United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
SPRUCE ENVIRONMENTAL TECHNOLOGIES, INC., Plaintiff-Counterclaim Defendant,
FESTA RADON TECHNOLOGIES, CO., Defendant-Counterclaim Plaintiff.
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
NATHANIEL M. GORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
case involves a dispute between two competitors in the radon
extraction business. Plaintiff/counterclaim-defendant Spruce
Environmental Technologies, Inc. (“Spruce”)
claims that defendant/counterclaim-plaintiff Festa Radon
Technologies, Co. (“Festa”) engaged in false
advertising of its fans in violation of 1) the Lanham Act, 15
U.S.C. § 1125(a), 2) the Massachusetts Consumer
Protection Act, M.G.L. ch. 93A, §§ 2, 11,
(“Chapter 93A”), 3) a Massachusetts statute that
prohibits unfair and misleading advertisements, M.G.L. c.
266, § 91 and that Festa committed commercial
disparagement. Festa counterclaims that Spruce has, itself,
violated the Lanham Act and Chapter 93A and engaged in
commercial disparagement. Spruce has filed a motion for
partial summary judgment and, for the reasons that follow,
that motion will be denied.
Factual and Procedural Background
a Massachusetts corporation with a principal place of
business in Haverhill, Massachusetts, manufactures and
advertises radon mitigation devices, including a line of
radon extraction fans. Festa, a Pennsylvania corporation with
a principal place of business in Cranberry, Pennsylvania,
similarly manufactures and advertises radon extraction fans.
April, 2015, Spruce filed a complaint against Festa which, in
turn, answered and counterclaimed. Each party moved for a
preliminary injunction. In July, 2015, the Court enjoined
Festa from 1) using inaccurate photos of Spruce's fans
and 2) representing that Festa fans have Energy Star and Home
Ventilating Institute (“HVI”) certifications. In
April, 2016, the Court enjoined Spruce from claiming that its
fans were Energy Star certified.
November, 2016, Spruce filed a motion for partial summary
judgment on its claims that Festa violated the Lanham Act and
Chapter 93A with false advertisements concerning 1) the color
of Spruce's fans, 2) Festa's Energy Star partnership
and certification and 3) Festa's HVI membership and
certification. Spruce requests that the Court permanently
enjoin Festa from publishing those purportedly false
advertisements. Spruce also moves for the summary dismissal
of Festa's counterclaim that Spruce violated the Lanham
Act and Chapter 93A by asserting that its fans comply with
standards for outdoor use. Festa has timely opposed
Spruce's motion for summary judgment which is the subject
of this memorandum and order.
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment
Legal Standard for Summary Judgment
role of summary judgment is “to pierce the pleadings
and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a
genuine need for trial.” Mesnick v. Gen. Elec.
Co., 950 F.2d 816, 822 (1st Cir. 1991). The burden is on
the moving party to show, through the pleadings, discovery
and affidavits, “that there is no genuine dispute as to
any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is
material if it “might affect the outcome of the suit
under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A genuine issue
of material fact exists where the evidence with respect to
the material fact in dispute “is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
moving party has satisfied its burden, the burden shifts to
the non-moving party to set forth specific facts showing that
there is a genuine, triable issue. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). The Court must view
the entire record in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party and indulge all reasonable inferences in
that party's favor. O'Connor v.
Steeves, 994 F.2d 905, 907 (1st Cir. 1993). Summary
judgment is appropriate if, after viewing the record in the
non-moving party's favor, the Court determines that no
genuine issue of material fact exists and that the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Lanham Act and Chapter 93A
Lanham Act prohibits “commercial advertising or
promotion” that “misrepresents the nature,
characteristics, [or] qualities” of a product. 15
U.S.C. § 1125(a)(1)(B). To prevail on a claim brought
under that statute, a plaintiff must prove:
(1) the defendant made a false or misleading description of
fact or representation of fact . . . in a commercial
advertisement about [its] own or another's product; (2)
the misrepresentation is material . . .; (3) the
misrepresentation actually deceives or has the tendency to
deceive a substantial segment of its audience; (4) the
defendant placed the false or misleading statement in
interstate commerce; and (5) the plaintiff has been or is
likely to be injured as a result of ...