Let’s talk turf today, two kinds. OK, maybe three.
First, with Target Field looking more and more like the long-anticipated brand new outdoor home ballpark for the Minnesota Twins, all Twins fans and the local media can think or talk about this week is the new real bluegrass blend turf being installed now (as I type this blog post, in fact, see live webcam here), as it was just transported from Graff’s Turf Farms in Fort Morgan, Colorado.
Last, and most importantly for the purposes of this blog, let’s talk about the importance of legal turf.
Selecting the legal turf or forum where a trademark dispute or battle is fought in federal court is often a very strategic decision. Litigants not infrequently end up battling over where the dispute will be decided, long before even getting to the substance of their dispute. Certain aspects of the federal trademark laws are interpreted differently around the country, which can lead to what lawyers call “forum shopping,” basically, making forum selections based on where the plaintiff believes his or her case will most likely receive a favorable judgment. Indeed, most companies who file trademark lawsuits would prefer to file them close to home (unless forum shopping benefits dictate otherwise), in their own backyard, for that perceived home field advantage, and, because the out-of-state defendant typically ends up needing to hire two sets of lawyers to defend, their usual trademark counsel and local counsel too.
The general legal rule is that the first to file a trademark lawsuit is the one who gets to select the turf where the battle will be decided. There are exceptions to this general rule, perhaps we’ll explore those another time. For now, however, suffice it to say, being the first to file, often creates some helpful advantage or at least some leverage to bring the matter to a more favorable amicable resolution. The first-to-file plaintiff is able to make his or her settlement demand, with the comfort of knowing that — if it is not accepted — he or she already has secured the place for the dispute to go forward. If it happens to be a place where the defendant does not want to litigate, for one reason or another, this can facilitate perhaps better settlement terms for the first-to-file plaintiff.