United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON MOTION TO DISMISS
Michael P. Shea, U.S.D.J.
Products, Inc. (“TSI”)-plaintiff in the
consolidated suit, No. 3:18-cv-1692-brings claims against
Armor All/STP Products Company, Spectrum Brands Holdings,
Inc., Guy Andrysick, and Robert DeRidder (collectively
“Armor All” or “Consolidated
Defendants”) for trademark infringement, unfair
competition, and false advertising under the Lanham Act, 15
U.S.C. §§ 1114 et seq., for restraint of trade,
monopolization, and attempted monopolization under the
Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1 et seq., and for
violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act
(“CUTPA”), Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 42-110a
Defendants move to dismiss TSI’s Second Amended
Complaint (“SAC”), ECF No. 96, in its entirety
under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim.
Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 102. Because I find that TSI has
stated a plausible claim under each of its seven counts, I
deny the motion to dismiss.
factual allegations below are drawn from TSI’s Second
Amended Complaint (“SAC”) and are accepted as
true for the purpose of adjudicating this motion.
TSI and Armor All create and sell do-it-yourself refrigerant
products and recharge kits, which permit car owners to
recharge their vehicle air conditioning (“AC”)
systems on their own, without the services of a professional
mechanic. SAC, ECF No. 96 ¶¶ 26, 55. Refrigerant
and recharge kits are sold in many automotive specialty
stores in the United States, such as Advance Auto Parts,
AutoZone, O’Reilly Auto Parts, NAPA, and Pep Boys, as
well in as in the automotive departments of stores such as
Walmart, Meijers, and Home Depot. Id. at
places do-it-yourself refrigerant products in “two
subcategories: non-value-added refrigerant and value-added
automotive AC recharge kits.” Id. ¶ 178.
“[T]he non-value-added refrigerant category consists
mainly of cans of R-134a refrigerant, without any included
additives, tools, gauges, or hoses. . . . [T]he category of
value-added automotive AC recharge kits consist of cans of
R-134a refrigerant that also typically contain some
combination of additives, lubricants, hoses, gauges, or other
tools.” Id. ¶¶ 180-81. Both TSI and
Armor All sell value-added products. Id.
All sells refrigerant-including the A/C Pro Professional
Formula and the A/C Pro Ultra Synthetic Formula-that contains
additives and lubricants. Id. ¶¶ 123-24.
Armor All also sells recharge kits consisting of refrigerant,
a hose and trigger dispenser, and a gauge that measures the
pressure on the low side of a car’s AC system.
Id. ¶ 61. TSI, similarly, offers value-added
refrigerant and recharge kits. Id. ¶ 204.
“Instead of a low-pressure-measuring gauge, some of
TSI’s AVALANCHE/AC AVALANCHE products are sold with 
Smart Clips, which instead of measuring the low-side pressure
of the AC system, measure the vent temperature of the air in
the passenger compartment to target the correct fill.”
Id. ¶ 145. “TSI’s Smart Clips are
constructed out of a thermochromic material that changes
color due to changes in temperature.” Id.
TSI’s Trademark Rights
sells its refrigerant and recharge kits under the brand names
AVALANCHE, AC AVALANCHE, and BLACK DIAMOND AVALANCHE.
Id. ¶ 25. TSI is the owner of the AVALANCHE
word mark, registered under Registration No. 4, 823, 588.
Id. ¶¶ 27, 31–33. TSI has
continuously sold refrigerant products under the AC AVALANCHE
mark since January 31, 2015 and holds trademark rights in the
work mark AC AVALANCHE used in connection with refrigerant
products. Id. ¶¶ 28–30. TSI also
holds trademark rights in the BLACK DIAMOND AVALANCHE word
mark, registered under Registration No. 5, 065, 364.
Id. ¶¶ 34–36.
holds trademark rights in the mountain logos used along with
its AVALANCHE and AC AVALANCHE brands and its BLACK DIAMOND
AVALANCHE brand. Id. ¶¶ 37–38. These
logos are part of the trade dress associated with the three
word marks, and the design appears on the products’
labels and promotional materials. Id. at
¶¶ 39, 41. TSI has consistently used the mountain
logo in connection with the sale of AVALANCHE and AC
AVALANCHE products since January 2015, Id. at ¶
40, and in connection with the sale of BLACK DIAMOND
AVALANCHE products since April 2015, Id. at ¶
Armor All’s Keyword Advertising
All markets its brands, including its A/C PRO brand of
refrigerant, online. Id. ¶ 135. As part of its
online advertising, Armor All purchased “AC
AVALANCHE” as a Google ad word. Id. ¶
138. As a result, a Google search for “AC
AVALANCHE” as of the date of TSI’s original
complaint yielded an advertisement for Armor All’s
AC/Pro website at the top of the search results. Id.
¶ 139–40. When a user clicked on the advertising
link, the consumer was directed to the A/C Pro website.
Id. ¶ 144. Armor All “made no effort to
distinguish themselves and their products from TSI, either in
the Google ad itself or on the linked AC Pro Website
webpage.” Id. ¶ 152.
Armor All Use of TSI’s Mountain Logo
All “had access to TSI’s AC AVALANCHE/AVALANCHE
mountain logo, as it had been used since 2015 in TSI’s
products sold in the very same stores selling [Armor
All’s] products, often in close proximity.”
Id. ¶ 156. Prior to 2017, Armor All did not
“utilize any mountain imagery in its packaging of
ARCTIC FREEZE products, ” Id. ¶ 157, but
it did begin using a mountain logo on those products in 2017,
Id. ¶ 159. The mountain logo used on the ARCTIC
FREEZE packaging “looks confusingly similar” to
the mountain logo on TSI’s products, Id.
¶ 161–65; TSI alleges on information and belief
that Armor All’s use of the mountain logo “causes
customer confusion as to the source of the goods, ”
Id. ¶ 168.
Armor All’s Misrepresentations regarding Refrigerants
and AC Recharge Kits
All has published advertising for its recharge kits and
refrigerant products online, on its product packaging and
promotional materials, and in videos and commercials.
Id. ¶ 66. In this advertising, Armor All makes
a No. of statements about its recharge kits, including that
they have the following characteristics and benefits:
• “Our kits come with everything you need to
recharge your system with no additional tools or equipment,
” Id. ¶ 76,
• “All-in-One Kit, ” Id. ¶ 77,
• “Easy as 1, 2 . . . Squeeze, ”
Id. ¶ 77,
• “Extends A/C/ Life, ” Id.
¶¶ 78, 80, 84,
• “fast and accurate recharging, ”
Id. ¶¶ 79, 81,
• “The trigger dispenser and measuring gauge make
filling your system to the proper level fast and easy,
” Id. ¶ 82,
• “fast, easy and accurate recharging, ”
Id. ¶ 83,
• “Protects System, ” Id. ¶
• “easy, convenient, and accurate recharging,
” Id. ¶ 85,
• “Bringing back the cool to your car’s
air-conditioning is a breeze with A/C Pro, ”
Id. ¶ 86,
• “just three easy steps, ” Id.
All also makes statements about its refrigerant formula,
• “#1 Rated Coldest Air” and “#1
Coldest Air, ” Id. ¶ 110,
• “Formula with 2X cooling boosters v. the next
leading brand of AC recharge kits: independently tested to
deliver the coldest air from your vehicle’s AC, ”
Id. ¶ 111,
• “A/C PRO ultra synthetic refrigerant kit
features a specially designed formula that helps a
vehicle’s A/C produce the coldest air, ”
Id. ¶ 112.
alleges that all of these statements are false or misleading.
Id. ¶¶ 89-109, 118-32.
Armor All’s Anticompetitive Conduct
automotive AC recharge kits-those that include refrigerant in
addition to some combination of additives, lubricants, hoses,
gauges, or other tools-is one of “two
subcategories” in the larger sector for do-it-yourself
automotive AC recharge products. Id. ¶¶
178, 181. In the smaller “market for value-added auto
AC recharge kits in the United States, ” Armor All had
an estimated market share of 88% in 2017. Id. ¶
193. TSI is Armor All’s largest competitor in terms of
market share, with approximately 10% share; all other
competitors combined constitute only 2% market share.
Id. ¶¶ 194-96.
to TSI’s entry into the value-added AC recharge kit
market in 2015, Armor All did not face substantial
competition in that market. Id. ¶ 201. After
TSI launched its products in 2015, the two companies have
competed “on the basis of both price and
innovation.” Id. ¶ 207. TSI alleges on
information and belief that Armor All experienced
“downward pricing pressure” between 2015 and 2017
“in the face of competition from TSI, ” but has
been able to “raise their prices to levels that
approach their pre-competition pricing” since 2017.
Id. ¶¶ 213-14.
alleges on information and belief that Armor All made an
agreement with retailer Advance Auto in August 2016 in which
Armor All “offered to pay Advance Auto cash
remuneration, product discounts, and/or some other value in
exchange for Advance Auto’s agreement to renege on its
agreement with TSI and refuse to allocate shelf space to
TSI’s products.” Id. ¶ 223-24.
Advance Auto did not purchase any TSI products or allocate
any shelf space to TSI products in 2017 or 2018. Id.
2018, TSI also learned from a representative of retailer Pep
Boys that “Pep Boys had received a payment from [Armor
All] . . . for display and channel allocation for [Armor All
products] . . . [and] to keep TSI’s competing . . .
products off Pep Boys’ shelves.” Id.
¶ 232. Pep Boys did not allocate any shelf space to TSI
products in 2018 and has indicated that it will not do so in
2019, due to payments received from Armor All. Id.
TSI launched its AVALANCHE products in 2015, attorneys
representing Armor All’s predecessor sent TSI a letter
in November 2015, alleging that TSI’s products
infringed two of the predecessor’s patents.
Id. ¶ 243. TSI “was forced to retain
counsel and respond to the letter” in December 2015 and
to send a follow-up letter in January 2016. Id.
¶¶ 246, 248. Neither Armor All nor its predecessor
responded to either letter. Id. ¶¶ 247,
249. TSI alleges on information and belief that neither Armor
All nor its predecessor had a “good faith belief that
TSI infringed” either patent. Id. ¶ 251.
TSI also alleges on information and belief that Armor All