Judge Ricardo S. Martinez authored an opinion siding with Simply Wireless Inc. in a Lanham Act and Washington Consumer Protection Act (CPA) suit brought by T-Mobile last April. In Wednesday’s ruling, the court opined that T-Mobile made insufficient, conclusory allegations of consumer confusion regarding Simply Wireless’ alleged misuse of its logo.
According to the decision, the dispute arose from T-Mobile and Simply Wireless’ former business relationship. The court explained that T-Mobile is a national wireless carrier and the domestic mobile telecommunications subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom AG (DTAG) while Simply Wireless sells mobile phones and accessories for all major U.S. carriers.
At different times in the last two decades, Simply Wireless was an authorized dealer of T-Mobile devices and services pursuant to several different agreements. “During the course of that business relationship, Simply Wireless engaged in cooperative advertising with T-Mobile at its retail stores and kiosks and through various advertising media,” the filing specified.
In its Seattle, Wash. lawsuit, T-Mobile argued that Simply Wireless retained T-Mobile’s registered trademarks on its website even though the parties’ business relationship had ended. According to T-Mobile, this created the risk that consumers would both wrongly believe Simply Wireless was an authorized reseller and would “likely associate T-Mobile with complaints they have about Simply Wireless’s products and services.”
Judge Martinez’s opinion concluded that the alleged conduct “hardly demonstrates a violation of the Lanham Act.” The court pointed to T-Mobile’s failure to specify any good or service offered by Simply Wireless alleged to be misleading or otherwise violative of the Lanham Act.
Similarly, Judge Martinez ruled against T-Mobile as to its CPA claim. The wireless carrier failed to allege an unfair or deceptive act and therefore did not plead an essential element, the opinion said.
The court also acknowledged Simply Wireless’ timeliness defenses that T-Mobile knew or should have known that its logo remained on the defendant’s website since 2015 when the contractual relationship ended and should have filed suit sooner. Judge Martinez said that while certainly possible, he could not conclude so as a matter of law without the benefit of evidence outside the pleadings.