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Hood River Distillers Inc. v. Sleeping Giant Beverage Company Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

April 30, 2019

SLEEPING GIANT BEVERAGE COMPANY INC., doing business as Lewis & Clark Brewing Company, Defendant.


          SALVADOR MENDOZA, JR. United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Defendant Sleeping Giant Beverage Company Inc.'s Motion for Transfer, ECF No. 17. Defendant moves to transfer venue under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) to the District Court for the District of Montana, specifically to the courthouse located in Helena, Montana. Plaintiff Hood River Distillers Inc. opposes the motion. ECF No. 27. As the Court finds that oral argument is not warranted under Local Civil Rule 7(i)(3)(B)(iii), the Court considered the motion without oral argument on the date signed below. Having reviewed the pleadings and the documents submitted, the Court is fully informed and denies the motion.


         Plaintiff is an Oregon corporation with its principal place of business in Hood River, Oregon. ECF No. 1, 4. In 2004, Plaintiff obtained the trademark rights to LEWIS & CLARK (the “trademark”) from Montana Distillers, which had been using the trademark since at least as early as 1986. Id. at 2. Plaintiff sells distilled spirits under the trademark LEWIS & CLARK throughout the United States, including in Spokane, Washington. Id. Indeed, each year since 2013, Plaintiff has sold at least 2250 nine-liter cases of spirits branded with the trademark in Spokane, Washington. Id.

         On October 24, 2004, Plaintiff filed a United States Trademark Application to protect the LEWIS & CLARK trademark for distilled spirits. Id. The Patent and Trademark Office initially refused to register Plaintiff's trademark because it alleged “a likelihood of confusion with the mark LEWIS & CLARK LAGER (“lager” disclaimed) in U.S. Registration No. 2940715.” ECF No. 1-2 at 2. LEWIS & CLARK LAGER (“lager” disclaimed) was registered to Defendant, a Montana corporation with its principal place of business and corporate headquarters in Helena, Montana. See ECF No. 17 at 2.

         Plaintiff filed a cancellation petition against Defendant's Registration No. 2940715. ECF No. 1 at 3. It ultimately prevailed and Defendant's Registration No. 2940715 was canceled. Id. Plaintiff was then able to obtain Registration No. 3, 113, 475, registered on July 11, 2006 to trademark LEWIS & CLARK for distilled spirits. ECF No. 1-1 at 2.

         Despite knowing that the use of both marks would likely cause confusion, Defendant did not discontinue, and in fact geographically expanded, its use of LEWIS & CLARK LAGER (“lager” disclaimed) for beer. ECF No. 1 at 3. On February 6, 2019, Plaintiff brought this action for (1) federal trademark infringement, (2) Washington state trademark infringement, and (3) federal unfair competition. Id. at 8-11.


         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b), a case may be brought in the venue (1) where any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the state in which the district is located, (2) where a “substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, ” or (3) if there is no other district, in any district where any defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction. If a matter is not brought in the correct venue, the Court may dismiss the case, or, in the interest of justice, transfer the case to the appropriate venue. 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a).

         Even where jurisdiction is proper, the Court may transfer an action to any other district or division where it might have been brought “for the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Transfer may be warranted “to prevent the waste of time, energy and money and to protect litigants, witnesses and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense.” Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964) (quoting Cont'l Grain Co. v. Barge FBL - 585, 364 U.S. 19, 26-27 (1960)). The Court may flexibly consider a variety of factors in evaluating a § 1404(a) motion to transfer, including

(1) the location where the relevant agreements were negotiated and executed, (2) the state that is most familiar with the governing law, (3) the plaintiff's choice of forum, (4) the respective parties' contacts with the forum, (5) the contacts relating to the plaintiff's cause of action in the chosen forum, (6) the differences in the costs of litigation in the two forums, (7) the availability of compulsory process to compel attendance of unwilling non-party witnesses, and (8) the ease of access to sources of proof.

Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 498-99 (9th Cir. 2000).


         Defendant does not dispute that venue is proper in this district, but requests a § 1404(a) transfer in the interest of justice to the District of Montana, as this matter could have been brought there. ECF No. 17. Plaintiff does not dispute that ...

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