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Attorneys Liable for Trademark Abuse

(CN) - The 5th Circuit found two attorneys personally liable for a $143,000 judgment against them, affirming a Texas judge's ruling that they infringed on Dillard Department Stores' trademark when they used its logo on a Web site "documenting acts of alleged racial profiling by the department stores."

Damon Chargois and Cletus Ernster III had filed lawsuits against the department store chain, alleging that it "racially discriminated against its customers."

The judgment was originally entered against Chargois' and Ernster's law partnership, Chargois and Ernster LLP, which dissolved several months before the ruling in 2004.

The three-judge panel found Chargois and Ernster still owe the money, as the judgment was entered after the partnership's dissolution. "Because CELLP's registration had expired, it was not a valid registered LLP at the time its debt was incurred. Therefore, § 3.08 does not foreclose individual liability and § 3.04's default rule operates to hold appellants personally liable for CELLP's debt," the ruling states.

The panel also held that the action is not time-barred, since Dillard sought to collect its judgment from Chargois and Ernster within 4 years.

The case is Evanston Insurance Co. v. Dillard Department Stores, defendant/third-party appellee, and Chargois and Ernster.

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