Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

California Brewing Co. v. 3 Daughters Brewing LLC

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 25, 2016

CALIFORNIA BREWING COMPANY, a California Corporation, Plaintiff/Counter Defendant,
v.
3 DAUGHTERS BREWING LLC, a Florida Limited Liability Company, et al., Defendants/Counter Claimants.

          ORDER

         Plaintiff/counter-defendant California Brewing Company (“CBC”) moves to strike affirmative defenses numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10[1] in this trademark action. ECF No. 28. In response, defendants/counter-claimants 3 Daughters Brewing LLC (“3 Daughters”) and LMMML LLC (“LM”) move to amend the answer, arguing their proposed amended answer “should resolve the issues raised by CBC.” ECF No. 31 at 2.[2] Defendants seek to remove affirmative defenses numbered 1, 7, 8, and 10, add factual allegations supporting their other affirmative defenses, and add an affirmative defense for failure to mitigate damages. See Proposed Am. Answer, Defs.’ Response Ex. A, ECF No. 31-1. CBC opposes in part defendants’ motion. ECF No. 32.

         In the interest of judicial economy, the court considers both motions together and decides the matter without a hearing. As explained below, the court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART each motion.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         Under Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court may strike “from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent or scandalous matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f); see Sidney-Vinstein v. A.H. Robins Co., 697 F.2d 880, 885 (9th Cir. 1983). A defense may be insufficient as a matter of pleading or as a matter of law. Sec. People, Inc., v. Classic Woodworking, LLC, No. 04-3133, 2005 WL 645592, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 4, 2005). An affirmative defense is legally insufficient when “it lacks merit under any set of facts the defendant might allege.” Dodson v. Strategic Rests. Acquisition Co. II, LLC, 289 F.R.D. 595, 603 (E.D. Cal. 2013) (citation omitted), abrogated on other grounds by Kohler v. Flava Enters., Inc., 779 F.3d 1016, 1019 (9th Cir. 2015).

         Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a party “state in short and plain terms” its defenses when responding to a pleading. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b). An affirmative defense is insufficient as a matter of pleading where it fails to provide the plaintiff with “fair notice” of the defense asserted. Wyshak v. City Nat’l Bank, 607 F.2d 824, 827 (9th Cir. 1979). “The ‘fair notice’ required by the pleading standards only requires describing the defense in ‘general terms.’” Kohler, 779 F.3d at 1019 (quoting 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1274 (3d ed. 1998)).[3] “Although fair notice is a low bar that does not require great detail, it does require a defendant to provide some factual basis for its affirmative defenses.” Gibson Wine Co., 2016 WL 1626988, at *5 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). “Simply identifying an affirmative defense by name does not provide fair notice of the nature of the defense or how it applies in [the] action . . . .” Bd. of Trs. of IBEW Local Union No. 100 Pension Tr. Fund v. Fresno’s Best Indus. Elec., Inc., No. 13-01545, 2014 WL 1245800, at *4 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 24, 2014) (emphasis in original). In alleging fraud, including in an affirmative defense, “a party must state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b); Gold Club-SF, LLC v. Platinum SJ Enter., No. 13-03797, 2013 WL 6248475, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 3, 2013). “Averments of fraud must be accompanied by the who, what, when, where, and how of the misconduct charged.” Kearns v. Ford Motor Co., 567 F.3d 1120, 1124 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         “Motions to strike are disfavored in part because of the limited importance of pleading in federal practice, ” Staggs, 2016 WL 880960, at *4 (citation omitted), a proposition still valid after the Supreme Court’s decisions in Twombly and Iqbal. Unless it would prejudice the opposing party, courts freely grant leave to amend stricken pleadings. See Wyshak, 607 F.2d at 826 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2); other citations omitted); see also Ascon Props., Inc. v. Mobil Oil Co., 866 F.2d 1149, 1160 (9th Cir. 1989) (“stress[ing] Rule 15’s policy of favoring amendments”).

         II. DISCUSSION

         Defendants’ proposed amendments in the form of removing affirmative defenses numbered 1, 7, 8, and 10 and adding factual allegations to support the affirmative defense numbered 6 would cure the deficiencies raised in CBC’s motion to strike with respect to those defenses. See ECF Nos. 28 & 31. CBC agrees to withdraw its motion with respect to those defenses to the extent the court allows the proposed amendments. ECF No. 32 at 2, 6-7. Good cause appearing, and in light of the Federal Rules’ policy of favoring amendments, the court GRANTS defendants leave to make the proposed amendments with respect to affirmative defenses numbered 1, 6, 7, 8, and 10. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2); Wyshak, 607 F.2d at 826. The court DENIES AS MOOT CBC’s motion to strike affirmative defenses numbered 1, 6, 7, 8, and 10.

         CBC argues affirmative defenses numbered 2, 3, 4, and 5 remain deficient as pled in the proposed amended answer, and the proposed additional affirmative defense for failure to mitigate damages fails as a matter of pleading. ECF No. 32 at 2-6, 10. The court addresses each affirmative defense in turn.

         A. Second Affirmative Defense: Unclean Hands/Fraud

         The Second Affirmative Defense initially provided, “All of California Brewing’s claims fail because its registered trademark is was [sic] obtained through fraud and is invalid.” Answer at 7, ECF No. 24. Defendants propose the following amended defense:

California Brewing affirmed, under oath, that it was using the BEACH BLONDE ALE mark in connection with actual sales of beer at least as early as October 2007. That was a lie. California Brewing did not use the BEACH BLONDE ALE mark in commerce until many years later, in 2014. In granting a federal registration, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office relied on California Brewing’s false statement that it was using the BEACH BLONDE ALE mark on beer that California Brewing was selling in commerce. Since California Brewing was not selling any beer until seven years after filing the application, the federal trademark registration for BEACH BLODNE [sic] ALE was void from the beginning. Therefore, all of California Brewing’s claims fail because its registered trademark is was [sic] obtained through fraud and is invalid.

         Proposed Am. Answer at 7 (“First Affirmative Defense: Unclean Hands/Fraud”).

         These allegations do not meet Rule 9(b)’s particularity requirements for averments of fraud. The court therefore STRIKES this affirmative defense. However, it appears defendants could satisfy Rule 9(b)’s pleading requirements by incorporating other allegations pled in the proposed amended answer and counterclaim. See Proposed Am. Answer at 12-17. Accordingly, the court ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.