Fish Oil Counterfeiter on the Hook for $500K
(CN) - An Iranian woman owes an American company $500,000 for selling counterfeit fish oil under its trademarks, a federal judge ruled, denying her bid for a new trial.
In February 2012, a jury found Mojdeh Nazari liable for $500,000 in statutory damages for using Zosma Ventures' Formulated Sciences trademarks to sell counterfeit fish oil.
Zosma had filed a federal copyright infringement lawsuit against Nazari after discovering that bottles of fish oil bearing its label were being sold in Iran in 2010. Nazari, who was previously the only licensee of Zosma's products in the Middle East, had cut off all contact with Zosma in 2008 and abandoned her right to use its trademark, according to court documents.
Zosma claimed Nazari ran a multinational fish-oil counterfeiting scheme that was based in Los Angeles and used a Canadian manufacturer.
Nazari moved for a new trial, arguing that the jury's award was excessive and that the court's incorrect evidentiary rulings had prejudiced the jury against her.
U.S. District Judge Ronald S.W. Lew rejected Nazari's motion, approved the damages award and found that Nazari's "bad faith during discovery and at trial alone has been found to be sufficient to warrant attorneys' fees."
"Defendant Nazari's sole argument that the jury verdict is grossly excessive is that plaintiff only presented evidence showing that defendant Nazari infringed on plaintiff's trademark for three months," Lew wrote. "Defendant Nazari does not provide any legal authority, and the court could find none, standing for the proposition that the use of a counterfeit mark for three months, by itself, renders a $500,000 statutory damages verdict 'grossly excessive.'
"Moreover, defendant Nazari's infringing conduct was not limited to just three months," Lew continued. "Plaintiff presented evidence, in the form of invoices and order forms, showing that defendant Nazari had engaged in infringing activity between 2008 and 2012."
He added, "At trial, defendant Nazari admitted that she knew that the marks at issue were
owned by Zosma or Formulated Sciences. In other words, defendant Nazari admitted that she had no right to use the Zosma trademarks after terminating her license with plaintiff. Moreover, her admission was coupled with evidence of her continued use of counterfeit marks between 2008 and 2012. Accordingly, the $500,000 damages award was well within the jury's discretion to award."
Lew also found that Nazari was unable to explain how she was prejudiced by the court's exclusion of certain evidence and admission of the infringing fish oil.
In a separate order granting Zosma's motion for attorneys' fees and costs, Lew found Nazari's infringement was willful and deliberate, and her obstructive conduct during discovery and at trial made the case exceptional enough to merit a fee award.
"Defendant Nazari stymied plaintiff's discovery efforts by continually delaying her deposition until the eve of trial," Lew wrote, noting that even Nazari's sister, Shadi Nazari, only showed up for the trial when threatened with arrest.
"During her deposition, defendant Nazari denied knowing about or seeing the key documents in this case. However, at trial, defendant Nazari recanted and admitted to seeing the documents and placing them with her sister," Lew wrote. "Additionally, other witnesses related to the defendants also attempted to avoid service of trial subpoenas. Even when served, these individuals failed to attend trial. Shadi Nazari in particular avoided service and only attended trial when a warrant for her arrest was issued."
Lew ordered Nazari to pay Zosma $152,034 in attorneys' fees and $5,936 in costs.