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EAT Right Foods, Ltd. v. Whole Foods Market, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

May 14, 2015

EAT RIGHT FOODS, LTD., Plaintiff,
v.
WHOLE FOODS MARKET, INC., et al., Defendants.

ORDER ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

RICARDO S. MARTINEZ, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the Court on the remaining parties' Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. Dkts. #90 and #96. Defendants, Whole Foods Market Services, Inc. ("WFMI") and Whole Foods Market Pacific Northwest, Inc. ("WFMPNW"), argue that they are entitled to summary judgment on all claims on their affirmative defenses of laches and acquiescence. Dkt. #90. Plaintiff, Eat Right Foods, Ltd. ("ERF"), responds (and cross-moves) that it is entitled to summary judgment in its favor because the evidence does not support either defense in this case. Dkt. #96. For the reasons set forth below, and having determined that oral argument is not necessary on these motions, this Court disagrees with Plaintiff, GRANTS Defendants' motion for summary judgment and DENIES Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.

II. BACKGROUND

This matter arises from allegations of trademark infringement, false designation of origin and unfair competition. Dkt. #16 at ¶ ¶ 34-43. Plaintiff alleges that it has used the trademark "EAT RIGHT" since 2001 and the trademark "EATRIGHT" since 2003. Id. at ¶ 19. Plaintiff further alleges that from 2004 to 2013, Defendants sold products produced by Plaintiff and sold under the trademark "EATRIGHT." Id. at ¶ 30. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have since sold and marketed products using a trademark confusingly similar to "EATRIGHT" without authorization by Plaintiff, in violation of federal trademark laws and Washington's Consumer Protection Act. Id. at ¶ ¶ 32-43.

Defendants have raised an affirmative defense that Plaintiff's claims are barred by the doctrines of laches and acquiescence. Dkt. #23, Affirmative Defenses at ¶ 1. The instant motions address the affirmative defense only.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard on Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate where "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). In ruling on summary judgment, a court does not weigh evidence to determine the truth of the matter, but "only determine[s] whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Crane v. Conoco, Inc., 41 F.3d 547, 549 (9th Cir. 1994) ( citing Federal Deposit Ins. Corp. v. O'Melveny & Meyers, 969 F.2d 744, 747 (9th Cir. 1992)). Material facts are those which might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A factual dispute is "genuine" if the evidence is such that reasonable persons could disagree about whether the facts claimed by the moving party are true. Aydin Corp. v. Loral Corp., 718 F.2d 897, 902 (9th Cir. 1983). [T]he issue of material fact required... to be present to entitle a party to proceed to trial is not required to be resolved conclusively in favor of the party asserting its existence; rather, all that is required is that sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial. First Nat. Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288-89, 88 S.Ct. 1575, 20 L.Ed.2d 569 (1968).

The Court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See O'Melveny & Meyers, 969 F.2d at 747, rev'd on other grounds, 512 U.S. 79 (1994). However, the nonmoving party must make a "sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof" to survive summary judgment. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Further, "[t]he mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251.

While the parties do dispute some facts, they agree that the instant issues are appropriate for disposition on their cross-motions. However, cross motions for summary judgment do not warrant the conclusion that one of the motions must be granted. The Court must still determine whether summary judgment for either party is appropriate. See Fair Housing Council of Riverside County, Inc. v. Riverside Two, 249 F.3d 1132, 1136-1137 (9th Cir. 2001).

B. Laches

The Court first turns to Defendants' argument that Plaintiff's claims are barred by the doctrine of laches. "Laches is an equitable time limitation on a party's right to bring suit." Jarrow Formulas, Inc. v. Nutrition Now, Inc., 304 F.3d 829, 835 (9th Cir. 2002). To prevail on a laches defense, a defendant must prove that the claimant unreasonably delayed in filing suit, and as a result of the delay, the defendant suffered prejudice. Id .; adidas America, Inc. v. Payless Shoesource, Inc., 546 F.Supp.2d 1029, 1069 (D. Or. 2008). In determining whether a party exercised unreasonable delay in filing suit, the Court must assess the length of delay, which is measured from the time the plaintiff knew, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have known about its potential cause of action, and the Court must consider whether the plaintiff's delay was reasonable in light of the time allotted by the analogous state law limitations period. See Jarrow, 304 F.3d at 838. "If the plaintiff filed suit within the analogous limitations period, the strong presumption is that laches is inapplicable." Id. at 835. "However, if suit is filed outside of the analogous ...


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