The sno-ball industry just got its own warning to chill out from the U. S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. After about a decade of lawsuits, Judges Jennifer Walker Elrod, James Graves Jr., and Gregg Costa recently published their opinions on the latest case. With the unique case of a sno-ball company against a sno-ball company, the judges felt it appropriate to add their own frosty sense of humor to the opinion.
The ruling states “What began as a flurry of cease-and-desist letters between the companies has turned into a blizzard of patent, trademark, and antitrust litigation. Each party has attempted to use the courts to freeze the other out of the sno-ball market. Relations between the parties are frosty, to say the least.” In the long run of these cases, neither side has ever truly made it ahead of the other with denials and appeals being the norm. Still, that hasn’t yet stopped some sno-ball companies from attempting to decimate one another.
The first court case came from Southern Snow, who was suing the company SnoWizard in 2006 after the latter gained several new patent and trademark rights. Since that time, additional sno-ball companies including Parasol Flavors of Abita Springs and Plum Street Snoballs of New Orleans joined in on the consolidated case over their own rights. Soon, the case developed into approximately 200 claims and complaints thrown back and forth from the companies. While Southern Snow complained about one’s trademark usage, SnoWizard claimed that other stands infringed on their unique flavoring rights. Eventually, the case also included who had the right to use the term “sno-ball” at all. What began as a squabble between two companies snowballed into an avalanche of claims against one another.
In the long run, these continuous cases have likely been all for nothing. As each case developed, many complaints were either dismissed or settled before making it to court. Still, occasional cases were decided by the 5th Circuit, such as designating Plum Street Snoballs as the proper owner of Orchid Cream Vanilla or that Southern Snow did indeed infringe on SnoWizard’s trademark flavors. From these results, no company fully gained the upper hand in the sno-ball business. However, Southern Snow continued to fight back against its fellow companies.
More recently, Southern Snow created a case with similar complaints as a consolidated case. When that was eventually dismissed, Southern Snow finally claimed that SnoWizard engaged in a criminal racket to obstruct justice in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. In both the district court and the 5th Circuit, judges found that there was no evidence to prove that SnoWizard was in violation of the RICO Act. Furthermore, they precluded any aspects that were part of previous cases. Once again, the upper hand was lost in the Sno-ball War.
Despite the fun in cooling off cases, the 5th Circuit ruling emphasized the waste of effort forced into the cases. In one of their final statements, the judges stated, “The parties could have shaved down the overwhelming costs in time, expense, and scarce judicial resources that this litigation has consumed if they could have abandoned their unrelenting desire to crush the opposition." Southern Snow’s attorney has yet to comment on the ruling, so there is not telling if the companies will finally “chill.”