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Boltex Manufacturing Company, L.P. v. Ulma Piping USA Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

November 1, 2019

BOLTEX MANUFACTURING COMPANY, L.P., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ULMA PIPING USA CORP., et al, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Andrew S. Hanen United States District Judge.

         On September 27, 2019, the jury found in favor of Plaintiffs, Boltex Manufacturing Company, L.P. ("Boltex") and Weldbend Corporation ("Weldbend"), on all issues. Pursuant to the findings of the jury, the Court hereby enters an interlocutory order in favor of Plaintiffs as a precursor to entering a final judgment.

         I.

         Prior to discussing specifics, the Court must note that the Fifth Circuit has not established a definitive statute of limitations to apply in Lanham Act cases. The Lanham Act does not contain its own statute of limitations. Consequently, courts look to the state statute of limitations controlling comparable state causes of action. Most of the courts that have ruled have held that Lanham Act false advertising cases come closest to Texas' theory of common law fraud which has a four-year statute of limitations. Crystaphase Prod., Inc. v. Criterion Catalysts & Tech., L.P., No. 3:17-cv-265, 2018 WL 4266237, at *7 (S.D. Tex. Aug. 20, 2018) ("The most analogous Texas statute of limitations for a Lanham Act claim is the four-year limitations period for fraud claims."); Alfa Laval, Inc. v. Flowtrend, Inc., No. 14-cv-2597, 2016 WL 2625068, at *6 (S.D. Tex. May 9, 2016) ("Because the Lanham Act contains no express limitations period, Courts look to the most analogous state law statute of limitations to determine the applicable laches period. In Texas, the most analogous limitations period is the four-year period applicable to fraud claims."); Derrick Manuf. Corp. v. Southwestern Wire Cloth, Inc., 934 F.Supp. 796, 805 (S.D. Tex. 1996) ("[T]his Court holds that the fraud limitations period applies for Derrick's Section 43(a) claim. In Texas, the limitations period for fraud is four years."). This Court formulated the jury verdict form to separate the damages that could be awarded if a four-year statute of limitations controlled from those that could be awarded to if a two-year statute applied. The Court did this because it finds that, while the majority of cases favor the four-year statute, a very credible argument could be made that the closest parallel in Texas law to a Lanham Act unfair advertising claim is Texas' common law cause of action for unfair competition, not fraud. Unfair competition in Texas has a two-year limitations statute, and reasonable minds could differ on the question as to whether the Fifth Circuit, when it rules, will adopt the two-year statute of limitations rather than four-year statute favored by the majority of trial courts who have had to face the issue.

         That being said, this Court, for the purposes of this case, finds the four-year statute to be more appropriate and applies it to the verdict found by the jury.

         II.

         The Court finds that Plaintiffs have prevailed not only on their claims based upon the Lanham Act, but also upon their claims of unfair competition based upon the common law of the State of Texas. While Plaintiffs have received favorable jury findings on all claims, they are not entitled to multiple recoveries for the same loss. Therefore, Plaintiffs must elect between the remedies upon which they have prevailed.

         The jury made the following findings and Boltex was awarded the following damages pursuant to the Lanham Act:

         Actual Damages:

a) May 5, 2013 to May 4, 2015: $250, 000.00
b) May 5, 2015 to May 31, 2019: $400.000.00
Total Damages: $650, 000.00

         Under the Texas law of unfair competition, Boltex was awarded ...


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