Dean found in civil contempt for ignoring trademark ruling

Despite leadership challenges, “Armadillo’s good faith is not a defence for its failure to comply,” according to a judge.

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Dean Guitars parent company Armadillo has been found to be in civil contempt for failing to stop advertising several of its guitars, after the designs were found to infringe on Gibson’s trademarks.

In June of 2022, Armadillo was ordered by a court to cease the manufacture and advertisement of a number of Dean and Luna guitars. Following the landmark ruling, Gibson alleged that Dean was in civil contempt for not removing its V and Z guitars from its website.

The judge presiding over the case, Amos Mazzant, has agreed with Gibson’s initial complaint, stating that “Armadillo is in civil contempt for listing the Dean V and Z guitars for sale on its website and Gibson should be awarded compensatory damages.”

In its response to Gibson’s initial complaint, Armadillo alluded to the turbulent shift in leadership that occurred around the same time as the trademark ruling, implying that this made it difficult to remove the guitars from its website. But, this was not enough to convince the court. As Mazzant put it: “Armadillo’s good faith is not a defence for its failure to comply.”

The ruling is not an out-and-out victory for Gibson, as it was seeking both coercive and compensatory sanctions against Armadillo. In other words: fines that encourage Armadillo to comply, and fines that make up Gibson’s losses due to Armadillo’s non-compliance respectively. Judge Mazzant has only granted compensatory sanctions, writing: “There is no dispute that Armadillo has changed its problematic conduct after the filing of Gibson’s motion. Accordingly, coercive sanctions would not necessarily serve their intended purpose in this case, and the Court will not impose them.”

Because of this, Gibson must now demonstrate to the court the financial impact of Armadillo’s conduct.

The ruling follows the court denying another request from Gibson to find Armadillo in contempt of court. While initially it appeared as if all claims of contempt had been dismissed, it now seems that only Gibson’s second round of complaints were denied in November of last year.

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