Judge rules to exclude survey in trademark infringement case over the use of 'Blueprint'

By Charmaine Little | Dec 6, 2018

ST. LOUIS – The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Eastern Division ironed out a trademark infringement case surrounding the word “Blueprint” as it granted in part and denied in part a company’s motion for partial summary judgement on Nov. 29.

Hain BluePrint Inc. was the one to file the motion for partial summary judgment in its trademark infringement and common law unfair competition case against Blueprint Coffee LLC. BPC filed a motion of its own when it requested the court to exclude Hain’s expert testimony from Dr. Lisa Sheer from the case.

U.S. District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh Jr. granted in part and denied in part Hain’s motion while it granted BPC’s request. 

According to the memorandum and order, Hain, a non-alcoholic beverage distributor, owns several registrations for multiple BluePrint brands from BluePrint Cleanse, BluePrintGreen, BluePrintKit, BluePrintBar and BluePrintJuice. Each of the trademarks cover fruit beverages except BluePrintBar.

U.S. District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh   Missouri Courts

While the earliest trademark for Hain dates back to 2008, BPC was established and opened up shop in 2013. It was noted both companies sell their products online and at Whole Food Market stores in St. Louis. BPC applied for trademark registration for BluePrint Coffee, which is still pending.

Hain sued BPC over allegations of trademark infringement via the Lanham Act and common law unfair competition. Hain filed its motion for partial summary judgment stating that Hain has the exclusive and nationwide rights for the word BluePrint as it relates to non-alcoholic drinks.

As for BPC’s motion to exclude the testimony, Limbaugh granted it, saying a consumer survey Sheer conducted was way too narrow and fails to take into account BPC’s number one business, which is its coffee shop. Instead, the survey focused on Whole Foods when asking consumers if they would be confused by the possible similarities between the two companies.

Another issue with the survey is that it doesn’t provide any context of how consumers would even see the Blueprint mark in the grocery store. Limbaugh pointed out BPC sells whole-bean coffee while Hain’s sells pre-bottled drinks in another section of the store. Since the survey doesn’t outline all of these options, it isn’t broad enough. 

“The survey does too little to capture the perceptions and opinions of those actual buyers of BPC’s goods and services, and the actual marketplace conditions faced by those buyers, so as to meaningfully assist the jury in determining the likelihood of confusion,” Limbaugh pointed out.

When it came to Hain’s motion for partial summary judgment, the court looked at each of the three counts: trademark infringement, unfair competition and common law unfair competition.

For trademark, Limbaugh said Hain failed to register its trademark as a coffee shop or anything dealing with coffee. Considering this, the court refused to expand Hain’s trademark to include it. Plus, BCP said that it is the one that has the Blueprint trademark for coffee since it was the first one to use it when it launched its coffee shop in 2013. Hain didn’t start selling its bottled coffee drink until after April 2014, BPC said.

While Hain argued the natural expansion doctrine and said its decision to eventually sell coffee drinks was inevitable, the court said Hain hasn’t proven this as it first said its focus was fruit beverages and failed to establish how the fruit drinks and coffee beverages are connected. Since Hain hasn’t shown this, Limbaugh said the court didn’t need to look at any likelihood of confusion.

Hain moved for summary judgment on BPC’s affirmative defenses of laches and equitable estoppel. This was pretty simple for the court to hash out as BPC never responded to Hain’s arguments about its affirmative defenses, so they were both stricken.

Ultimately, the motion to exclude the expert testimony was granted, the motion for partial summary judgment was granted in part and denied in part. Hain’s motion for BPC’s affirmative defenses was granted.

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