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Counterfeit Confessions: Landlord’s Liability Extended to a Tenant’s Trademark Infringement

On August 7, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit affirmed a ruling in favor of a luxury eye wear manufacturer against a mall owner for trademark infringement violations in the case of Luxottica Group, S.P.A. vs Airport Mini Mall, LLC, Case No. 18-10157, 2019 WL 3676340 (11th Cir. Aug. 7, 2019).

The dispute involved a subtenant at a discount mall selling knockoffs of Ray-Ban and Oakley brands. The 11th Circuit held that the willful blindness of the mall landlord to it’s subtenant’s specific acts of infringement rose to a level of constructive knowledge sufficient to hold the landlord liable for contributory trademark infringement under the Lanham Act, a federal statute governing trademark service marks and unfair competition.

As a result of the ruling, landlords, property owners, and mall operators must not turn a blind eye to the activities of their tenants or subtenants, but must regularly monitor same and swiftly take the appropriate legal action if counterfeiting or infringement is at all suspected.

Mya Hatchette, Esquire