is a company with a long and rich history of producing this quality laundry equipment and the name has really come to represent the quality of the company and its products. We’re glad that that could be restored to them along with recouping some of the costs.”