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EPPENDORF-NETHELER-HINZ GMBH v. ENTERTON CO.

March 20, 2000

EPPENDORF-NETHELER HINZ GMBH, PLAINTIFF,
V.
ENTERTON COMPANY ESTABLISHMENT, NATIONAL LABNET COMPANY, INC., AND MARSH BIOMEDICAL PRODUCTS, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Motley, District Judge.

OPINION GRANTING PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

OPINION

This case involves claims of trademark infringement involving two types of laboratory equipment. Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the claim regarding one of these two products. For the reasons outlined below, this court now grants defendants' motion on the basis of laches.

BACKGROUND

This case involves allegations of trademark infringement involving laboratory equipment. The pieces of equipment in question are hand-held devices used to transfer small amounts of liquid. The two products are dispenser syringes and pipettes. The pipettes in question are small lumen glass tubes open on both ends. Dispenser syringes are disposable plastic tips which fit onto the end of the pipettes. Dispenser syringes serve to draw in or expel measured amounts of fluid. Only the dispenser syringes are the subject of defendants' motion for summary judgment.

The plaintiff is Eppendorf-Netheler-HINZ GmbH ("Eppendorf"), a German company which manufactures medical and laboratory equipment. The defendants are PZ HTL SA ("HTL"), National Labnet Company, Inc. ("Labnet") and Marsh Biomedical Products, Inc. ("Marsh"). HTL is a Polish company which manufactures laboratory equipment including dispenser syringes. HTL was previously owned by Enterton Company Establishment, the party named in the above case caption. Labnet is a New Jersey corporation that markets HTL's dispenser syringes in the United States. In some situations Labnet sells HTL's dispenser syringes through dealers, one of which is defendent Marsh. Eppendorfs claims against HTL and Labnet involve only dispenser syringes. Eppendorfs claims against Marsh involve pipettes and dispenser syringes. As the summary judgment motion involves only dispenser syringes, granting this motion serves to dismiss the entire case against HTL and Labnet but only part of the case against Marsh.

Eppendorf markets dispenser syringes under the trademarked names "Combitips" and "Eppendorf Combitips". HTL's dispenser syringes are sold in the United States under the trademarked name "Combi-Syringe". Eppendorf alleges that defendants' products employ Eppendorf's designs and infringe on plaintiffs proprietary rights.

Plaintiff brings this action under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1051 et seq., as well as common law unfair competition, and deceptive trade practices and trademark and trade dress dilution in violation of New York General Business Law.

STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

This circuit recognizes the value of summary judgment to expedite the process of litigation. See Quinn v. Syracuse Model Neighborhood Corp., 613 F.2d 438, 445 (2d Cir. 1980). The mechanism of summary judgment promotes judicial economy by preventing further litigation on an issue with an unalterably predetermined outcome. The standard for summary judgment ensures that issues are efficiently resolved without compromising the rights of the non-moving party.

Summary judgment may be granted only if the moving party can show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. The court must draw all reasonable inferences and resolve all ambiguities in favor of the non-moving party.

Ametex Fabrics, Inc. v. Just In Materials, Inc., 140 F.3d 101, 107 (2d Cir. 1998) (internal citations omitted). Thus, the mere existence of a factual dispute between partiies does not preclude summary judgmeent when the dispute is not genuine or when the disputed facts are immaterial. A disputed fact is immaterial when the outcome of the case remains the same regardless of the disputed issue. Factual questions which prove immaterial fail to preclude summary judgment. See Knight v. U.S. Fire Insurance Co., 804 F.2d 9, 11 (2d Cir. 1986) (noting that the existence of unresolved immaterial issues does not suffice to defeat a motion for summary judgment).

A party may not rely on "mere speculation or conjecture as to the true nature of the facts to overcome a motion for summary judgment". Knight v. U.S. Fire Insurance Co., 804 F.2d 9, 11 (2d Cir. 1986).

Nor are judges any longer required to submit a question to a jury merely because some evidence has been introduced by the party having the burden of proof, unless the evidence be of such a character that it would warrant the jury in finding a verdict in favor of that party. Formerly it was held that if there was what is called a scintilla of evidence in support of a case the judge was bound to leave it to the jury, but recent decisions of high authority have established a more reasonable rule, that in every case, before the evidence is left to the jury, there is a preliminary question for the judge, not whether there is literally no ...

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