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Court of Appeals Reverses Preliminary Injunction in Patent and Trade Dress Dispute

Chamberlain Hrdlicka recently won an appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The Court reversed a preliminary injunction entered against its client, Kangaroo, LLC, which operates a single children’s indoor trampoline play park in a small town in Texas. Urban Air, which operates play parks across the country, sued Kangaroo because the building Kangaroo leases and the play equipment inside was previously used by an Urban Air franchisee. Steven J. Knight and Justice David Medina, Co-Chairs of Chamberlain Hrdlicka’s National Appellate Practice, as well as Amber Ali and Amy Jo Foreman represented Kangaroo on appeal.

Urban Air claimed that some of the equipment was too similar to its patented “Adventure Hub” and that the color scheme inside was its trade dress. Following an evidentiary hearing, the district court entered a preliminary injunction that enjoined Kangaroo from using the allegedly patented play equipment and the colors Urban Air claimed to be its intellectual property.

Following oral argument in January 2024, the Court of Appeals reversed.

With respect to Urban Air’s patent infringement claim, the Court determined that the district court’s finding of likely success is erroneous because the court failed to (i) perform a patent claim analysis, (ii) make any specific findings on irreparable harm, and (iii) balance the equities and the public interests.

With respect to Urban Air’s trade dress infringement claim, the Court determined that the district court failed to analyze whether the claimed trade dress was non-functional, inherently distinctive, or had acquired secondary meaning. The Court also determined that the district court’s finding that Urban Air would suffer irreparable harm without the preliminary injunction is erroneous because the court (i) failed to address Urban Air’s ten-month delay in seeking a preliminary injunction, (ii) impermissibly presumed Urban Air would be harmed, and (iii) failed to balance the equities and public interest concerns. 

Read the full opinion here and a Law360 article here

The Court’s opinion and analysis are important because they underscore an important maxim. “A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy never awarded as of right.” Winder v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 24 (2008). A party seeking a temporary injunction in a patent infringement dispute must demonstrate, at a minimum, that the allegedly infringing equipment violates a specific claim in the patent and the likelihood of success. Likewise, a party seeking a preliminary injunction in a trade dress infringement dispute must demonstrate, at a minimum, that the trade dress is non-functional and that it has acquired secondary meaning when it is not inherently distinctive, as Kangaroo argued here.  

Chaired by Steven J. Knight and former Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina, Chamberlain Hrdlicka’s Appellate Practice handles appellate matters in state and federal courts throughout the United States for large national and multi-national corporations, small to mid-sized companies, as well as individuals, both in support of and attacking judgments and the pursuit of alternative appellate remedies. The firm also regularly handles “bet the company” cases and significant matters on cutting-edge legal issues against seasoned opposition.

  • Steven J. Knight

    Steve Knight is a Shareholder in the Houston Litigation group and is Co-Chair of the Appellate Law section.

    Throughout his career, Mr. Knight has successfully represented clients at every phase of the appellate process, from ...

  • Justice David M. Medina

    Justice David Medina serves as a shareholder in Chamberlain Hrdlicka's commercial litigation and appellate practices in both our Houston and San Antonio offices. Justice Medina also serves as Co-Chair of the Firm's Appellate ...

  • Amber  Ali

    Amber Ali is an associate in the Commercial Litigation Practice Group. She has defended a wide variety of clients, from Fortune 500 companies to small businesses and individuals. Amber has prior experience in litigating and ...

  • AmyJo "AJ"  Foreman

    AmyJo "AJ" Foreman is an associate in the litigation section. Her practice focuses primarily on commercial litigation, labor & employment, and appellate matters.

    AJ graduated from the University of Houston Law Center where she was ...