Business Model Poaching & TM Infringement Germinates from Ladies Social Group.

ATLANTA, May 29, 2009 -- Entrepreneurs hoping to leverage a ladies social group to launch a new business has culminated into a dispute over a business model and trademark leading to federal court.

Georgia business partners Traci Hildreth and Kathy Lowery formed a plan to organize and operate package travel services under the trademark PINK SUITCASE SISTERS and applied for a business license with the city of Marietta, Georgia on January 17, 2008. They subsequently registered the domain name www.pinksuitcasesisters.com on January 19, 2008.

Between January 17, 2008, and February 4, 2008, Plaintiffs advertised and otherwise promoted an "informational meeting" set to take place on February 4th at a meeting of the ladies social group, The Soul Sisters. Hildreth and Lowery hoped announcing their plans to offer travel services under the brand PINK SUITCASE SISTERS would lead to potential clients. Instead, their efforts generated interest in the business that was not intended.

One or more of the defendants named in a federal lawsuit filed today registered the domain names www.thepinksuitcasesisters.com on February 1st. A day after hearing the presentation made by Hildreth and Lowery, four of the individuals named as defendants filed papers with the state of Georgia to create a limited liability company named Pink Suitcase Sisters, L.L.C. Adding insult to injury, legal counsel for Defendants mailed a cease and desist letter to Hildreath and Lowery on March 10th alleging Hildreth and Lowery were infringing upon the rights of the defendants.

Hildreth and Lowery responding by filing an application to register PINK SUITCASE SISTERS in connection with travel services with the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) on March 12th which received registered status on October 14, 2008.

The named defendants names in the suit before the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern Georgia are Cheryl Wagnon, Jill Wright Turner, Maureen Cochran, Suitcase Sisters, L.L.C. and The Sole Sisters, In-Step, LLC.

The complaint filed contains counts of trademark infringement, unfair competition, and cybersquatting.

The primary purpose of trademark infringement laws is to prevent consumer confusion regarding the source of goods and services. The first party to use a trademark may prohibit other parties from using a mark subsequently on connection with similar goods or services if it so resembles the original mark as to cause confusion. If the later mark is so similar, it is deemed to infringe on the prior mark.

An issue in the case may be whether Hildreth and Lowery's activities were sufficient to constitute using the mark. If their activities are not sufficient to constitute use in commerce, then they can not claim ownership of the mark. A related issue may be whether Hildreth and Lowery's activities were in interstate commerce allowing for a federal trademark registration.

Cybersquatting is prohibited under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. Cybersquatting involves registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name with bad faith intent to profit from a trademark belonging to someone else. The maximum allowable damages under U.S. law for cybersquatting is $100,000.

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