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Desert European Motorcars, Ltd., A California Corporation v. Desert European Motorcars

August 25, 2011

DESERT EUROPEAN MOTORCARS, LTD., A CALIFORNIA CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DESERT EUROPEAN MOTORCARS, INC., DBA DESERT EUROPEAN MOTORCARS, AN ARIZONA CORPORATION, AND DOES 1-10 INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.DESERT EUROPEAN MOTORCARS, INC., DBA DESERT EUROPEAN MOTORCARS, AN ARIZONA CORPORATION, COUNTERCLAIMANT,
v.
DESERT EUROPEAN MOTORCARS, LTD., A CALIFORNIA CORPORATION COUNTERDEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Ronald S.W. Lew Senior, U.S. District Court Judge

ORDER Re: Plaintiff's Motion To Strike, Or In The Alternative, For More Definite Statement[15] On August 23, 2011, Plaintiff and Counterdefendant Desert European Motorcars, Ltd.'s Motion to Strike, or in the alternative, For More Definite Statement [15] came on for regular calendar before this Court. Having considered all the papers and arguments pertaining to this Motion, the Court NOW FINDS AND RULES AS FOLLOWS:

The Court hereby GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Plaintiff and Counterdefendant's Motion.

I. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) sets forth that "[t]he court may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(b)(A) requires that a party state a short and plain statement in its defenses when responding to a pleading. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(b)(A). However, properly pleaded affirmative defenses must "give plaintiff fair notice of the defense." Wyshak v. City Nat'l Bank, 607 F.2d 824, 827 (9th Cir. 1979). Where a court strikes an affirmative defense, leave to amend should be freely given so long as there is no prejudice to the moving party. Id. at 826.

Plaintiff and Counterdefendant Desert European Motorcars, Ltd. ("Plaintiff") moves to strike all twenty-eight of Defendant and Counterclaimant Desert European Motorcars, Inc.'s ("Defendant") affirmative defenses and portions of Defendant's Answer and Counterclaim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f). In the alternative, Plaintiff moves for a more definite statement pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e).

II. Discussion

A. Plaintiff's Request for Judicial Notice

The Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Request for Judicial Notice of the motion to suspend granted by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 201. Fed. R. Evid. 201. See United States v. 14.02 Acres of Land More or Less in Fresno Cnty., 547 F.3d 943, 955 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing Interstate Natural Gas Co. v. S. Cal. Gas Co., 209 F.2d 380, 385 (9th Cir. 1954)).

B. Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Defendant's Affirmative Defenses

1. Plaintiff's Motion To Strike The First Affirmative Defense Of Failure To State A Claim

The Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Strike the first affirmative defense of Failure to State a Claim.

The Court finds that failure to state a claim is an assertion of a defect in Plaintiff's prima facie case, and not an affirmative defense. J & J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Enedina Soto, 2010 WL 3911467, at *1 (S.D. Cal. Sept. 28, 2010). Furthermore, the Court finds that this affirmative defense is a mere legal conclusion without supporting facts linking that theory to the Case at bar, and therefore is insufficient to give Plaintiff fair notice of the basis of this defense. Qarbon.com, Inc. v. eHelp Corp., 315 F. Supp. 2d 1046, 1049 (C.D. Cal. 2004),Accordingly, the Court STRIKES without leave to amend Defendant's first affirmative defense of Failure to State a Claim.

2. Plaintiff's Motion To Strike The Second Affirmative Defense Of Unclean Hands

The Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Strike the second affirmative defense of Unclean Hands.

The Court finds that Defendant's second affirmative defense fails to allege sufficient facts so as to put Plaintiff on fair notice of the defense. See CTF Dev., Inc. v. Penta Hospitality, LLC, 2009 WL 3517617, *7 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 26, 2009) (finding that "simply stating that a claim fails due to plaintiff's unclean hands is not sufficient to notify the plaintiff what behavior has allegedly given them 'unclean hands'"). Specifically, the Court finds this affirmative defense "simply states a legal conclusion or theory without the support of facts explaining how it connects to the instant case," and is therefore insufficient to provide fair notice to Plaintiff. Pepsico, Inc. v. J.K. Distribs., Inc., 2007 WL 2852647, at *2 (C.D. Cal.Sept. 14, 2007).

Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Strike the second affirmative defense of Unclean Hands. However, because Defendant may be able to alleg e additional facts here to support this affirmative defense, the Court STRIKES with 20 days leave to amend Defendant's second affirmative defense of Unclean Hands.

3. Plaintiff's Motion To Strike The Third Affirmative Defense Of Failure To Mitigate

The Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion to Strike the third affirmative defense of Failure to Mitigate.

"[C]courts have typically held that a generalized statement ... meets defendant's pleading burden with respect to the affirmative defense of damage mitigation." Bd. of Trs. of San Diego Elec. Pension Trust v. Bigley, Elec., Inc., 2007 WL 2070355, at *3 (S.D. Cal. July 12, 2007). As such, the Court finds that, while this affirmative defense contains a generalized statement, Defendant has met his pleading burden here with respect to this defense.

Accordingly, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion to Strike the third affirmative defense of Failure to Mitigate.

4. Plaintiff's Motion To Strike The Fourth Affirmative Defense Of Waiver

The Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Strike the fourth affirmative defense of Waiver.

To establish waiver, Defendant must show that Plaintiff intentionally relinquished or abandoned a known right. United States v. Perez, 116 F.3d 840, 845 (9th Cir. 1997). See J&J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Montanez, 2010 WL 5279907, at *3.

Here, Defendant's Answer and Counterclaim fails to set forth any facts with respect to this alleged waiver. As such, the Court finds that this affirmative defenses is a mere reference to a legal doctrine and is insufficient to give Plaintiff fair notice of the alleged acts giving rise to this defense. See Qarbon.com Inc. v. eHelp Corp., 315 F. Supp. 2d 1046, 1049 (N.D. Cal. 2004)(noting that "[a] reference to a doctrine, like a reference to statutory provisions, is insufficient notice" and does not meet the pleading standard of Rule 8(b)).

Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Strike the fourth affirmative defense of Waiver. However, because Defendant may be able to allege additional facts to support this affirmative defense, the Court STRIKES with 20 days leave to amend Defendant's fourth affirmative defense of Waiver.

5. Plaintiff's Motion To Strike The Fifth Affirmative Defense Of Estoppel

The Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Strike the fifth affirmative defense of Estoppel.

To establish a defense of estoppel, "a party must show that the adverse party, either intentionally or under circumstances that induced reliance, engaged in conduct upon which [the relying party] relied and that the relying party acted or changed [its] position to [its] detriment." Solis v. Couturier, 2009 WL 2022343, at *2 (E.D. Cal. July 8, 2009).

Here, Defendant's Answer and Counterclaim fails to set forth any facts or information with respect to Plaintiff's inducement or Defendant's detrimental reliance. As such, the Court finds that Defendant merely pleads a legal conclusion here, and therefore fails to give Plaintiff fair notice of the conduct giving rise to this defense. Seeid.

Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Strike the fifth affirmative defense of Estoppel. However, because Defendant may be able to allege additional facts to support this affirmative defense, the Court STRIKES with 20 days leave to amend Defendant's fifth affirmative defense of Estoppel.

6. Plaintiff's Motion To Strike The Sixth Affirmative Defense Of Statute Of Limitations

The Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Strike the sixth affirmative defense of Statute of Limitations.

The Court finds that Defendant fails to plead sufficient facts here to give Plaintiff fair notice as to how this Action is barred by the applicable statute of limitations. See J&J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Montanez, 2010 WL 5279907, at *3 (E.D. Cal. Dec. 13, 2010)(striking defendants' affirmative defense for statute of limitations based on the fact that defendants failed to plead any facts or legal theory to give plaintiff notice of how the action was barred by the statute of limitations). Specifically, Defendant fails to plead any facts here regarding this defense, merely setting forth that the Action is barred by the applicable statutes of limitations. See CTF Dev., Inc. v. Penta Hospitality, LLC, 2009 WL 3517617, at *8 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 26, 2009). As such, the Court finds that this affirmative defense pleads a legal conclusion and therefore fails to give Plaintiff fair notice of the defense.

Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Strike the sixth affirmative defense of Statute of Limitations. However, because Defendant may be able to allege additional facts to support this affirmative defense, the Court STRIKES with 20 days leave to amend Defendant's sixth affirmative defense of Statute of Limitations.

7. Plaintiff's Motion To Strike The Seventh Affirmative Defense Of Laches

The Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Strike the seventh affirmative defense of Laches.

"[L]aches is a valid defense to Lanham Act claims for both monetary damages and injunctive relief." Miller v. Glenn Miller Prods., 318 F. Supp. 2d 923, 941 (C.D. Cal. 2004). In order to establish the defense of laches, "a defendant must allege 'neglect or delay in bringing suit to remedy an alleged wrong, which taken together with lapse of time and other circumstances, causes prejudice to the adverse party and operates as an equitable bar.'" Advanced Cardovascular Sys, Inc. v. Medtronic, Inc., 1996 WL 467273, at *4 (N.D. Cal. July 24, 1996)(quotation omitted).

Here, the Answer and Counterclaim fails to set forth any facts regarding how Plaintiff's conduct allegedly gave rise to this defense of laches. As laches is an equitable doctrine and "its application depends on the facts of the particular case," the Court finds that Defendant fails to set forth sufficient facts to give Plaintiff fair notice of the conduct giving rise to this defense. Id.

Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Strike the seventh affirmative defense of Laches. However, because Defendant may be able to allege additional facts to support this affirmative defense, the Court STRIKES with 20 days leave to amend Defendant's seventh affirmative defense of Laches.

8. Plaintiff's Motion To Strike The Eighth Affirmative Defense Of Good Faith

The Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Strike the eighth affirmative defense of Good Faith.

Defendant's eight affirmative defense alleges that "it acted in good faith with respect to the matters asserted in the [First Amended Complaint]." [Def.'s Answer and Counterclaim, 8.] While "[g]ood faith or lack of wrongful intent does not provide valid defense to charge of trademark infringement," the Court finds that the Answer and Counterclaim fails to set forth sufficient facts regarding the applicability of this defense to the additional claims at issue in this Action. Coca-Cola Co. v. Overland, Inc., 692 F.2d 1250 (9th. Cir. 1982). Therefore, the Court finds that Defendant fails to give Plaintiff fair notice as to the nature of this defense. See J&J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Montanez, 2010 WL 5279907, at *3 (E.D. Cal. Dec. 13, 2010).

Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Strike the eighth affirmative defense of Good Faith. However, because Defendant may be able to allege additional facts to support this affirmative defense, the Court STRIKES with 20 days leave to amend Defendant's eighth affirmative defense of Good Faith.

9. Plaintiff's Motion To Strike The Ninth Affirmative Defense Of Privilege

The Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Strike the ninth affirmative defense of Privilege.

Here, Defendant's Answer and Counterclaim fails to set forth any facts with respect to this defense of privilege. As such, the Court finds that Defendant's Answer and Counterclaim is "completely devoid of facts or allegations suggesting how the defenses might apply to this case," and therefore fails to give Plaintiff fair notice of this defense. Scott v. Fed. Bond & Collection Serv., Inc., 2011 WL 176846, at *5 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 19, 2011). See Qarbon.com Inc. v. eHelp Corp., 315 F. Supp. 2d 1046, 1049 (N.D. Cal. 2004).

Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Strike the ninth affirmative defense of Privilege. However, because Defendant may be able to allege additional facts to support this affirmative defense, the Court STRIKES with 20 days ...


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