In a trademark infringement case that a federal judge describes in an order as "twenty-five years in the making," Daniel H. Byrne won a relatively rapid victory for his defense clients. In that July 10 order, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks of the Western District of Texas granted a motion for summary judgment filed by Byrne's clients. The same day, Sparks dismissed the case, Robert V. Buck, et al. v. Gamble J. Palmer Jr. et al., charging all court costs to the plaintiffs.
Byrne, a partner in Austin's Fritz, Byrne, Head & Harrison, who led the team representing all the defendants in Buck, says: "We were pleased that the case was dismissed at the summary judgment stage."
According to Sparks' order, the facts of this case began back in 1984, when one of Byrne's clients, Gamble J. Palmer, and one of the plaintiffs, Robert V. Buck, started a joint venture to develop 20 acres in Port Isabel into a marina and yacht club. This joint venture created a trademarked logo with an image of a crown above the name, Queens Point Marina & Yacht Club. Subsequently, a 1988 hurricane destroyed the marina and yacht club two years after it became operational. That event eventually led to a business dispute between Buck and Palmer and Palmer sued Buck, alleging Buck was no longer a partner in their joint venture. That case is still pending in state court. Then, in 2008, Buck and the joint venture, filed the trademark infringement claim against Palmer and two affiliated entities, all of whom Byrne represents. In 2009, Sparks stayed Buck pending outcomes in the other state-court litigation.
On May 13, Sparks agreed to the plaintiffs' request to reopen the case. The defense had not objected to the proposed reopening.
Slightly more than two weeks later, on May 29, Palmer and the other defendants filed their motion for summary judgment, arguing the trademarks were abandoned. In their response, the plaintiffs called the motion "premature," according to Sparks' order.
In his July 10 order, Sparks agreed with Byrne's clients and notes that the trademarks went unused for seven years and states that "once abandoned," the marks were available for anyone to use.
Ted Gunn, a partner in San Antonio's Gunn, Lee & Cave, who represents the plaintiffs, did not return a call by press time.
Says Byrne: "Our client looks forward to resolving the remaining disputes in state court."