Law School Case Brief
Champion Spark Plug Co. v. Sanders - 331 U.S. 125, 67 S. Ct. 1136 (1947)
Where unfair competition is established, any doubts as to the adequacy of the relief are generally resolved against the transgressor. A different result may obtain where there is no showing of fraud or palming off. The absence of such factors does not, of course, undermine the finding of unfair competition.
Plaintiff Champion Spark Plug Company ("Champion") manufactured spark plugs; Champion's trademark was affixed to each spark plug. Defendant Sanders, d/b/a, Perfect Recondition Spark Plug Company, collected used plugs, including Champion's plugs, repaired and reconditioned the old plugs and then resold them. Sanders did not remove Champion's trademark from the refurbished Champion plugs before selling them. Champion filed a lawsuit against Sanders in federal district court alleging causes of action for trademark infringement and unfair competition. After a trial, the district court found that Sanders had infringed Champion's trademark and enjoined Sanders from selling the plugs unless the trademark was removed from the reconditioned plugs, but it denied Champion's request for an accounting. The court of appeals affirmed and also found that Sanders committed unfair competition, but the court modified the decree to eliminate a provision requiring the trademark be removed from the reconditioned plugs. Champion was granted a writ of certiorari.
Did the court of appeals err by not requiring Sanders to remove Champion's trademark prior to selling the refurbished spark plugs?
The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the court of appeals' decision. The court ruled that the equities of the case were satisfied by the decree requiring that the word "repaired" or "used" be plainly and durably stamped on each refurbished plug and that the containers and printed matter used in connection with the sales clearly show that the plugs were used and reconditioned by Sanders, giving his name and address. Removal of the trademark was unnecessary. Moreover, the court ruled, because the injunctive relief granted to Champion satisfied the equities of the case, an accounting was unnecessary.
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