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Co-Mo Comm Inc. v. City of Columbia Missouri

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division

April 14, 2017

CO-MO COMM, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF COLUMBIA, MISSOURI, Defendant.

          ORDER

          BRIAN C. WIMES JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Co-Mo Comm, Inc.'s Motion for Preliminary Injunction (Doc. #2). The Court, being duly advised of the premises, denies said motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Co-Mo Comm, Inc. (“Co-Mo”) asserts claims against Defendant City of Columbia, Missouri (“City”) related to the use of the “CO-MO CONNECT” mark. Co-Mo seeks a preliminary injunction against the City's use of “COMO CONNECT” as the tradename for its bus system. The Court held a hearing and received evidence on the motion for preliminary injunction on January 24, 2017.

         As stipulated by the parties, Co-Mo and Co-Mo Electric Cooperative, Inc. are Missouri corporations with their principal places of business in Tipton, Missouri. Co-Mo is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Co-Mo Electric. The City is a municipal Missouri corporation, located within Boone County, Missouri.

         Co-Mo's parent company, Co-Mo Electric, has conducted business under the same name since 1939. In 2010, Co-Mo's board approved a pilot project to make fiber-to-home broadband network services available in certain parts of Co-Mo Electric's service area. This network service project was referred to as Co-Mo Connect, in association with Co-Mo Electric's brand goodwill, and in description of network services that were intended to connect homes in rural areas to highspeed fiber broadband network connections elsewhere. Co-Mo began soliciting customers using the Co-Mo Connect mark as early as February 2011. Co-Mo registered the mark under federal law as of July 7, 2015 and under Missouri law as of March 25, 2015, in reference to its Co-Mo Connect-branded internet, television, and telephone services. The mark is displayed as:

         (Image Omitted)

         Co-Mo maintains a website for its Co-Mo Connect products and services, http://www.co-mo.net/Co-MoConnect, which shows the above Co-Mo Connect mark throughout.

         In 2013, the City proposed a plan to overhaul its bus transit system. The proposed project involved changing existing routes, as well as re-branding. The City referred to this initiative as COMO CONNECT, and did not undertake a formal trademark search before using COMO CONNECT publicly in promotion efforts.

         In August 2013, a City employee conducted a web search to determine whether the domain name comoconnect.com was available. In the course of this search, the City learned of Co-Mo's website, and the attendant use of the Co-Mo Connect mark in connection with Co-Mo's communications products and services. The City did not contact Co-Mo upon this discovery.

         On February 17, 2014, the City approved the bus system improvement initiative for implementation. On June 2, 2014, the City formally rebranded the bus system update as COMO CONNECT, which went operational on August 4, 2014. The City promoted the bus transit improvement initiative using the following mark that was designed in cooperation with a college marketing class:

         (Image Omitted)

         The COMO CONNECT mark appears in the City's advertisements for the bus system overhaul, on the buses and stops within the system, and the bus system website, https://www.comoconnect.org/.

         The City's COMO CONNECT mark and associated services are unrelated to Co-Mo's Co-Mo Connect mark and associated services, and vice versa. On October 1, 2015, Co-Mo sent a letter to the City about its use of COMO CONNECT. The City did not respond.

         On December 3, 2015, Co-Mo sent the City a cease and desist letter in reference to the City's use of COMO CONNECT. The City sent a written response to this letter on February 22, 2016, after meeting with Co-Mo's CEO, Ken Johnson. Co-Mo has used and is continuing to use its registered mark ...


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