Finnegan's monthly review of essential decisions, key developments, evolving trends in trademark law, and more.

December 2012 Issue

Civil Cases

Tempur-Pedic Int’l, Inc. v. Angel Beds LLC,
2012 WL 290980 (S.D. Tex. Nov. 6, 2012)


In 2005, Tempur-Pedic International, Inc. (“Tempur-Pedic”) sued Angel Beds LLC (“Angel Beds”) for using the URL for a website that also contained comparative information about the parties’ respective mattresses.  That case settled, with Angel Beds agreeing not to use the URL or the term “Tempur-Pedic” in metatags.  In 2012, Tempur-Pedic sued Angel Beds again.  This time, the complaint challenged the domain name and other alleged uses of Tempur-Pedic’s trademarks on Angel Bed’s website.  The complaint included claims of trademark infringement, unfair competition under Section 43(a), breach of contract, and dilution.  Tempur-Pedic alleged that Angel Beds included Tempur-Pedic marks in domain names and website content “in order to drive Internet traffic to its website” and to create initial-interest confusion.

Angel Beds moved to dismiss Tempur-Pedic’s unfair-competition and breach-of-contract claims, and also moved for a more definite statement of “the nature of the marks [defendant] is alleged to have infringed.”   In its motion, Angel Beds contended that the complaint was deficient because it did not include specific allegations of intentional wrongdoing.  The district court denied both motions.  On the motion to dismiss, the court first addressed whether the liberal pleading standard of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 or the heightened standard for pleading fraud under Fed. R. Civ. P. 9 should apply to Tempur-Pedic’s Section 43(a) unfair-competition claim.  Noting a split among the circuits, the district court agreed with district courts in Tennessee, New York, and Illinois that fraud is not an element of a claim for unfair competition under that section of the Lanham Act.  So the heightened pleading standard of Fed. R. Civ. P. 9 did not apply to Tempur-Pedic’s claim.  Under the more liberal pleading standard, Tempur-Pedic “unquestionably asserted a plausible claim for violation of section 43(a) of the Lanham Act.”  The district court also held that Tempur-Pedic’s complaint was not “so vague or ambiguous that the Defendants cannot reasonably formulate a response,” even though it did not specify which of its several trademarks identified in the complaint were being diluted.  The court therefore denied the motion for a more definite statement.

A complaint for trademark and infringement, unfair competition, and dilution satisfies the pleading requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 when it identifies the marks owned by the plaintiff, explains defendant’s alleged wrongful conduct, and outlines the alleged threatened harm.