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Armor All/STP Products Company v. TSI Products, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 30, 2018

ARMOR ALL/STP PRODUCTS COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
TSI PRODUCTS, INC., MICHAEL QUEST, and WILLIAM QUEST, Defendants.

          RULING ON MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION

          MICHAEL P. SHEA, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff, Armor All/STP Products Company (“Plaintiff”), brings this action against Defendants TSI Products, Inc., Michael Quest, and William Quest (collectively, “Defendants”) for allegedly deliberately copying Plaintiff's trademarks, trade dress, and creative works in order to compete with Plaintiff in the market for “do-it-yourself” refrigerant kits for vehicle air conditioners. Plaintiff brings claims for trademark infringement, trademark counterfeiting, unfair competition, trade dress infringement, and false advertising under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1051 et seq., and copyright infringement under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 501 et seq. Plaintiff also brings claims for trademark infringement, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment under Connecticut common law, and for unfair competition under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (“CUTPA”), Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 42-110a, et seq. Finally, Plaintiff brings a claim for false patent marking under 35 U.S.C. § 292. (See Amended Complaint, ECF No. 9.)

         Defendants Michael and William Quest (“the Quests”) move to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction (ECF No. 24.)[1] Because the complaint alleges in-state tortious conduct and Connecticut's long-arm statute confers jurisdiction over such conduct, and because exercising jurisdiction would comport with due process, the motion is DENIED.

         I. Factual Allegations

         The relevant jurisdictional facts are taken from the amended complaint (ECF No. 9) and the exhibits attached to the parties' briefs. The factual allegations are set out more fully in another ruling issued today in this case, familiarity with which is assumed. (ECF No. 59.) What follows is a summary of the allegations pertinent to this motion.

         A. Plaintiff's Brand and Products

         Plaintiff Armor All/STP Products Company is a corporation organized under the laws of Delaware with its principal place of business in Danbury, Connecticut. (ECF No. 9 ¶ 2.) Plaintiff is “the recognized leader” in the industry of “do-it-yourself” kits for replenishing lost chemical refrigerant in vehicle air conditioners. (ECF No. 9 ¶ 12.) Plaintiff's products allow consumers to add refrigerant to their own vehicles, avoiding the need to take the car to be serviced by a professional mechanic. (Id.) Plaintiff sells its products at major hardware and automotive supply retail stores throughout the United States. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff also maintains three websites that provide consumers with instructions for using its kits and other information about its products. (Id. ¶ 17.)

         Plaintiff's brands of do-it-yourself refrigerant kits and refill products are sold under several trademarks, including “HIGH MILEAGE, ” “A/C PRO, ” “ARCTIC FREEZE, ” “SUB-ZERO, ” “EZ CHILL, ” and “BIG CHILL.” (Id. ¶ 14.) The United States Patent and Trademark Office has issued Plaintiff two federal trademark registrations for the “HIGH MILEAGE” mark, one for the word mark HIGH MILEAGE for use in connection with “refrigerant chemical preparations for use in connection with automobile air conditioners, ” and one for a stylized mark displaying the word HIGH in diagonal, upward sloping letters above the word MILEAGE, which is also displayed in diagonal, upward sloping letters in “an odometer style format.” (Id. ¶ 18.) The HIGH MILEAGE marks were registered in 2011 and 2012, respectively, but Plaintiff and its predecessor IDQ have sold refrigerant products under the marks since at least as early as 2004, using online, print, and in-store advertising. (Id. ¶ 20.) The HIGH MILEAGE marks were originally registered to IDQ but were acquired by Plaintiff during its merger with IDQ in 2015. (Id. ¶ 23.)

         Plaintiff also uses certain trade dress on its “A/C PRO” and “HIGH MILEAGE” families of products. (Id. ¶ 24.) Plaintiff's A/C PRO trade dress includes a black canister with a large black and white A/C PRO logo along the top of the front face of the canister with a black and white image of a man positioned behind the logo, a blue banner along the middle of the canister, and a set of icons and short phrases along the bottom of the canister summarizing the benefits of the product. (Id. ¶ 25.)

         Plaintiff has sold do-it-yourself refrigerant products featuring its BIG CHILL and ARCTIC FREEZE marks since 2005. (Id. ¶ 28.) Plaintiff's BIG CHILL product line features a “prominent mountain design mark and trade dress, ” displaying a snow-covered mountain behind the BIG CHILL logo on the face of the product. (Id.) Plaintiff's ARCTIC FREEZE products have featured a blue trade dress since 2005. (Id. ¶ 29.) In 2014, Plaintiff commissioned the design of new ARCTIC FREEZE product labels and advertising materials featuring images of snow-covered mountains. (Id. ¶ 30.) Plaintiff began distributing ARCTIC FREEZE products with the redesigned label featuring the snow-covered mountain design mark in 2016. (Id. ¶ 32.)

         In 2017, Plaintiff filed applications with the U.S. Copyright Office to register as creative works the labels featured on its A/C PRO and HIGH MILEAGE-branded products. (Id. ¶ 35.)

         B. Defendants' Brand and Products

         Defendant TSI Products, Inc. (“TSI”) is a Texas corporation with its principal place of business in Texas. (Id. ¶ 3.) Defendants William and Michael Quest together founded the “Avalanche” division of TSI Products, Inc. in 2014. (ECF No. 9 ¶ 38.) The Avalanche division produces automotive refrigerant products. (Id.) Defendant Michael Quest is the president of the Avalanche division of TSI. (Id. ¶ 5.) He resides in Tennessee, and has also resided in North Carolina and Texas at times relevant to this dispute. (ECF No. 31 ¶ 4.) Defendant William Quest is co-founder of the “Avalanche” division of TSI and is Chairman of TSI's Board of Directors. (ECF No. 9 ¶ 6; ECF No. 30 ¶ 2.) He has resided in Texas at all times relevant to this dispute. (ECF No. 9 ¶ 6.)

         Plaintiff alleges that in January 2015, the Quests caused TSI to launch a family of Avalanche refrigerant products featuring a blue and white trade dress with a label design and snow-covered mountain design mark similar to those used by Plaintiff. (Id. ΒΆ 43.) Since 2015, Avalanche products have ...


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