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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.