A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has given a New York City clothing company more time to defend itself in a trademark infringement lawsuit by Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
The ruling reversed a default judgment in favor of the sorority, which accuses LaMith Designs Inc. of the unauthorized sale of jackets, shoes, scarves, bags and hats with Delta’s trademarks and service marks.
The suit said LaMith never contacted the sorority to request a license or authorization to market and sell the merchandise on its website and through its catalog.
The suit said the sorority’s code of conduct for vendors allows sales “solely to Delta members and solely at Delta-approved events” but claims that LaMith sold merchandise to non-members.
“Each year, Delta receives hundreds of requests from vendors seeking a license to sell products and merchandise” but approves “only those vendors who meet its licensing requirements,” it said.
The sorority seeks an injunction and compensatory and punitive damages.
Delta was established in 1913 at Howard University and now has more than 900 college and alumnae chapters in the United States and abroad.
Delta filed the case in January 2010 and won a $620,656 default judgment for damages and attorney fees last summer after a lawyer failed to appear to represent LaMith. Meanwhile, LaMith’s owner, Ajay Chopra, denied that the company mailed catalogues to Washington or did other business there and therefore, can’t be sued there.
In cancelling the default judgment, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell said LaMith had participated in settlement discussions with Delta and didn’t willfully default in the litigation.
In addition, Howell rejected Delta’s argument that the sorority suffered prejudice by LaMith allegedly destroying evidence by disabling the company’s website.
Devarieste Curry, a lawyer in Washington for Delta, said she is not authorized to answer questions about negotiations, the amount of the default judgment and the sorority’s next steps in the litigation. However, she emphasized that Delta “is committed to protecting its intellectual property rights.”
Howell gave Delta until mid-August for pretrial discovery on whether LaMith conducted business in Washington and was properly sued there.
LaMith’s lawyer did not return phone calls seeking comment.