Commercial Landlords may be contributorily liable for trademark infringement when the Landlord has knowledge or has reason to know of specific acts of direct infringement, according to a recent decision of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The case, Luxottica Group, S.p.A. v Airport Mini Mall, Inc., involved a luxury eyewear manufacturer who brought a contributory trademark infringement action against the landlord of a mall whose tenants were selling counterfeit eyewear. A jury awarded damages against the tenant and the commercial landlord for $1.9 million.
In a case of first impression in the Eleventh Circuit, the three judge panel of the Court affirmed the verdict and held that the commercial landlord could be contributorily liable for the tenant’s trademark infringement where, as in this case, the landlord supplied services and support (i.e., space, utilities, maintenance and parking) that facilitated their tenant’s ability to sell counterfeit goods and either intentionally induced infringement or knew or had reason to know of the infringement.
This case is critically important for commercial landlords because they cannot ignore obvious signs of trademark infringement by their tenants and avoid liability for their tenant’s wrongful conduct. The reasoning in this case may even be used to impose liability on commercial landlords for other tenant conduct outside of the trademark infringement context.
Questions on ways to minimize risk or avoid potential liability should be directed to experience commercial landlord counsel.