PODS wins $62 million verdict in trademark lawsuit against U-Haul

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by John Chapman

Founded in 1998, PODS delivers containers to homes and businesses to be filled and transported to storage centers. PODS is based in Clearwater, Florida. In 2012, PODS filed an intellectual property lawsuit against U-Haul International in federal court in Tampa alleging that U-Haul “improperly and unlawfully” used the PODS trademark on its website as a way to divert sales.

U-Haul’s parent company, Amerco, made and then withdrew a 2007 bid to purchase PODS, according to the suit. After that, U-Haul began to use the words “pod” and “pods” in its marketing materials in order to capitalize on the “enormous goodwill” of the PODS brand, alleged PODS.

The suit alleged that U-Haul started using “pod” and “pods” only after PODS became famous. The suit alleged that, starting in 2010, U-Haul began to pepper its website with the words in order to draw prospective customers who had been searching for PODS online to the U-Box service instead. As of trial, there were allegedly almost 600,000 misuses of the PODS name on U-Haul’s website.

U-Haul argued it was simply using the noun “pod” in a generic or descriptive fashion and was not using the “PODS” trademark or acronym. U-Haul also argued that its U-Box home storage products and PODS home storage products contain “vast” differences in appearance, size, pricing and delivery method.

Following a two-week trial in Tampa, the jury found PODS was not a generic term. According to the jury, PODS remains a legally protected trademark brand even though people use the word frequently to describe a container used for moving.

The jury found that U-Haul infringed on PODS’ trademarks, causing confusion and hurting business for PODS. The jury found in PODS’ favor on all counts on PODS’ claims that U-Haul violated both federal and Florida trademark laws. The jury found that PODS was damaged in the amount of $45 million by the infringement, and that U-Haul was unjustly enriched in the amount of $15.7 million though profits attributable to using the word pods.

Intellectual Property Law and Heygood, Orr & Pearson

At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, our attorneys are experienced at handling trademark and patent matters including prosecuting claims for infringement. For example, our lawyers have handled claims brought by a large local company for infringement of its rail car patent, claims by a local inventor for infringement of her patent for a childcare product and claims by an Israeli company against a Fortune 500 company for infringement of its wireless technology patent. Our firm has also represented a client suing a large American pharmaceutical company for interfering with his patent rights to liposome technology. We are also currently handling a large trademark dispute for an international businessman engaged in the diamond and jewelry business.

Our ability to prosecute trademark and patent infringement cases is aided by our extensive trial experience in general. Although technical knowledge and familiarity with patent rules and intellectual property law is a must for attorneys handling infringement claims, there is no substitute for courtroom experience. The seasoned litigators at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have the experience to take even the most complex case and explain it in terms a jury can understand. We have a track record of proven success representing businesses large and small.

Several of our trial lawyers are board certified* and many of them have been selected as Super Lawyers in the State of Texas for several years in a row.** Our firm is AV-rated, the highest legal and ethical ranking available from the leading law firm ranking service, Martindale-Hubbell. Our attorneys are capable of litigating trademark and patent infringement claims throughout the country. Firm attorney John “Jay” Pate is licensed to prosecute patents before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

If you or your company is in need of representation in an intellectual property matter, contact us for a free consultation by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by following this link to the free case evaluation form located on our website.

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* Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson are all Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law — Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

** Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson were selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication, for the years 2003 through 2014.