Building Graphics, Inc. v. Lennar Corp.
In re Hubbell

Yellowbook Inc. v. Brandeberry

This case involves a trademark dispute over the right to use the “AMTEL” name and marks for phonebooks in various Ohio counties. In 2002, Defendant Steven Brandeberry sold his phonebook business, operated under the name AMTEL, to Barney White, who in turn sold the business to Yellowbook, a national publisher of yellow-pages directories. In 2009, Brandeberry decided to start a rival phonebook under the AMTEL name. Yellowbook brought this trademark-infringement suit; we must decide whether exclusive rights to AMTEL were transferred in the sale to White (and thus to Yellowbook). The district court found that when Brandeberry initially purchased the rights to the AMTEL mark the rights were transferred to both him individually and his corporation, American Telephone Directories, Inc. (“American Telephone”). The court then reasoned that since the sale to White did not involve Brandeberry in an individual capacity, Brandeberry retained his individual rights, and White received only a non-exclusive right to use the mark. Yellowbook argues that the contract should be read to have transferred the entire ownership of the mark and that in any case Brandeberry abandoned his right to the mark. However, the initial contract cannot be read to create joint ownership, and trademark law would not permit joint ownership under the facts in this case. As a result, the contract with White transferred exclusive ownership of the mark and, even if it did not, Brandeberry’s rights were abandoned. Therefore, the judgment of the district court is reversed and remanded for grant of injunctive relief and determination of damages. In addition, the district court’s decision to deny attorney’s fees to Yellowbook is reversed and remanded for at least a partial grant of fees, because the deficiencies in Yellowbook’s motion are not sufficiently egregious to warrant complete denial.

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