Jury Awards $740k to Apparel Company Grunt Style in Trademark Infringement Action


Aronberg Goldgehn attorneys M. “Chip” De Preter and Sofia Quezada Hastings recently achieved a long-fought victory for their client, Grunt Style LLC, in a trademark infringement trial in the Northern District of Illinois. Last week, a jury awarded Grunt Style LLC, $739,500 against a California e-commerce business that infringed Grunt Style’s trademark rights. The jury found infringement under the Lanham Act and Illinois law. 

The case stemmed from Grunt Style’s adoption of the mark THIS WE’LL DEFEND as the company’s slogan over a decade ago. Grunt Style is one of the most popular and high-profile clothing brands catering to the military, veteran, and patriotic apparel communities. The jury heard how Daniel Alarik, the founder of Grunt Style, began selling t-shirts out of the trunk of his car in 2009 and since 2011 had begun using THIS WE’LL DEFEND on the company’s clothing and in offering online retail store services for customers to buy Grunt Style products on its www.gruntstyle.com website. As detailed by Mr. Alarik and Tim Jensen, a member of Grunt Style’s current ownership team, the THIS WE’LL DEFEND brand represents the company’s vision, and it is a fundamental part of the company’s identity. Since 2011, the phrase has been synonymous with Grunt Style in the clothing and online retail space as a signal to customers that they are experiencing the finest patriotic apparel and shopping experience available. 

The trial was the culmination of a battle that began in 2018 when TWD accused Grunt Style of infringing a federal registration for THIS WE’LL DEFEND on t-shirts that TWD had managed to secure.  However, Grunt Style established its prior and superior rights to THIS WE’LL DEFEND at summary judgment, and obtained an order from the Court canceling that registration.  During the summary judgment phase, Grunt Style succeeded in dismissing all of TWD’s claims and all of its affirmative defenses to Grunt Style’s claims as a matter of law. That left Grunt Style’s claims of TWD’s infringement of Grunt Style’s common law trademark rights in THIS WE’LL DEFEND for trial. 

At trial, Mr. De Preter showed how TWD rode the success of Grunt Style’s iconic slogan and was able to steer customers to its online retail stores to capture those customers through using THIS WE’LL DEFEND illegally. By doing so, TWD was able to achieve substantial ill-gotten profits all to the detriment of Grunt Style’s brand.

 This verdict illustrates the importance of securing trademark rights early, so as to avoid having marks poached by competitors, and of ensuring that the scope of a company’s trademark rights are properly identified to protect not only goods being sold but also how a company services its customers in the market place in connection with its trademarks.

M. “Chip” De Preter has helped numerous companies and individuals protect, build value, and profit from their creative products through patents, trademarks and copyrights. He advises clients in patent, trademark, trade secret and false advertising litigation. In addition, he represents clients seeking patent and trademark protection before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He also negotiates licensing and other intellectual property agreements.

 Sofia Quezada Hastings focuses her practice the protection and enforcement of their trademarks and copyrights. Her experience includes bringing anti-counterfeiting actions against mass-scale trademark and copyright infringers who import counterfeit goods into the U.S.

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