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U-Haul Loses Bid to Overturn $60.7M Verdict

(CN) - A federal judge denied U-Haul's bid for a new trial on trademark infringement claims, upholding a jury award of $60.7 million to PODs Enterprises of Clearwater, Fla.

PODS sued U-Haul International Inc. on July 3, 2012, contending the defendant's use of the words 'pod' and 'pods' to market its U-Box product, which competes in the moving and service industry with some of PODS' products, violated federal and state law.

U-Haul responded by claiming that "PODS" is a generic term and ineligible for trademark protection, a claim that has been deferred by the court.

After a two-week trial and three days of deliberations, on July 25, 2014, the jury found for PODS on all counts, and returned a verdict of $60.7 million in favor of PODS.

U-Haul responded with a number of motions for a judgment as a matter of law or a new trial, the most recent of those motions being filed on March 11, 2015.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge James Whittemore said while U-Haul presented a significant amount of evidence relevant to its contention that "pod" or "pods" is a generic term, "a careful review of the evidence, in light of the relevant legal standards and the jury's role as finder of fact and appraiser of credibility, leads to the conclusion that there is sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict."

Whittemore continued: "U-Haul urges that the evidence demonstrated 'pod' was a generic term for a container for the transportation and storage of goods, and that use of the term in the moving and storage industry need not be considered. There is authority for U-Haul's position that generic use in one context renders a term generic in other contexts.

"However, to adopt U-Haul's position in this case would require drawing inferences from the evidence that the jury declined to draw," he said.

U-Haul also argued the relevant "consuming public" considered by the jury should not have been limited to consumers of the moving and storage industry.

"However, the key point remains that even if the relevant public encompassed a broader group than PODS contends, the uncontested evidence did not require the jury to find 'pod' and 'pods' was generic for the products in question," Whittemore wrote.

"For the same reasons, U-Haul's motion for a new trial fails," he added. "As explained above, the jury's verdict was supported by sufficient evidence and reasonable inferences from the evidence. Therefore, the jury's verdict is not contrary to the great weight of the evidence.'[B]ecause it is not our place to substitute our judgment for that of the jury,' the motion for a new trial must be denied."

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