Madison - St. Clair Record

Monday, October 14, 2019

Magistrate judge reaffirms '18 decision in Midwest Medical's trademark dispute with SSM Healthcare

Federal Court

By Marian Johns | Oct 9, 2019


BENTON — Southern District of Illinois Magistrate Judge Reona Daly has reaffirmed her 2018 decision to grant summary judgment to SSM Healthcare Corporation in a trademark infringement case filed by Midwest Medical and Occupational Services involving a dispute over the use of the phrase "express clinic."

According to the Sept. 25 U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois ruling, plaintiff Midwest Medical and Occupational Services SC, filed a motion to alter judgment in its case against defendants SSM Healthcare, alleging Lanham Act, Illinois Trademark Registration and Protection Act, Illinois Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act and Illinois common law violations. 

"In the order granting summary judgment, the undersigned found that the plaintiff does not possess enforceable trademark rights in 'Express Care of Mount Vernon' as it is a descriptive phrase that has not acquired secondary meaning," Daly wrote in her decision. "The undersigned further found that defendants were entitled to a fair use defense."

In its suit, Midwest alleged that SSM's operation of a Mount Vernon Clinic called "SSM Health Express Clinic" causes public confusion over their clinic called "Express Care of Mount Vernon." In their motion to alter judgment, Midwest argued "there is no authority providing for summary judgment when there is substantial evidence of actual confusion" and that "the Seventh Circuit has held that a defendant’s use of its own trademark in advertisements does not preclude a finding that those advertisements also used another entity’s trademark." Midwest further argued that "this court disregarded the inference to which the plaintiff is entitled regarding the defendants’ intent."

Daly disagreed and stated in her decision, "The fact that the defendants were aware of the plaintiff’s mark is insufficient to establish that defendants acted in bad faith. The evidence that the plaintiff cites does no more than indicate knowledge of the mark on behalf of the defendants and does not create a reasonable inference that the defendants were motivated by competition with the plaintiff in using the phrase 'Express Clinic.'"

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