A federal judge has awarded $3.5 million to a Waco-based international franchise company in a trademark and copyright dispute with an employment company.
In U.S. District Judge Alan Albright’s first bench trial since he took office in September 2018, the judge sided with Dwyer Franchising and its subsidiary, ProTradeNet, and issued a permanent injunction to block Predictive Profiles from using any of Dwyer’s trademarked or copyrighted logos or other brands.
Albright conducted the bench trial in October and issued his final judgment in the case this week. The judge awarded $3,593,878 to Dwyer Franchising, which changed its public name to Neighborly in 2018, and $21,015 to ProTradeNet.
Albright also dismissed Predictive’s counterclaims and enjoined it from “engaging in any activity that is likely to dilute the distinctiveness of the Dwyer Franchising LLC or PreTradeNet LLC’s marks or any future marks.”
Waco attorney Jim Dunnam, who represents Dwyer, said the case was an important one for his client.
“Obviously, we are pleased with the result and believe the judgment is fully supported by the evidence in the case,” Dunnam said.
Jordan Mayfield, who represents Predictive Profiles, declined comment on the judgment.
The federal Western District of Texas, which includes Waco’s federal court, has become the nation’s leading hotbed for patent litigation since Albright, a former patent litigation specialist, took the bench and spread the word that he welcomes patent lawsuits to be filed in his court.
The Western District recently overtook the District of Delaware and the historical front runner, the Eastern District of Texas, as the most popular jurisdiction for patent litigation.
Dwyer Franchising is a holding company with service-based subsidiaries, such as Mr. Rooter, Rainbow International, Mr. Appliance, Mr. Electric, the Ground Guys and others. PTN, a Dwyer subsidiary in the vendor relations division, provides a wide range of options that benefit franchisees, such as finding cheaper supply sources, new technologies and other goods and services.
Dwyer and PTN and Predictive Profiles, a Minnesota-based employment company, entered into a non exclusive, preferred vendor agreement in February 2017 with the goal that Predictive would help Dwyer franchisees ease the hiring process and find better employees, according to Albright’s 46-page findings from the bench trial.
A few months after the agreement was signed, PTN notified Predictive that it was terminating the agreement after it and franchisees began to have trouble with their services. Albright notes in his findings that the agreement was terminable with or without cause by either party with 90-day notice.
At the trial, Albright wrote, Predictive officials complained that contractors had been inundated with job applications for which they had no openings. In one instance, a franchisee’s employee saw that her own job was being advertised as open. It was not open, but the employee was left to wonder if they were about to be fired or replaced.
After the agreement was canceled, PTN sent Predictive a notice that it could no longer use its logos and the like on web pages and said it was to disable or remove the domain names that used their trademarks.
Instead, Predictive got new web addresses and directed traffic from the previous web pages to a new one and continued to use Dwyer and PTN trademarks and logos.
PTN filed a lawsuit for breach of contract, federal trademark infringement and unfair competition. In turn, Predictive sued PTN for $2 million for breach of contract, unfair competition and interference with a contract.
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