LIFE TECHNOLOGIES CORPORATION, A DELAWARE CORPORATION, Plaintiff - Appellee,
KRISHNAMURTHY GOVINDARAJ, Former President, Life Technologies Corporation, a Maryland Corporation, Party-in-Interest - Appellant, and LIFE TECHNOLOGIES CORPORATION, Montgomery County, Maryland, Defendant.
Argued: March 21, 2019
from the United States District Court for the District of
Maryland, at Greenbelt. Roger W. Titus, Senior District
Michael R. Williams, BUSH SEYFERTH & PAIGE PLLC,
Kalamazoo, Michigan, for Appellant.
Katherine Canty, THEODORA ORINGHER PC, Costa Mesa,
California, for Appellee.
Brittney D. Kohn, BUSH SEYFERTH & PAIGE PLLC, Troy,
Michigan, for Appellant.
Matthew D. Murphey, THEODORA ORINGHER PC, Costa Mesa,
California, for Appellee.
AGEE, KEENAN, and QUATTLEBAUM, Circuit Judges.
BARBARA MILANO KEENAN, Circuit Judge
plaintiff in this case, Life Technologies Corp., filed a
complaint against another corporation of the same name (the
defendant corporation, or the defendant), alleging trademark
infringement and unfair competition under the Lanham Act, 15
U.S.C. § 1125(a)(1)(A). The plaintiff obtained an
injunction against the defendant corporation and its
officers, including the corporation's president, Dr.
Krishnamurthy Govindaraj, who was not named as a
defendant. After entry of default judgment against
the corporation and years of damages-related discovery, the
district court awarded more than $1.7 million in damages, as
well as more than $555, 000 in attorneys' fees, against
both the defendant corporation and Govindaraj personally. In
holding Govindaraj personally liable for the money judgment
despite his status as a non-party, the district court
emphasized Govindaraj's position as an officer of the
defendant corporation and his continuing attempts to obstruct
the litigation "in defiance of orders of [the]
our review, we conclude that the district court erred in
entering judgment against Govindaraj personally when he was
not named as a party or otherwise brought into the case by
service of process. We additionally hold that the court did
not abuse its discretion in finding Govindaraj in contempt of
court. We therefore affirm in part, and vacate in part, the
district court's judgment. We remand the case for the
court to determine whether any of the damages and fees award
entered against Govindaraj is attributable to his contempt of
December 2010, plaintiff Life Technologies Corp., a Delaware
corporation, filed a two-count complaint against the
defendant, Life Technologies Corp., a Maryland corporation,
alleging that the defendant corporation was infringing on the
plaintiff's registered trademark, "Life
Technologies." Among other things, the plaintiff alleged
that the defendant corporation, plaintiff's competitor in
the field of scientific products and services, improperly was
using the "Life Technologies" mark as part of
various internet domain names to market the defendant's
goods and services.
plaintiff sought declaratory and injunctive relief, as well
as treble damages under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §
1125(a)(1)(A). It is undisputed that the plaintiff did not
name Govindaraj as a defendant, and did not refer to him in
any allegations of the complaint.
March 2012, the district court entered default judgment
against the defendant corporation. The court additionally
held that Govindaraj had acted in bad faith during the
litigation, observing that his statements on behalf of the
defendant corporation were "laughably incorrect"
and "absurd." The court entered an order enjoining
the defendant corporation, and Govindaraj and his wife as
corporate officers, from engaging in further activity
infringing on the plaintiff's registered trademark. The
court also held that based on the defendant's willful
conduct, the case was "exceptional," entitling the
plaintiff to payment of its costs and attorneys' fees.
The court directed that the plaintiff be awarded damages from
the defendant corporation, including treble damages, in an
amount to be determined following additional discovery in the
the same time, Govindaraj dissolved the defendant corporation
without notice to the corporation's creditors. In the
months that followed, Govindaraj violated the court's
injunction and continually attempted to obstruct the
discovery process related to determining a damages award.
Among other things, in violation of the discovery
proceedings, Govindaraj transferred some internet domain
names to foreign ...