Legal Fees Sought After NCAA Trademark Suit Deemed “Exceptional Case”
As we have previously reported, the NCAA has recently triumphed over a year-long trademark suit when its motion requesting an entry of default was granted back in January 2018, and a default judgment rendered thereafter. The suit alleged that defendants Robert Alexander and Kizzang LLC had infringed, diluted, and unfairly competed with the NCAA by using and attempting to register the marks “April Madness” and “Final 3.” The marks were strikingly similar to the NCAA’s well-known trademarks of “March Madness” and the “Final Four.”
Since that time, the NCAA has decided to recoup the costs of their legal fees for a suit that may have been unnecessarily dragged out, and which ultimately ended in favor of the NCAA. On February 23, 2018, the NCAA filed a motion seeking an award of attorneys’ fees in excess of $240,000, which encompassed its various efforts in representing the NCAA in protection of its trademarks. The figure did not even include counsels’ efforts toward gaining such legal fees.
In granting the NCAA’s motion for default judgment, the court found that defendants Alexander and Kizzang had violated the Lanham Act and “engaged in unfair competition,” and found the suit to be an “exceptional case,” thereby entitling the NCAA to recover “reasonable attorneys’ fees.” This finding is crucial for the NCAA and provides some level of assurance that their motion will be granted. The NCAA’s February 23 motion stated that its counsel had not included in costs any time that may have been “inefficient or duplicitous” and that “counsel’s decisions on how to spend time litigating a matter were reasonable in absence of particularized evidence to the contrary.” The court must consider those items in determining whether legal fees should ultimately be granted to the NCAA.