Gen. Motors, LLC v. Rapp Chevrolet, Inc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Trademarks, Infringement
  • Date Filed: 05-21-2013
  • Case #: CIV 12-4209-RAL
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: United States District Court, D. South Dakota
  • LexisNexis Citation: 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74234
  • Westlaw Citation: 2013 WL 2245472
  • Full Text Opinion

In trademark infringement cases under the Eighth Circuit’s jurisdiction, ‘likelihood of confusion’ need not be shown exclusively through incidents of ‘actual confusion’ by consumers.

Opinion (Lange): In 2005, Rapp Chevrolet, Inc. (“Rapp”) entered into a dealer sales and service agreement (“dealership agreement”) with General Motors, Corporation, (“GM”) under which Rapp would be prohibited from using GM’s trademarks once that agreement terminated. After filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009, GM tried to unsuccessfully enter into a “Wind-Down Agreement” with Rapp. Rapp would have received compensation and have been allowed to continue some dealership operations that would "wind-down" and finally terminate upon an agreed date. GM then terminated the dealership agreement. Rapp, having refused to sign the Wind-Down Agreement, continued to use GM’s trademarks, including the ‘Chevrolet’ Trademarks, despite numerous cease and desist orders from GM. Rapp even expanded its use of GM’s trademarks by making a Facebook page for “Rapp Chevrolet”. GM brought a suit against Rapp in part for for the infringement of registered trademarks and trademark dilution. Rapp did not contest a single material fact as set forth in GM’s claim. In case involving infringement of a trademark, the plaintiff must show three elements in order to be entitled to summary judgment. Firstly, the plaintiff must show they own the mark. Secondly, they must show the defendant has used the mark in connection with goods and services. Finally, the plaintiff must show the defendant used the mark in a manner that makes it likely that a consumer will be confused about the source or sponsorship of the goods or services. The Court found that GM satisfied its burden of showing infringement of trademark, including the likelihood of confusion as a matter of law. The Court also found that Rapp’s actions diluted the ‘Chevrolet’ trademark as a matter of law. Accordingly, the Court GRANTED GM’s motion for partial summary judgment.

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