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Lerma v. Armijo

United States District Court, C.D. California

May 22, 2017

ERNIE ARMIJO, et al., Defendants.



         Presently before the court is Plaintiff Gilbert Lerma, Jr.'s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. After reviewing Lerma's Motion and supporting papers and hearing oral argument, the court GRANTS the Motion and adopts the following Order.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Gilbert Lerma, Jr. is the President of Stylistics Car Club (“Stylistics CC”). (Statement of Uncontroverted Facts (“SUF”) ¶ 1.) Stylistics CC has been in operation since 1987. (Id.) Lerma is the owner of California Trademark Registration No. 66192 for “STYLISTICS” plus design for “promoting and conducting trade shows and exhibits in the field of automobiles.” (SUF ¶ 2.) Lerma has been using the STYLISTICS mark since 1987 to promote his car club and its services. (SUF ¶ 3.) Defendants are members of a competing car club named “Stylistics Los Angeles Car Club” (“SLACC”). (SUF ¶ 7.) Although there were initially six named Defendants, three were dismissed pursuant to a settlement. (See Dkt. 66.) The remaining Defendants are Ernie Armijo, Joe Armijo, and David Rodrigues. Defendants began using the phrase “Stylistics Los Angeles” as part of their own car club activities in 1998 without Plaintiff's consent. (SUF ¶ 9-10.)

         This case is not Lerma's first effort to protect the STYLSITICS mark. In August 2012, Lerma filed suit against Jorge Luis Ramirez and SLACC alleging, inter alia, trademark infringement of the STYLISTICS mark. See Complaint, Lerma v. Stylistics Los Angeles Car Club, Inc. (“Lerma I”), Case No. 2:12-cv-06704-DDP-JEM. In Lerma I, this Court granted default judgment against Ramirez and SLACC, holding that the defendants had improperly attempted to register a “STYLISTICS LOS ANGELES” mark (“SLA” mark) and infringed on Plaintiff's STYLISTICS mark. Furthermore, the court ordered cancellation of the SLA mark and enjoined Rodriguez and SLACC from engaging in further activities that infringement on the STYLISTICS mark. After the entry of default judgment, the Lerma I Defendants appeared and moved to set aside the Order. The court denied the motion to vacate. Defendants then appealed the cancellation order and the Ninth Circuit affirmed this court's decision. See Lerma v. Stylistics Los Angeles Car Club, Inc., 670 F.App'x 640 (9th Cir. 2016).

         Despite the Order in Lerma I enjoining Ramirez and SLACC from infringing on the STYLSTICS mark, Lerma claims that other members of SLACC have continued to infringe on the mark. (Compl. ¶ 18.) Specifically, Defendants use the word mark “STYLISTICS LOS ANGELES” and corresponding logo online and in connection with automotive trade shows and exhibitions. (Id.) Accordingly, Lerma filed the instant action asserting common law trademark infringement, false designation of origin under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a), violations of California's Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”), Cal. Bus. & Profs. Code § 17200 et seq., false advertising, Cal. Bus. & Profs. Code § 17500. Lerma seeks damages and injunction prohibiting Defendants from use of the STYLISTIC mark or any confusingly similar mark. (See generally Compl.; id. ¶ 44.)

         Defendants filed an Answer on February 12, 2016 denying the allegations and asserting a number of affirmative defenses. (See Dkt. 24.) During discovery, Plaintiff served Requests for Admission, Set One (“RFA”) on each of the Defendants. (SUF ¶ 20.) During a November 1, 2016 hearing regarding a separate discovery motion, Defendants' counsel represented that responses to the RFA had already been served. (SUF ¶ 21.) That day, Plaintiff's counsel sent an email noting that they had not received the responses and asking for another copy. (SUF ¶ 22.) As of this filing, Plaintiff has received no responses to the RFA from any of the Defendants. Accordingly, the RFA's are deemed admitted pursuant to Rule 36. Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a)(3). Although Defendants represented at the hearing on the instant motion that RFA responses were served, they have not moved for relief from the admissions.

         On March 8, 2017 Plaintiff dismissed three defendants: Robert Flores, Rudy Paredes, and Roger Torres. Plaintiffs subsequently filed in the instant motion for summary judgment as to liability on all causes of action as to the remaining defendants, entitlement to injunctive relief, and entitlement to reasonable attorneys' fees. (Dkt. 69.) Defendants filed no opposition to the motion.


         Summary judgment is appropriate where the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). When a nonmovant fails to oppose a summary judgment motion, the court must grant the motion unless the “movant has failed to meet its burden of demonstrating the absence of triable issues.” Henry v. Gill Indust., Inc. , 983 F.2d 943, 950 (9th Cir. 1993). The court therefore reviews an unopposed summary judgment motion to determine whether “the movant's papers are themselves insufficient to support a motion for summary judgment or on their face reveal a genuine issue of material fact.” Id. at 949 (quoting Hamilton v. Keystone Tankship Corp., 539 F.2d 684, 686 n. 1 (9th Cir. 1976)).


         A. Liability on All Causes of Action

         Having reviewed Plaintiff's submissions, the court finds that he has carried his burden at summary judgment as to Defendants' liability on all causes of action. The court addresses each claim in turn.

         Plaintiff's first two claims are for common law trademark infringement and false designation under the Lanham Act. In order to prevail on these claims, “a plaintiff must show that it owns a valid mark, that the mark was used without its consent, and that such unauthorized use is likely to cause confusion, mistake, or deception.” Credit One Corp. v. Credit One Fin., Inc., 661 F.Supp.2d 1134, 1137 (C.D. Cal. 2009) (New West Corp. v. NYM Co. of Cal., Inc., 595 F.2d 1194, 1198-1202 (9th Cir.1979) (Lanham ...

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