VANITY FAIR MILLS v. T. EATON CO. No. 251, Docket 23831.
234 F.2d 633 (1956)
VANITY FAIR MILLS, Inc., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. The T. EATON CO. Limited and John David Eaton, Defendants-Appellees.
United States Court of Appeals Second Circuit.
Decided June 1, 1956.
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, New York City (Jacquelin A. Swords, New York City, of counsel), for defendants-appellees.
Before FRANK, MEDINA and WATERMAN, Circuit Judges.
WATERMAN, Circuit Judge.
This case presents interesting and novel questions concerning the extraterritorial application of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C.A. § 1051 et seq., and the International Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (Paris Union), 53 Stat. 1748 (1883, as revised 1934), T.S.No.941. Plaintiff's complaint, filed November 18, 1954, and amended January 18, 1955, alleged trade-mark infringement and unfair competition both in the United States and Canada. Defendants moved to dismiss under Rule 12(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 28 U.S.C.A., on the grounds that the district court lacked jurisdiction over the person of the individual defendant, John D. Eaton, and the corporate defendant, The T. Eaton Co.; that the district court lacked jurisdiction over the subject matter of the complaint insofar as it related to defendants' alleged trade-mark infringement and unfair competition in the Dominion of Canada; and that the district court was an inconvenient forum for the trial of those issues. The district court found that it had personal jurisdiction over the corporate defendant, and no issue concerning personal jurisdiction is raised by this appeal.
Although the parties presented many affidavits, depositions, and exhibits for the consideration of the district court, there has been no trial of facts, and the complaint is unanswered. On an appeal from a judgment granting a motion to dismiss a complaint for lack of federal jurisdiction, we must assume the truth of the facts stated in the complaint.
Plaintiff, Vanity Fair Mills, Inc., is a Pennsylvania corporation, having its principal place of business at Reading, Pennsylvania. It has been engaged in the manufacture and sale of women's underwear under the trade-mark "Vanity Fair" since about the year 1914 in the United States, and has been continuously offering its branded merchandise for sale in Canada since at least 1917. Plaintiff has publicized its trade-mark "Vanity Fair" on feminine underwear in the United States since 1914, and since 1917 has regularly expended large sums of money in advertising and promoting its trade-mark both in the United States and Canada. As a result of the high quality of plaintiff's merchandise, and its extensive sales promotion and advertising, the name "Vanity Fair" has become associated throughout the United States and Canada with plaintiff's products.
Beginning in 1914 plaintiff has protected its trade-mark rights by registrations with the United States Patent Office of the trade-mark "Vanity Fair" as applying to various types of underwear. It has been continuously manufacturing and selling feminine underwear under these trade-mark registrations since about the year 1914.
Defendant, The T. Eaton Company, Limited, is a Canadian corporation engaged in the retail merchandising business throughout Canada, with its principal office in Toronto, Ontario. It has a regular and established place of business within the Southern District of New York. On November 3, 1915, defendant filed with the proper Canadian official an application for the registration in Canada of the trade-mark "Vanity Fair," claiming use in connection with the sale of "Women's, Misses' and Children's Coats, Suits, Cloaks, Waists, Dresses, Skirts, Corsets, Knitted Goods, Gloves, Hosiery, Boots & Shoes, Outer Garments, and other Wearing Apparel." On November 10, 1915, the proper Canadian official granted defendant's application for the registration of that mark. Plaintiff asserts that this registration applies only to feminine outerwear, and that in any
During the years 1945-1953 the defendant ceased to use its own "Vanity-Fair" trade-mark, purchased branded merchandise from the plaintiff, and sold this merchandise under advertisements indicating that it was of United States origin and of plaintiff's manufacture. These purchases by defendant from plaintiff were made through defendant's New York office. In 1953 defendant resumed the use of its own trade-mark "Vanity Fair" and, simultaneously, under the same trade-mark, sold plaintiff's branded merchandise and cheaper merchandise of Canadian manufacture. Defendant at this time objected to plaintiff's sales of its branded merchandise to one of defendant's principal competitors in Canada, the Robert Simpson Company. The Simpson Company discontinued purchases of plaintiff's branded merchandise after being threatened with infringement suits by defendant.
Plaintiff alleges that these acts constitute a conspiracy on the part of the corporate defendant and its officers and agents to appropriate for their own benefit plaintiff's registered and common-law trade-mark. It asserts that defendant, by purchasing plaintiff's branded merchandise for a period of years and advertising and selling such merchandise as plaintiff's goods, attempted to associate plaintiff's trade-mark with itself, and, that purpose having been accomplished, defendant then began using the trademark "Vanity Fair" in connection with its own inferior feminine underwear, discontinued purchases from plaintiff, and threatened its competitors in Canada with infringement suits if they continued to sell plaintiff's branded merchandise in Canada.
Finally, plaintiff asserts that defendant has advertised feminine underwear in the United States under the trade-mark "Vanity Fair," and that it has sold such underwear by mail to customers residing in the United States.
The complaint seeks injunctive relief against the use by defendant of the trademark "Vanity Fair" in connection with women's underwear both in Canada and the United States, a declaration of the superior rights of the plaintiff in such trade-mark, and an accounting for damages and profits.
The initial question is whether the district court had jurisdiction over all, or only part, of the action. Plaintiff's complaint asserted federal jurisdiction both because it raised substantial federal questions under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S. C.A. § 1051 et seq., and the International Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, 53 Stat. 1748, and because of the presence of diversity of citizenship and the requisite jurisdictional amount, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Regardless of the existence of the other asserted grounds for federal jurisdiction, the allegations of diversity of citizenship and of the requisite jurisdictional amount were sufficient to vest the district court with jurisdiction over the entire action.
Plaintiff, however, does not rely other than incidentally on diversity as the basis for federal jurisdiction, but asserts that its claims arise under the laws of the United States and should be governed by those laws. The result sought — extraterritorial application of American law — is contrary to usual conflict-of-laws principles. First, the legal status of foreign nationals in the United
Conflict-of-laws principles, however,
I. The International Convention
Plaintiff asserts that the International Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (Paris Union), 53 Stat. 1748 (1883, as revised 1934), T.S.No.941, to which both the United States and Canada are parties, is self-executing; that by virtue of Article VI of the Constitution it is a part of the law of this country which is to be enforced by its courts; and that the Convention has created rights available to plaintiff which protect it against trademark infringement and unfair competition in foreign countries. Plaintiff would appear to be correct in arguing that no special legislation in the United States was necessary to make the International Convention effective here,
The International Convention is essentially a compact between the various member countries to accord in their own countries to citizens of the other contracting parties trade-mark and other rights comparable to those accorded their own citizens by their domestic law. The underlying principle is that foreign nationals should be given the same treatment in each of the member countries as that country makes available to its own citizens. In addition, the Convention sought to create uniformity in certain respects by obligating each member nation "to assure to nationals of countries of the Union an effective protection against unfair competition."
The Convention is not premised upon the idea that the trade-mark and related laws of each member nation shall be given extraterritorial application, but on exactly the converse principle that each nation's law shall have only territorial application. Thus a foreign national of a member nation using his trade-mark in commerce in the United States is accorded extensive protection here against infringement and other
II. The Lanham Act
Plaintiff's primary reliance is on the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C.A. §§ 1051-1127, 60 Stat. 427, a complex statute conferring broad jurisdictional powers on the federal courts. Plaintiff advances two alternative arguments, the first one based on the decision of the Supreme Court in Steele v. Bulova Watch Co., 1952,
A. General Extraterritorial Application of the Lanham Act — the Bulova Case.
Section 32(1) (a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C.A. § 1114(1) (a), one of the more important substantive provisions of the Act, protects the owner of a registered mark from use "in commerce" by another that is "likely to cause confusion or mistake or to deceive purchasers as to the source of origin" of the other's good or services. "Commerce" is defined by the Act as "all commerce which may lawfully be regulated by Congress." § 45, 15 U.S.C.A. § 1127. Plaintiff, relying on Steele v. Bulova Watch Co., 1952,
While Congress has no power to regulate commerce in the Dominion of Canada, it does have power to regulate commerce "with foreign Nations, and among the several States." Const. art. 1, § 8, cl. 3. This power is now generally interpreted to extend to all commerce, even intrastate and entirely foreign commerce, which has a substantial effect on commerce between the states or between the United States and foreign countries. Thomsen v. Cayser, 1917,
The Lanham Act itself gives almost no indication of the extent to which Congress intended to exercise its power in this area. While § 45, 15 U.S.C.A. § 1127, states a broad definition of the "commerce" subject to the Act, both the statement of Congressional intent in the same section
In the Bulova case, supra, the Fifth Circuit,
We do not think that the Bulova case lends support to plaintiff; to the contrary, we think that the rationale of the Court was so thoroughly based on the power of the United States to govern "the conduct of its own citizens upon the high seas or even in foreign countries when the rights of other nations or their
B. Section 44 of the Lanham Act.
Plaintiff's alternative contention is that § 44 of the Lanham Act, which is entitled "International Conventions," affords to United States citizens all possible remedies against unfair competition by foreigners who are nationals of convention countries, including the relief requested in this case. Subsection (b) of § 44 specifies that nationals of foreign countries signatory to certain named conventions (including the Paris Union signed by Canada) are "entitled to the benefits * * * [of the Act] to the extent * * * essential to give effect to [the conventions]." Subsection (g) then provides that the trade names of persons described in subsection (b), i. e., nationals of foreign countries which have signed the conventions, "shall be protected without the obligation of filing or registration whether or not they form parts of marks", and subsection (h) provides that the same persons "shall be entitled to effective protection against unfair competition * * *" Finally, subsection (i) provides that "citizens or residents of the United States shall have the same benefits as are granted by this section to persons described in subsection (b) * * *" Thus § 44 first implements the international agreements by providing certain foreign nationals with the benefits contained in those agreements, then, in subsection (i), places American citizens on an equal footing by providing them with the same benefits. See American Auto. Ass'n v. Spiegel, 2 Cir., 1953,
The benefits provided by § 44 (without attempting to be exhaustive) may be summarized as follows:
We now come to the two remaining benefits specified in § 44, and the ones upon which plaintiff relies: the provision in subsection (g) protecting trade-names without the obligation of filing or registration, and the provision in subsection (h) entitling eligible foreign nationals "to effective protection against unfair competition" and making available "the remedies provided in this chapter for infringement of marks * * * so far as they may be appropriate in repressing acts of unfair competition." Here again, we think that these benefits are limited in application to within the United States. It is true that they are not expressly so limited, but it seems inconceivable that Congress meant by this language to extend to all eligible foreign nationals a remedy in the United States against unfair competition occurring in their own countries. Moreover, if § 44 were so interpreted, it would apply to commerce which is beyond the Congressional power to regulate, and a serious constitutional question would be created. In the absence of any Congressional intent to provide remedies of such extensive application, we interpret § 44 in a manner which avoids constitutional questions and which carries out the underlying principle of the International Conventions sought to be implemented by § 44 — the principle that each nation shall apply its national law equally to foreigners and citizens alike.
Since United States citizens are given by subsection (i) of § 44 only the same benefits which the Act extends to eligible foreign nationals, and since the benefits conferred on those foreign nationals have no extraterritorial application, the benefits accorded to citizens by this section can likewise have no extraterritorial application.
III. Forum Non Conveniens
With respect to the trademark infringement and unfair competition alleged to have occurred within Canada, the complaint, as we have seen, does not state a claim arising under the laws of the United States. Therefore, the jurisdiction of the district court over this part of the action rests solely on diversity of citizenship.
The doctrine of forum non conveniens is now firmly established in federal law. Koster v. Lumbermen's Mut. Casualty Co., 1947,
An American citizen does not have an absolute right under all circumstances to sue in an American court. De
We are convinced that the balance of convenience is strongly in favor of defendant,
The crucial issue in this case is the validity of defendant's Canadian trade-mark registration under Canadian trade-mark law. The Canadian Registrar of Trade-Marks has registered the mark "Vanity Fair" in defendant's name and has refused registration of plaintiff's "Vanity Fair" mark on the ground that it interfered with defendant's prior registration. Sections 6 and 19 of the Canadian Trade-Mark Act of 1952 give the Canadian registrant of a trade-mark the statutory right to prevent the use in Canada of a confusing mark, unless the Canadian registration is shown to be invalid. Such a showing could be made in any Canadian court of competent jurisdiction as a defense to an infringement action brought by defendant, or plaintiff could initiate proceedings in the Exchequer Court of Canada to expunge or amend defendant's registration. §§ 18 and 56. The Exchequer Court is given exclusive jurisdiction by § 56 to expunge or amend a trade-mark registration. Under these circumstances, we do not think a United States district court should take jurisdiction over that portion of this action turning on the validity or invalidity of defendant's Canadian trademark.
In the first place, courts of one state are reluctant to impose liability upon a person who acts pursuant to a privilege conferred by the law of the place where the acts occurred. Restatement, Conflict of Laws § 382(2); Goodrich, Conflict of Laws § 94 (1939). In the second place, it is well-established that the courts of one state will not determine the validity of the acts of a foreign sovereign done within its borders. Underhill v. Hernandez, 1897,
Were this merely a transitory tort action in which disputed facts could be litigated as conveniently here as in Canada, we would think the jurisdiction of the district court should be exercised. But we do not think it the province of United States district courts to determine the validity of trade-marks which officials of foreign countries have seen fit to grant. To do so would be to welcome conflicts with the administrative and judicial officers of the Dominion of Canada. We realize that a court of equity having personal jurisdiction over a party has power to enjoin him from committing acts elsewhere.
The district court, therefore, did not abuse its discretion in refusing to entertain the claims of trade-mark infringement and unfair competition occurring in Canada. Were it not for the fact that plaintiff did not press its American claims, and they appear to be of somewhat minor significance, we would think it improper to dismiss the entire complaint, since we think that the claims of trade-mark infringement and unfair competition occurring in the United States can be clearly ascertained from the complaint.
Affirmed as modified.
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