A federal magistrate in Chicago has recommended denying a preliminary injunction that would stop a shop that rebuilds and repairs classic Porsche racing cars from using the name 'Manny's Porshop.'
U.S. Magistrate Morton Denlow said Porsche Cars North America Inc. and Dr. Ing. h.c.F. Porsche AG failed to demonstrate any imminent harm, or to show that they were likely to win their trademark infringement suit at trial.
Denlow described the case as 'Manny vs. Goliath.' He said Manny's operates in a windowless 'tin shack' in an industrial park in South Holland, Ill., where owner Emmanuel Shoshoo repairs and renovates pre-1980 air-cooled Porsche 911 race cars. Most of his customers are from Illinois, but others come from Michigan and other states.
Shoshoo said, 'I've been here 19 years, and I'm a one-man shop. I don't even have a lift. They're coming down hard on me and almost got me destroyed financially' as a result of legal costs.
Bob Carlson, a spokesman for Porsche Cars North America Inc., said, 'We're certainly not trying to put Manny's Porshop out of business - that's not our intention at all. In legal actions, if it is shown that you have not made diligent efforts to protect your trademark, eventually you can lose it.
'And also, because of all the goodwill and prestige that is associated with the Porsche trademark, it is very important for us to maintain it and to have control over it, such as we do with our franchise agreements with our dealers.'
Although Denlow's April 9 decision is only a recommendation to U.S. District Judge Suzanne Conlon, his words make clear his doubts about Porsche's legal position. For example, he said no Por-sche owner is likely to confuse Manny's, 'located in a deplorable area and in deplorable condition,' for an authorized dealership.
He said Manny's does not sell new or used cars; does not do routine repairs or service; does not sell retail parts; has not advertised since 1987 - and then only in a Porsche club publication - and does not use the name 'Porsche' in his Yellow Pages listing. Even the garage sign - with 'Manny's' in large letters and 'Porshop' in small letters - 'is much ado about nothing, because it is rarely seen.'
At a hearing on Porsche's unsuccessful request for a preliminary injunction, three satisfied customers - one of whom has spent about $700,000 on Shoshoo's work - testified about Manny's services and operations. None of the customers said he believed Shoshoo was affiliated with Porsche.
Thomas Lee, a Salt Lake City lawyer representing Porsche, has filed objections to the magistrate's report, and has asked Conlon to grant the preliminary injunction.
'We think the magistrate got it wrong,' Lee said. 'There isn't a 'Goliath' exception to the trademark law. If a street vendor puts out golden arches and sells only a few Big Macs, that's not exempt from trademark laws.'
He said Porsche offered evidence that some people phoned Manny's to ask if warranty work could be done there. 'That is evidence of a likelihood of confusion. We don't have to prove actual confusion.'