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Bentley Wins Trademark Suit Over Knockoff Kits

(CN) - Luxury car maker Bentley Motors prevailed in a trademark infringement lawsuit against the makers and installers of kits that transform more modest vehicles into virtual clones of the Bentley GTC.

Bentley sued defendants Matthew McEntegart, owner of St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Fugazzi Cars Inc. and Robert Frary III, owner of Keeping It Real Auto Customizing Inc., in July 2012, claiming the companies infringed on and diluted its trademarks and patent designs, and engaged in false advertising.

According to Bentley, the defendants "unlawfully manufacture[d] Bentley body kits that transform ordinary and inexpensive Chrysler and Ford vehicles into knockoff Bentley vehicles ... and intentionally misappropriated the overall appearance and shape of the Bentley GTC automobile as well as [various Bentley] trademarks ... by incorporating them into 'Bentley car kits.'"

Within days of filing its complaint, Bentley and its U.S. subsidiary also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to block the defendants from continuing to make, advertise or sell their alleged knockoff kits.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington granted the preliminary injunction on Oct. 9, 2012, acting on the recommendation of U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas McCoun III.

On June 27, 2013, Bentley sought summary judgment against the Frary defendants and renewed its motion for default judgment against the Fugazzi defendants, demanding at least $1 million in statutory damages plus attorneys' fees.

Frary and his counsel failed to respond to the motion, despite a court-ordered deadline, and later submitted an affidavit that appears to have done him more harm than good.

Covington said the affidavit directly contradicted the testimony Frary gave during his deposition.

She then bore down on his answers during the deposition, particularly those related his company's Facebook page. Frary told Bentley's attorneys that he maintained the page and admitted to having several exchanges with posters, explaining how Fugazzi did the interior work on the Bentley makeovers, while he and his employees did the exteriors.

During the deposition, Frary admitted to having posted the enthusiastic comment, "gonna flood the streets with these bad boys for the 2012" (sic).

"In stark contrast," Covington wrote, Frary denied ever designing any kit cars in an Aug. 29 affidavit, saying he only painted vehicles for Fugazzi.

An affidavit containing such contradictions "constitutes precisely the type of 'transparent sham' contemplated by" 11th Circuit precedent, Covington wrote.

"Frary's deposition testimony consistently reflects more involvement with the production of the Bentley kit cars than merely painting the vehicles," she later added.

Ruling for Bentley, Covington said Frary had ample opportunity to explain these inconsistencies but declined to do so.

"Beyond the evidence of defendants' concurrent use of Bentley's protected marks, Bentley has demonstrated actual confusion by proffering several consumer expressions reflecting the similarities between defendants' vehicles and the real Bentley Continental GTC," she wrote. "Having concluded that the Frary defendants made use of Bentley's protected marks in commerce without Bentley's consent and that such use was likely to cause confusion, the court grants Bentley's motion for summary judgment."

Covington also granted Bentley's motion for summary judgment against McEntegart and Fugazzi Cars, but refrained from ruling on Bentley's request for damages because the company neglected to clarify against which defendant it was seeking the award.

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