On April 24, 2020, a leading personal injury law firm in Southern California brought a suit against a rival firm based in Beverly Hills for stealing and misusing its registered “Sweet James” trademark online.
In the complaint filed with the United States District Court for the Central District of California, plaintiff Sweet James LLP accused the Lalezary Law Firm LLP of trademark misappropriation, common law misappropriation, and unfair competition after named defendants allegedly advertised—unlawfully—with its signature brand.
The complaint alleged that Sweet James, as part of its robust advertising campaign, has a “sponsorship and paid to become ‘Sweet James the official attorney of the Los Angeles Clippers,’ distributing tens of thousands of t-shirts branded with ‘Sweet James’ at basketball games.”
Since 2012, according to the complaint, the firm has spent at least $50 million promoting its namesake brand, including a whopping $10 million in the past twelve months alone. The alleged trademark infringement goes to the essence of the firm’s financial success. Specifically, the complaint claimed that the “‘Sweet James’ trademark has been so successful it has allowed [the law firm] to enter into lucrative referral agreements with prominent personal injury attorneys throughout the United States who are attracted to the strength of the ‘Sweet James’ trademark.”
Finally, Sweet James alleged in the complaint that the defendants fraudulently represented themselves as “part of the Sweet James umbrella” by paying search engine operators, such as Google, to place advertisements for the Lalezary Law Firm on results pages when potential clients look up “Sweet James” online. As a result, the suit argued, such potential clients are likely to be confused into believing that both law firms are one in the same when they are not.
Sweet James is represented by Gerald A. Klein and Brian M. Kelly of Klein & Wilson.
Counsel information for Lalezary Law Firm and its attorneys wasn’t immediately available Friday.
The case is Sweet James LLP v. Lalezary Law Firm LLP et al., case number 8:20-cv-00795, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.