United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ORDER ON DEFENDANT CHRISTOPHER MUYLLE'S
SUPPLEMENTAL PETITION UNDER THE LANHAM ACT FOR POST NOVEMBER
30, 2014 FEES
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant Christopher
Muylle's (“Mr. Muylle”) Supplemental Petition
Under the Lanham Act for Post November 30, 2014 Fees
(“Supplemental Fee Petition”) (Filing No.
651). From November 17 through November 20, 2014, the
Court conducted a jury trial on Plaintiff Wine & Canvas
Development LLC's (“WNC”) trademark claims
against Mr. Muylle and on Mr. Muylle's counterclaim and
third party claim for abuse of process against WNC and its
principals Anthony Scott (“Mr. Scott”), Tamara
McCracken Scott (“Ms. McCracken”), and Donald
McCracken (“Mr. McCracken”). At the conclusion of
the four-day trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of
Mr. Muylle on WNC's claims for trademark infringement and
false designation of origin. The jury also returned a verdict
for Mr. Muylle on his counterclaim and third party claim for
abuse of process, awarding Mr. Muylle $81, 000.00 against
WNC, $81, 000.00 against Mr. Scott, $81, 000.00 against Ms.
McCracken, and $27, 000.00 against Mr. McCracken.
the trial, Mr. Muylle filed his initial fee petition, seeking
fees incurred from October 1, 2014 through November 30, 2014.
The Court granted Mr. Muylle's initial fee petition
because he was a prevailing defendant in a Lanham Act suit
that was an exceptional case (Filing No. 535). Mr.
Muylle now seeks an award of additional fees that he has
incurred as the prevailing party in a Lanham Act case, asking
for fees incurred after November 30, 2014. For the following
reasons, the Court GRANTS Mr. Muylle's
Supplemental Fee Petition.
1117(a) of the Lanham Act provides that “[t]he court in
exceptional cases may award reasonable attorney fees to the
prevailing party.” 15 U.S.C. § 1117(a).
“Under the Lanham Act, an award of attorneys fees is
committed to the trial court's sound discretion, ”
and on appeal, the court of appeals “review[s] a grant
of attorney fees to a prevailing defendant under the Lanham
Act only for clear error.” S Indus. v. Centra 2000,
Inc., 249 F.3d 625, 627 (7th Cir. 2001).
the appropriateness of an attorney fee award under the Lanham
Act, the Seventh Circuit discussed the reasoning behind the
fee shifting provision.
A more practical concern is the potential for businesses to
use Lanham Act litigation for strategic purposes-not to
obtain a judgment or defeat a claim but to obtain a
competitive advantage independent of the outcome of the case
by piling litigation costs on a competitor. Almost all cases
under the Act . . ., whether they are suits for trademark
infringement or for false advertising, 15 U.S.C. §§
1114, 1125(a), are between competitors. The owner of a
trademark might bring a Lanham Act suit against a new entrant
into his market, alleging trademark infringement but really
just hoping to drive out the entrant by imposing heavy
litigation costs on him.
Nightingale Home Healthcare, Inc. v. Anodyne Therapy,
LLC, 626 F.3d 958, 962 (7th Cir. 2010). The Seventh
Circuit further explained that, as to prevailing defendants,
the Lanham Act's fee shifting provision “provide[s]
protection against unfounded suits brought by trademark
owners for harassment and the like.” Finance Inv.
Co. (Bermuda) v. Geberit AG, 165 F.3d 526, 533 (7th Cir.
determining whether a case is “exceptional” to
warrant the award of attorney fees to a prevailing defendant,
the Seventh Circuit has provided guidance to the district
courts. “When the plaintiff is the oppressor, the
concept of abuse of process provides a helpful
characterization of his conduct.” Nightingale,
626 F.3d at 963. In attempting to draw a line to assist
parties and district courts concerning the standard for
awarding attorney fees under the Lanham Act, the Seventh
We conclude that a case under the Lanham Act is
“exceptional, ” in the sense of warranting an
award of reasonable attorneys' fees to the winning party,
if the losing party was the plaintiff and was guilty of abuse
of process in suing, or if the losing party was the defendant
and had no defense yet persisted in the trademark
infringement or false advertising for which he was being
sued, in order to impose costs on his opponent.
Id. at 963-64.
Order on Petition for Fees Under the Lanham Act, the Court
explained the litigation conduct and history of this case and
determined that this case is indeed an exceptional case,
warranting an award of attorney fees in a Lanham Act suit.
The Court's previous analysis and conclusion remain
applicable (Filing No. 535 at 3-5), and thus, the
Court herein adopts its prior analysis and conclusion from
the Order on Petition for Fees Under the Lanham Act regarding
the appropriateness of awarding attorney fees in this case.
support of his Supplemental Fee Petition, Mr. Muylle
submitted to the Court his detailed costs invoice and
attorney fees statements as well as a declaration under
penalty of perjury from his attorney, providing
authentication for the statements (Filing No. 651-1;
Filing No. 651-2; Filing No. 651-3). The
statements show that fees and costs incurred from December 1,
2014, through October 31, 2017, totaled $208, 535.23.
response to the Supplemental Fee Petition, WNC argues that
many of the attorney fee charges are improper because (1)
they are recorded in block billing format, (2) they are
vague, (3) they are excessive in that they are double or
triple billed for the same task, (4) they charge for fees on
motions for which Mr. Muylle was unsuccessful, (5) they are
incurred against one judgment defendant but not all judgment
defendants, (6) they are related to bankruptcy collection
efforts, or (7) they are related to state court collection
efforts (Filing No. 660). Additionally, WNC alleged
that it was supporting its argument with an attached
spreadsheet, “which sets forth each and every entry on
the Invoices along with the date, description, ...