10 January 2013

SCOTUS in Plain English: Already, LLC vs. Nike, Inc.

This is one in a series of posts designed to describe Supreme Court decisions in plain English. For more detail and background on the legal issues, see the link to the case at SCOTUblog below. For similar posts, click here.

Already, LLC v. Nike, Inc.

Nike sued Already for selling a shoe that Nike claimed infringed on one of its trademarks. In return, Already claimed that Nike's trademark was not valid (this is called a counter-claim). However, Already's shoes stopped selling so well. Nike didn't want to waste money on the lawsuit, so Nike promised Already (in an agreement called a "Covenant Not to Sue") that it wouldn't sue. But Already still wanted to have Nike's trademark invalidated in its counter-claim. The Supreme Court ruled that when Nike promised Already not to sue, the dispute was no longer a "case" or "controversy" under Article III of the U.S. Constitution (in other words, it was "moot"--courts cannot decide hypothetical situations--there must be an actual controversy). As a result, the Court could not hear Already's counter-claim.
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