Seeking Preliminary Injunctive Relief? Run, Don’t Walk, to the Courthouse
Friday, January 13, 2023

Sometimes money alone is not enough to compensate an aggrieved party for certain wrongdoings. In these cases, courts may elect to award injunctive relief, a type of equitable remedy imposed to restrain a party from doing certain acts or to require a party to act in a specific manner. Oftentimes, plaintiffs alleging Lanham Act violations seek preliminary injunctive relief in addition to monetary damages.

A party seeking preliminary injunctive relief must demonstrate the following: (i) a likelihood of success on the merits; (ii) irreparable harm in absence of such relief; (iii) the balance of hardships weighs in its favor; and (iv) public interest favors an award of such relief.

Recently, the Eastern District of New York ruled on a plaintiff’s request for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction in a dispute that arose between two facilities where patrons could roam through a series of rooms with Christmas-themed decorations. In Christmas House USA, Inc. v. Christmasland Experience LLC, et al., plaintiff Christmas House alleged that its competitor, defendant Christmasland, committed trade secret misappropriation and trademark infringement resulting from its access to Christmas House’s confidential business information.

However, Christmas House’s filings with the Court revealed that it was aware of Christmasland’s operations in early November, over a month before it sought injunctive relief. The Court ruled that while the delay of a little over a month was relatively short, plaintiff Christmas House could not demonstrate irreparable harm due to its unexplained delay in seeking injunctive relief. Importantly, the Court acknowledged that the seasonal nature of the parties’ respective businesses proved the delay to be critical. As a result, the plaintiff’s request for injunctive relief was denied.

In issuing its decision, the Court included its own rendition of the popular poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” as a lighthearted way to explain its ruling:

‘Twas the week before Christmas
And at the courthouse,
Some lawyers appeared set
To quarrel and grouse.

More rapid than eagles
Their papers had come:
Declarations, a notice
And memorandum.

It seems that each party
Runs a holiday show,
With Santa, his reindeer,
And fresh mistletoe.

Defendants are alleged
To’ve made quite a mess,
By stealing trade secrets,
And even trade dress.

“They’ve stolen our secrets
That we use to function!”
The plaintiff asserted
While seeking injunction.

“It’s veritably Grinch-like,”
Plaintiff said with some fire,
“They took our ideas,
and Our holiday supplier.”

Defendants respond that
They’ve acted with care.
“It’s all public domain,
That’s found everywhere.”

To seek an injunction,
One must fast beg redress,
Showing irreparable harm
And likely success.

Plaintiff knew of the problem
Since early November,
Yet waited to file till 17th December.

Plaintiff’s secrets remain
Elusive at best,
And there’s been little proof
To establish the rest.

So while plaintiff has sounded
The legal alarm,
They have not established
Irreparable harm.

With cases considered,
And procedure applied,
The preliminary injunction
Must now be denied.

Many issues remain,
Yet no one should fear
We’ll tackle them all in
The coming New Year.

In a footnote, the Court noted that its rhyme in no way undermined the seriousness of the parties’ rights and claims but is instead a nod to the season and an effort to lighten the mood and drive the parties to settlement. Both the Court’s rhyme and its written decision make clear – seasonal disputes or otherwise – parties seeking preliminary injunctive relief must act within weeks, not months.


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