Judge orders maker of e-cigs to stop harassing law firm
FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — A Forsyth County District Court judge has approved a temporary no-contact order against a small electronic-cigarette retailer to stop him from harassing the law firm representing a subsidiary of Reynolds American Inc. in a trademark lawsuit.
The order was approved Thursday — a day after Chance Addison, owner of Addison E-Cigarette LLC of Spokane, Wash., appeared unannounced and uninvited at the offices of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP in downtown Winston-Salem.
Addison is trying to defy an attempt by Reynolds Innovations Inc. to stop him from marketing products similar to Reynolds’ Camel and Winston brands in taste or logo. The subsidiary filed the lawsuit in March.
Addison, who is representing himself, says Reynolds is misusing the legal system in suing his company.
The subsidiary said Addison’s communications with its counsel, William Bryner, “have become increasingly profane, menacing and harassing, and include veiled threats to court personnel” that include magistrate Judge Joi Peake.
The law firm said Addison made “profane and harassing comments” during last week’s appearance. Because of Addison’s escalating conduct, Reynolds requested Friday that Addison be required to go through a licensed attorney for future contact with Bryner or the subsidiary.
The court order forbids Addison from being in contact with Kilpatrick Townsend attorneys and employees at the office or their homes. The order includes communications in person or by voice.
The order is valid through 5 p.m. Jan. 27. The judge said there was the potential that Addison might harm or damage the law firm’s employees or property before he could be served with a summons. A hearing is set for 9 a.m. Jan. 27 to consider a permanent no-contact order on Addison.
In September, the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of N.C. declared Addison in default. A final judgment or permanent injunction has not been ordered.
The Reynolds complaint said that Addison is wasting court time with “incomprehensible, nonsensical and irrelevant documents” and creating additional unnecessary expenses to manage his mailings, emails and phone calls.
For example, in an email sent Dec. 19 to Bryner and entered as a court document, Addison said, “Have you noticed yet that I am genuinely enjoying this? It really has been more than fun, buddy, so much so that this little project has now become my new obsession.”
“If you had bothered to do any research on me before your thoroughly documented strategic error, you would have noticed it is impossible to find an example of me quitting anything once my teeth were ‘buried in the reward.’ ” He signed the email, “see you soon, love, Chance.”
Among defendants in the Addison case are addisonecig.com, spokaneecig.com,milehighecig.com, as well as LCP Inc. and Vicious E-Liquid. Reynolds provided documentation in its lawsuit that the defendants have listed “Cam,” “Camel” and “Winston” among the flavors available.
Reynolds has said the use of such images “will continue to result in a likelihood of consumer confusion and irreparable injury to the company.”
Reynolds Innovations has filed 33 lawsuits in the Middle District since August 2009, with the last being submitted Jan. 16. The common complaint filed by Reynolds is trademark infringement and unfair and deceptive trade practices.
In all 26 closed cases, the subsidiary won a final judgment and/or permanent injunction to keep the companies from marketing products similar to the Reynolds brands in taste or logo. In many cases, Reynolds received damages. Another two have either reached a settlement or the judgment stage.