Bogart, LLC v. Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc., No. 3:10-CV-39 (CDL), 2012 WL 3745833 (M.D. Ga. Aug. 28, 2012).
The plaintiff was an intellectual property holding company that held, among other things, various federally registered marks, including the word “Bogart,” and the publicity rights of Humphrey Bogart. The defendant, a home furniture store, introduced a collection of furniture in 2008, which it called the “Bogart Ocean” collection. The defendant used this nomenclature in their advertising and marketing of the collection, including on the hangtags attached to the furniture displayed in store. The plaintiff sued for trademark infringement, false designation of origin, and trademark dilution under the Lanham Act. The defendant moved for summary judgment and to exclude the opinion of the plaintiff’s expert on the fair market value for using Humphrey Bogart’s name. The district court denied both motions.
With respect to the plaintiff’s claims, the court held that, despite the defendant’s contentions otherwise, there was evidence on the record showing that the defendant used the word “Bogart” to connect the line to the celebrity and not the city of Bogart, Georgia. Moreover, a majority of the likelihood of confusion factors weighed in the plaintiff’s favor, including similarity of products because the plaintiff had licensed the Bogart name to another home furniture store.
The defendant also challenged the opinion of the plaintiff’s damages expert, who opined as to the fair market value for use of Humphrey Bogart’s name. The defendant argued that the expert did not “employ a recognized method in reaching his conclusions,” and the expert failed to explain his conclusions, so his opinion was untestable. The court disagreed, noting that implementing the defendant’s requirements would essentially mean that no expert could ever opine as to the fair market value of a name. The court held that because the expert testified based on over thirty years of relevant experience and pointed to concrete evidence supporting his opinions, the opinion was sufficiently reliable to go to a jury.