First Circuit Holds That Trademark Licensee Loses Right to Use Trademarks When Debtor-Licensor Rejects License

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By Brian S. Hermann, Alan W. Kornberg, and Erica G. Weinberger (Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP).

Last month, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit addressed two questions critically important to trademark licensees:  (1) can a trademark licensee use section 365(n) of the Bankruptcy Code to retain licensed trademarks (and exclusive distribution rights) following a debtor-licensor’s rejection of its license and (2) if not, can a licensee otherwise continue to use the licensed trademarks post-rejection?  In re Tempnology, LLC, 879 F.3d 389 (1st Cir. 2018).  The Court held that section 365(n) does not apply to trademarks (or distribution rights) and, in a split (two-to-one) decision, ruled that a licensee’s right to use licensed trademarks terminates upon rejection of its license.  In so ruling, the Court expressly rejected a contrary decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Sunbeam Products, Inc. v. Chicago American Manufacturing, LLC, 686 F.3d 372 (7th Cir. 2012), establishing a clear circuit split regarding the consequences of trademark license rejection for licensees.  This Memorandum discusses the First Circuit’s decision in Tempnology, as well as the scope of section 365(n) of the Bankruptcy Code and the consequences of rejection more generally.

The First Circuit’s decision in Tempnology may not be the last word on these important trademark license issues.  Given the split in Court of Appeals rulings, the Supreme Court could weigh in, if asked.  If not, it remains to be seen whether other courts will adopt Tempnology or Sunbeam or craft an entirely different rule.

The full article is available here.

Reconciling “Additional Assistance” with “Appropriate Relief” in Ch. 15

By David L. Eaton (Kirkland & Ellis LLP) and Aaron J. David (Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP)*

When faced with a Chapter 15 foreign representative seeking discretionary post-recognition relief on behalf of a foreign debtor, courts have struggled to decide whether the requested relief falls under § 1507(a), referring to “additional assistance” and subject to the factors enumerated in § 1507(b), or under § 1521, affording “appropriate relief” under the balancing test in § 1522.  Because both provisions seem to enable courts to provide discretionary relief, but subject to different standards, courts and commentators have lamented the difficulty of assessing “where section 1521 ends and where section 1507 begins.”

In our view, the problem is illusory.  We revisit Chapter 15 in light of the “language and design of the statute as a whole” to argue that § 1507 has been misinterpreted.  On our reading, §1507 is not, itself, a source of discretionary relief, but rather sets out principles to guide courts in granting any discretionary relief, including under § 1521.  Specifically, § 1507(a) allows courts to employ applicable non-bankruptcy law in fashioning discretionary relief, and § 1507(b) imposes standards that preserve pre-Chapter 15 jurisprudence governing such relief.  Interpreting § 1507 this way clarifies that § 1521 is the true source of discretionary relief, but that it should be employed against the background principles of § 1507.

The full article was published in the ABI Journal and is available here.


*David Eaton is a recently retired partner of Kirkland & Ellis LLP.  Aaron David is an associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.  The article reflects the views of authors, and does not represent the views of Kirkland & Ellis or Paul, Weiss.