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Mom and pop store can’t proceed pro se in Coach trademark lawsuit

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The owners of a southern Indiana general store accused in a federal lawsuit of selling knockoff high-end Coach-brand products may not represent pro se their incorporated general store named in the suit.

New York-based Coach Inc. sued Dyer’s General Store and Outlet in Worthington, also naming its owners, Kimberly and David Dyer. The suit, filed three months ago, claims an investigator hired by Coach purchased a counterfeit wristlet bearing a Coach trademark at the store and observed handbags and accessories that “had trademarks for high-end brands including, but not limited to, Coach.”  

The suit seeks damages and fees for alleged Lanham Act violations including trademark counterfeiting, trademark infringement and false advertising; common law trademark infringement, unfair competition, forgery, counterfeiting and unjust enrichment.

“Coach is suffering irreparable injury, has suffered substantial damages as a result of Defendants’ activities,” the suit alleges. The case in the District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Terre Haute Division, is Coach, Inc. and Coach Services, Inc. v. Dyer’s General Store and Outlet, Kimberly Dyer, and David L. Dyer, 2:13-cv-0411.

David Dyer filed a pro se response in which he said Dyer’s doesn’t deny the allegations but believed the products it bought and sold were “designer inspired” and that the store has since removed the items and worked with Coach “with the desire to resolve all concerns with promptness and diligence.”

But District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson on Tuesday ordered the corporate entity to appear by counsel and file an answer to Coach’s complaint by March 13.

“The Court notes that corporations cannot appear pro se, but must appear through an attorney,” she wrote, citing Nocula v. UGS Corp., 520 F.3d 719, 725 (7th Cir. 2008). The Dyers may represent themselves, but “Dyer’s General cannot represent itself and the Dyers cannot represent Dyer’s General either.”

Dyer’s is the latest Indiana retailer sued in federal court as Coach pursues an aggressive defense of its intellectual property, asserting in the suit that its marks “are widely recognized and exclusively associated by consumers, the public and the trade as being high quality products sourced from Coach, and have acquired a strong secondary meaning.”

Since 2009, Coach has filed at least 21 lawsuits against retailers in Indiana federal courts. Just two, including the suit against Dyer’s, remain open.
 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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