Duck Dynasty Infringement Case Dismissed Despite “Needlessly Offensive” Jurisdictional Argument
A Kentucky federal court has granted a motion to dismiss an action
against the owner of Duck Dynasty trademarks alleging infringement
based on jurisdictional issues. Chinook USA v. Duck Commander, Inc.,
No. 14-1015 (W.D. Ky., Louisville Div., order entered January 8, 2015). In
2014, Duck Commander licensed the rights to several trademarks related
to Duck Dynasty, including “Duck Commander Family Foods,” “Uncle
Si” and “Si Robertson,” to Chinook for use on several types of beverages.
Chinook later learned that Duck Commander also licensed the same
rights to other companies, including Go-Time and Checkered Flag Business.
Chinook sued, arguing that it held exclusive rights to the use of the
trademarks on beverages. In “colorful” filings recounting “Bill Russell’s
collegiate basketball career, the Scottish jurist and poet Sir Walter Scott’s
Marmion, and Jackie Gleason’s role in an short-lived television series
from the late 1940s,” Chinook argued that Duck Commander and the
beverage companies tortiously interfered with a contractual relationship
and infringed upon Chinook’s rights to the trademarks.
The defendants moved to dismiss and for a change in venue to Louisiana.
The court assessed the forum selection clause in the contract, which
stated that Louisiana law governed the agreement, and found that the
clause was valid. Further, Chinook failed to show that the transfer was
unwarranted, the court noted. The company argued that Louisiana
citizens would be unable to fairly decide a case in which the defendants
were central to the local economy. “In concocting this argument, Chinook
imputes Robertson family members’ statements on homosexuality and
racism to all of the inhabitants of West Monroe and Monroe, Louisiana,”
the court said. “This argument is intellectually dishonest, logically flawed,
and needlessly offensive.”