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Great Lakes Transportation Holding, LLC v. Taxi

April 23, 2010

GREAT LAKES TRANSPORTATION HOLDING, LLC, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TAXI, AND JAE BLUE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert H. Cleland United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S "MOTION FOR AN ORDER HOLDING DEFENDANTS IN CONTEMPT OF COURT," ORDERING DEFENDANTS TO SHOW CAUSE WHY THEY SHOULD NOT BE HELD IN CONTEMPT, AND SETTING HEARING FOR MAY 13, 2010

Pending before the court is Plaintiff Great Lakes Transportation Holding, LLC's "Motion for an Order Holding Defendants in Contempt of Court," filed on April 1, 2010. Defendants DTW Taxi and Jae Blue have not filed a response. For the reasons stated below, the court will grant in part Plaintiff's motion and order Defendants to show cause why they should not be held in contempt.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff uses the "METRO CARS" servicemark in connection with its business of providing transportation services. (Compl. ¶¶ 6, 7.) Defendant Jae Blue is the registered agent, director, and CEO of Defendant DTW Taxi, which is also in the business of providing transportation services. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 13.) The present dispute arose based on Defendants' use of the names "Detroit Metro Car" and "Metro Car Detroit" in connection with their business, as well as Defendants' operation of websites with the domain names "www.metrocars.us," "www.metrocarsdetroit.org," and "www.detroitmetrocars.net." (Id. ¶ 15.)

Plaintiff filed a complaint on December 14, 2009, alleging the following counts:

(1) false designation of origin under 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a); (2) trademark dilution under 15 U.S.C. § 1125(c); (3) trademark infringement under 15 U.S.C. § 1114; (4) common law unfair competition; (5) unjust enrichment; and (6) material misrepresentation. After Plaintiff filed a motion for preliminary injunction, the parties stipulated to the entry of a Permanent Injunction, which the court entered on January 22, 2010.

Pursuant to the Permanent Injunction, Defendants were enjoined from, among other things, (1) using the servicemark "METRO CARS" or a colorable imitation thereof;

(2) operating websites with domain names containing the words "Metro" and "Cars;" and

(3) using the designation "METRO CARS" as a meta tag or html code for Defendants' websites. (1/22/10 Permanent Injunction ¶¶ 1-3.) Defendants were further required to make arrangements so that callers to their phone number, 1-877-389-7332, were instructed that they had reached DTW Taxi and that if they were trying to reach Metro Cars, then they should call 1-800-456-1701. (Id. ¶ 7.) Defendants were also required to file with the court a written report setting forth the manner and form of their compliance with the Permanent Injunction. (Id. at 3.)

On April 1, 2010, Plaintiff filed the present motion seeking an order holding Defendants in contempt of court. Specifically, Plaintiff requests an order requiring Defendants to: (1) fully comply with the Permanent Injunction; (2) cease operating the website "www.metrocars.info;" (3) cease doing business as "Metro Cars of Tampa;" (4) cease using "Metro Cars" as a meta tag or html code for Defendants' website; (5) make the telephone recording that was required by the Permanent Injunction; (6) pay a monetary sum representing Plaintiff's costs and attorney's fees incurred in enforcing the Permanent Injunction; and (7) file with the court within ten days a report setting forth the manner and form of their compliance. (Pl.'s Mot. at 1-2.)

II. STANDARD

The district court is afforded sound discretion in deciding a contempt petition. Elec. Workers Pension Trust Fund of Local Union # 58, IBEW v. Gary's Elec. Serv. Co., 340 F.3d 373, 378 (6th Cir. 2003). There is no doubt that the due process safeguards customarily applied in civil litigation apply to civil contempt proceedings. The party charged with contempt is entitled to proper notice, an impartial hearing, and an opportunity to present a defense. NLRB v. Cincinnati Bronze, Inc., 829 F.2d 585, 589 (6th Cir. 1987). Generally, civil contempt proceedings are summary in nature and "[t]he full panoply of evidentiary and procedural safeguards of criminal proceedings or trial need not be employed." Nabkey v. Hoffius, 827 F. Supp. 450, 452 (W.D. Mich. 1993).

"When a court seeks to enforce its order or supervise its judgment, one weapon in its arsenal is contempt of court." Gary's Elec. Serv. Co., 340 F.3d at 378. Although the power to hold a party in contempt should not be invoked lightly, the Supreme Court has explained that this power "is a necessary and integral part of the independence of the judiciary, and is absolutely essential to the performance of the duties imposed on them by law. Without it [the courts] are mere boards of arbitration, whose judgments and decrees would be only advisory." Gompers v. Buck's Stove & Range Co., 221 U.S. 418, 450 (1911).

To hold a litigant in contempt, the movant must provide clear and convincing evidence that shows that the charged party violated a "definite and specific order of the court requiring him to perform or refrain from performing a particular act or acts with knowledge of the court's order." Gary's Elec. Serv. Co., 340 F.3d at 379 (quoting Cincinnati Bronze, 829 F.2d at 591). "Once the movant establishes his prima facie case, the burden shifts to the contemnor who may defend by showing that he is presently ...


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