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$95M Walmart outlay tossed in N.C. case

by Serenah McKay | March 31, 2021 at 12:27 p.m.
FILE - In this Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, file photo, signage is pictured at a Walmart store in Oklahoma City.

An appeals court has overturned a $95.5 million verdict against Walmart Inc. in a trademark-infringement lawsuit.

The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals said Monday in an unpublished opinion that the jury that awarded the damages to plaintiff Variety Stores Inc. in 2019 was not properly instructed by a lower court.

Variety Stores' lawsuit, filed in 2014 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, argued that Walmart's Backyard Grill + Design trademark was likely to be confused with the North Carolina company's Backyard and Backyard BBQ trademarks.

The jury in the federal court trial found that Walmart willfully infringed on Variety Stores' trademark by selling grills and grilling products under the Backyard Grill name. Court records state that the jury's award to Variety Stores represented "reasonable royalties and disgorgement of profits."

Walmart appealed the jury's decisions.

In oral arguments before the appellate court panel in December, an attorney for Walmart said the jury was not told the legal definition of willfulness, or intention to infringe on another company's trademark.

An attorney for Variety Stores countered that proof of willfulness isn't required under the law for awards or damages, according to court records.

The case is Variety Stores Inc. v. Walmart Inc.

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