ORLANDO (CN) - A federal judge ruled that foreign companies handing out promotional material for trademark infringing products may not merit money damages.
Golden Horse Amusement Ride Equipment and Beijing Jiuhua Amusement Rides Manufacturing, Chinese amusement park companies, are members of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions and regularly attend the annual IAAPA trade show in Orlando.
Zamperla, SpA and Zamperla, Inc. - an Italian amusement park company and its U.S. distributor, also IAAPA members - saw Golden Horse and Beijing Jiuhua handing out promotional materials at the 2011 conference allegedly depicting imitation Zamperla rides that the Chinese companies were marketing as their own.
Zamperla sued the Chinese companies for unfair competition under the Lanham Act and served them while they were still at the trade show, according to the ruling.
Mistakenly believing that they were served in China by fax or email, an American attorney told Golden Horse and Beijing Jiuhua that they did not have to respond because they had not been served with the lawsuit correctly.
The case progressed and the defendants failed to appear, granting plaintiffs default judgment and a damages award, the ruling states.
When the Chinese amusement park companies showed up at the 2012 IAAPA trade show, U.S. Marshals seized their promotional materials because of the default judgment.
The defendants' motions to set aside default judgment were granted in part by a Florida district court to the extent that damages awarded were set aside.
Citing Burger King Corp vs. Mason
, Judge Roy Dalton ruled that simply handing out pamphlets at the trade show may not call for financial damages.
"Here, the relevant conduct is defendants' promotion of its trade-dress infringing products at the IAAPA conference," he wrote. "On the present record, the court finds that an award of monetary relief based on that conduct would be inappropriate.
Zamperla has until August 8 to file a motion for damages. If they do not, the court will enter judgment in favor of Zamperla and against Golden Horse and Beijing Jiuhua but without an award of money damages.