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3 Ratones Ciegos v. Mucha Lucha Libre Taco Shop 1 LLC

United States District Court, D. Arizona

September 27, 2017

3 Ratones Ciegos, a California limited liability company, Plaintiff,
v.
Mucha Lucha Libre Taco Shop 1 LLC, an Arizona limited liability company,, Defendants.

          ORDER

          David G. Campbell United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff 3 Ratones Ciego, a California limited liability company, owns and operates the Lucha Libre Gourmet Taco Shops in San Diego. In December 2016, Plaintiff filed the present action against Defendants, who operate various taco shops in Arizona. The complaint asserts common law and statutory claims for unfair competition and trademark and trade dress infringement. Doc. 1.

         Defendants have moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Doc. 25. Plaintiff has filed a response in opposition to the motion (Doc. 26), but no reply has been filed. For reasons stated below, the motion will be denied.[1]

         I. Background.

         Plaintiff operates three Lucha Libre Gourmet Taco Shop restaurants in San Diego. The restaurants are designed in a French Rococo style with elaborate ornamentation and feature vibrant colors such as hot pink and light blue with gold accents. As the name suggests, the restaurants have a Mexican wrestling themed décor, including displays of wrestling masks and vintage photos of “lucha libre” wrestlers.[2]

         Plaintiff holds three federally registered trademarks associated with its restaurants: Lucha Libre Gourmet Taco Shop, Lucha Libre Taco Shop, and Lucha Libre. Plaintiff claims to have used these marks since 2007. Plaintiff also holds a trade dress registration for the restaurant design and décor, and has used the trade dress since 2008.

         Defendants are various Arizona limited liability companies (LLCs) and eight individuals who have an interest in the LLCs. Some of them operate taco shops in the metro-Phoenix area. Plaintiff claims that Defendants' use of the same color design, décor, and Mexican wrestling theme as Plaintiff's restaurants, and use of the names Mucha Lucha Libre Taco Shop and Mucha Lucha Taco Shop, infringe Plaintiff's trade dress and trademark rights and otherwise constitute unfair competition.

         The complaint asserts eight related causes of action: four federal claims for trademark infringement, trade dress infringement, and unfair competition (counts one through four); similar common law claims (counts five through seven); and an Arizona trademark infringement and unfair competition claim (count eight). Doc. 1 ¶¶ 54-129. Defendants have moved pursuant to Rule 12(c) for judgment as a matter of law on the trademark and corresponding unfair competition claims (counts one, three, five, six, and eight). Doc. 25 at 5.

         II. Rule 12(c) Standard.

         Rule 12(c) is functionally identical to Rule 12(b)(6) and the same standard applies to motions brought under either rule. Cafasso v. Gen. Dynamics C4 Sys., Inc., 637 F.3d 1047, 1055 (9th Cir. 2011). Thus, a successful Rule 12(c) motion must show that the complaint lacks a cognizable legal theory or fails to allege facts sufficient to support such a theory. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988). A complaint that sets forth a cognizable legal theory will survive a motion for judgment on the pleadings where it contains “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads sufficient “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         III. Discussion.

         Defendants do not dispute that trademarks and trade dress are legally protectable rights. Doc. 25 at 5. Rather, they contend that their use of “Mucha Lucha” is significantly different from, and as a matter of law does not infringe, Plaintiff's “Lucha Libre” marks. Defendants note that Plaintiff's mark in English would be “All-In Wrestling Gourmet Taco Shop, ” and assert that this is not similar to their “Mucha Lucha Taco Shop” name, which in English means “Much Fight Taco Shop.” Id. at 8-10.

         Plaintiff argues that it has alleged facts sufficient to show protectable marks and likelihood of consumer confusion resulting in trademark infringement by Defendants. Doc 26 at 5-9. Plaintiff further argues that Defendants' purported statement of undisputed facts is procedurally improper, and judgment on the pleadings otherwise is not appropriate at this stage of the litigation. Id. at 3, 9. The Court agrees with Plaintiff.

         A. The Trademark Infringement and Related Unfair ...


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