LOS ANGELES — Over the objections of Doublestar Group Corp. (DGC), a California federal judge has granted the motion of Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. and Toyo Tire U.S.A. to dismiss DGC from a long-standing trade dress infringement/unfair competition lawsuit.
Toyo filed its original complaint against DGC, Doublestar Dong Feng Tyre Co. Ltd. and Qingdao Doublestar Tire Industrial Co. Ltd. in February 2015 before the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Southern Division, followed by an amended complaint in February 2016.
Toyo accused the Doublestar defendants of copying the overall appearance of Toyo's Open Country M/T tire, a premium off-road tire Toyo described as being "aesthetically pleasing" and having a "unique, aesthetically aggressive appearance."
In a Feb. 26 motion, Toyo asked the court for dismissal against DGC only, so it could continue its case against the other defendants. The court already had accepted DGC's claim that it had no involvement in manufacturing, selling or exporting the Open Country M/T tire.
Granting Toyo's motion March 28, Judge Cormac J. Carney ruled that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow plaintiffs to request a court order dismissing their case when a defendant already has served an answer to a complaint, as DGC did.
DGC argued against the Toyo motion, saying that dismissing it from the case constituted plain legal prejudice against DGC and only served to hurt its co-defendants.
Mr. Carney rejected DGC's argument.
"While DGC argues that it has expended considerable effort and expense to litigate this case, (this) does not constitute plain legal prejudice," he wrote.
Mr. Carney agreed with DGC that Toyo's reasons for dismissing the case against DGC were suspect, but still said it was within his discretion to dismiss it.
"DGC points out that the evidence Toyo now argues demonstrates that that there is no real controversy regarding DGC's alleged trade dress infringement," he wrote. But dismissing the case maximized the protection to DGC, which is the purpose of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, he wrote.
The trial against DGC's former co-defendants is scheduled for October 2018.