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Springboards to Education, Inc. v. KIPP Foundation

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

September 7, 2017

SPRINGBOARDS TO EDUCATION, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
KIPP FOUNDATION, ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          A. JOE FISH, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the court are motions to dismiss, or alternatively, motions for a more definite statement filed by the defendants, KIPP Foundation, KIPP, Inc., and KIPP Texas Schools (docket entries 32 and 40). For the reasons stated below, the motions are granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The plaintiff, Springboards to Education, Inc. (“Springboards”), is an educational company specializing in children's literacy. First Amended Complaint (“Amended Complaint”) (docket entry 21). The Knowledge Is Power Program (“KIPP”) is a non-profit network of public charter schools located in Texas and throughout the country. Id. ¶ 32. The KIPP Foundation trains and develops teachers and facilitates ideas across KIPP schools. Id. KIPP, Inc. and KIPP Texas Schools oversee KIPP public charter schools in Texas. Id.

         This action revolves around Springboards's “Read a Million Words Campaign.” Amended Complaint ¶¶ 15-16. The campaign encourages students to take an oath to read at least one million words by the end of the school year. Id. ¶ 16. As part of the campaign, schools may purchase a kit from Springboards that contains educational materials and other products designed to incentivize students to read at least one million words by the end of the school year. Id. ¶ 17. A student who reads at least one million words becomes a “Millionaire Reader” and is inducted into the “Millionaire's Reading Club.” Id. ¶ 19. The program includes an induction ceremony featuring red carpet parties and rented limousines. Id. Springboards has marketed this program to thousands of educators nationwide. Id. ¶ 21.

         Springboards registered the following trademarks as part of the program: “Read a Million Words”; “Millionaire Reader”; “Millionaire's Reading Club”; “Million Dollar Reader”; and “Feel Like a Million Bucks.” Id. ¶ 22. Additionally, Springboards also has two common law trademarks: “Reading Rules” and “Star Struck Reader.” Id. ¶ 25. Springboards uses these trademarks in its “Read a Million Words” campaign. Id. ¶ 27. Springboards features the marks on incentive products including bookmarks, blow-up dollar bills, pencils, and certificates. Id. Springboards has exclusively used and promoted the marks for over a decade. Id. ¶ 29.

         Springboards alleges that KIPP schools in Texas have used the marks “Millionaire Reader, ” “#millionairereader, ” and “Millionaire” in social media postings. Id. ¶ 37. KIPP schools outside of Texas have used similar terms, such as “Millonaire's Club.” Id. ¶ 38. Springboards contends that these marks are either identical to, substantially indistinguishable from, or confusingly similar to Springboards's trademarks. Id. ¶ 44. Moreover, the KIPP entities are allegedly manufacturing and/or distributing products containing confusingly similar language. Id. ¶ 46. Springboards has not authorized any KIPP entity to use its products. Id. ¶ 49.

         As a result, Springboards asserts claims for: (1) trademark counterfeiting, 15 U.S.C. § 1114; (2) trademark infringement, 15 U.S.C. § 1114; (3) false designation of origin false descriptions, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a); (4) trademark dilution, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(c); (5) Texas anti-dilution statute, Tex. Bus. & Com. Code § 16.103; (6) common law trademark infringement; (7) common law unfair competition; and (8) conspiracy. Id. ¶¶ 54-135.

         On February 14, 2017, the KIPP Foundation filed its motion to dismiss, or alternatively, for a more definite statement. Motion to Dismiss or Alternatively Motion for More Definite Statement Filed by the KIPP Foundation (docket entry 32); Defendant KIPP Foundation's Brief in Support of Its Motion (“KIPP Foundation's Brief”) (docket entry 33). On March 3, 2017, KIPP, Inc. and KIPP Texas Schools filed their motion to dismiss, or alternatively, for a more definite statement. KIPP, Inc. and KIPP Texas Schools's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint or Alternative Motion for More Definite Statement (“KIPP, Inc. and KIPP Texas Schools's Brief”) (docket entry 40). On March 21, 2017, Springboards timely filed a response to the KIPP Foundation's motion to dismiss. Plaintiff's Response to Defendant KIPP Foundation's Motion and Brief in Support (“Springboards's KIPP Foundation Response”) (docket entry 47). On April 4, 2017, the KIPP Foundation timely filed a reply to the response to its motion. Defendant KIPP Foundation's Reply Brief in Support of It's Motion (“KIPP Foundation's Reply”) (docket entry 49). On April 7, 2017, Springboards timely filed a response to KIPP, Inc. and KIPP Texas Schools's motion to which KIPP, Inc. and KIPP Texas Schools filed a timely reply. Plaintiff's Response to Defendant KIPP, Inc. and KIPP Texas Schools's Motion (“Springboards's KIPP, Inc. and KIPP Texas Schools Response”) (docket entry 50); KIPP, Inc. and KIPP Texas Schools's Reply Brief (“KIPP, Inc. and KIPP Texas Schools's Reply”) (docket entry 53). The motions are now ripe for decision.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Legal Standards

         1. Rule 12(b)(1)

         Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal of a case for lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction must be considered by the court before any other challenge because “the court must find jurisdiction before determining the validity of a claim.” Moran v. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 27 F.3d 169, 172 (5th Cir. 1994) (internal citation omitted); see also Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Company, 526 U.S. 574, 577 (1999) (“The requirement that jurisdiction be established as a threshold matter . . . is inflexible and without exception”) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). On a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, which “concerns the court's ‘very power to hear the case . . . [, ] the trial court is free to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the existence of its power to hear the case.'” MDPhysicians & Associates, Inc. v. State Board of Insurance, 957 F.2d 178, 181 (5th Cir.) (quoting Williamson v. Tucker, 645 F.2d 404, 413 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 897 (1981)), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 861 (1992). In ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), the court may rely on: “1) the complaint alone; 2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts; or 3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts and the court's resolution of disputed facts.” MCG, Inc. v. Great Western Energy Corporation, 896 F.2d 170, 176 (5th Cir. 1990) (citing Williamson, 645 F.2d at 413). Once jurisdiction is challenged, the burden rests upon the party seeking to invoke the court's jurisdiction to prove that jurisdiction is proper. Boudreau v. United States, 53 F.3d 81, 82 (5th Cir. 1995), cert. denied, 516 U.S. 1071 (1996).

         2. R ...


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