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Romag Fasteners, Inc. v. Fossil Group, Inc.

A plaintiff in a trademark infringement suit is not required to show that a defendant willfully infringed the plaintiff’s trademark as a precondition to a profits award. The Lanham Act provision governing remedies for trademark violations, §1117(a), makes a showing of willfulness a precondition to a profits award in a suit under §1125(c) for trademark dilution, but §1125(a) has never required such a showing. Reading words into a statute should be avoided, especially when they are included elsewhere in the very same statute. That absence seems all the more telling here, where the Act speaks often, expressly, and with considerable care about mental states. See, e.g., §§1117(b), (c), 1118. Pointing to §1117(a)’s language indicating that a violation under §1125(a) can trigger an award of the defendant’s profits “subject to the principles of equity,” Fossil argues that equity courts historically required a showing of willfulness before authorizing a profits remedy in trademark disputes. But this suggestion relies on the curious assumption that Congress intended to incorporate a willfulness requirement here obliquely while it prescribed mens rea conditions expressly elsewhere throughout the Act. Nor is it likely that Congress meant to direct “principles of equity”—a term more naturally suggesting fundamental rules that apply more systematically across claims and practice areas—to a narrow rule about a profits remedy within trademark law. Even crediting Fossil’s assumption, all that can be said with certainty is that Pre-Lanham Act case law supports the ordinary principle that a defendant’s mental state is relevant to assigning an appropriate remedy. The place for reconciling the competing and incommensurable policy goals advanced by the parties is before policymakers. Pp. 2–7.

Vacated and remanded.

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