Saul Lefkowitz Competition Celebrates 30th Year and the 2021 National Finals Winners

Published: April 7, 2021

Alisa Simmons Fitch, Even, Tabin & Flannery, LLP Chicago, Illinois, USA Chair, Saul Lefkowitz Moot Court Competition Project Team

Brent Hawkins

Brent Hawkins Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP San Francisco, California, USA Vice Chair, Saul Lefkowitz Moot Court Competition Project Team

The Saul Lefkowitz Moot Court Competition recently celebrated its 30th year, concluding with National Finals on March 13, which were held virtually for the first time in the Competition’s history.

In a virtual courtroom, administrative law judges and interlocutory attorneys from the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office judged the oral arguments. Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law (Chicago, Illinois, USA) emerged as the winning team of the 2020–2021 Competition and was recognized along with category winners in an awards ceremony that featured TTAB Chief Judge Gerard Rogers as a special guest.

The Saul Lefkowitz Moot Court Competition is an annual event honoring the late Saul Lefkowitz, the longtime TTAB chairman whose entire distinguished career was dedicated to the development of trademark and unfair competition law. Open to teams of students from accredited law schools in the United States, the Competition introduces law students to important issues arising in U.S. trademark and unfair competition law. The competitors write a brief that focuses on a different problem each year and then present oral arguments in a mock courtroom setting.

As the Competition marked its 30th year, INTA held the six regional competitions and then the National Finals in virtual courtrooms due to health and safety concerns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The architects of the supplemental rules for the virtual event were Saul Lefkowitz Moot Court Competition Project Team members Mark Feldman (DLA Piper, USA), Jeff Kobulnick (Brutzkus, Gubner, USA), Gary Nelson (Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie, USA), and Richard Stockton (Banner & Witcoff, USA). INTA would like to thank those volunteers as well as the Saul Lefkowitz Moot Court Competition Project Team along with brief reading judges, bailiffs, and oral argument judges.

Sixty-eight teams from law schools across the country participated in the 2021 Competition and the following 12 teams advanced to the National Finals:

Atlanta Region
Emory University School of Law
University of Alabama School of Law

Chicago Region
Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
Notre Dame Law School

Dallas Region
Louisiana State University, Paul M. Hebert Law Center
Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law

Los Angeles Region
USC Gould School of Law
University of San Diego School of Law

New York Region
Brooklyn Law School
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

San Francisco Region
Gonzaga University School of Law (two teams)

This year’s fictional problem, authored by Kristen McCallion (Fish & Richardson P.C., USA) and Ryan Thomas (Fish & Richardson P.C., USA), examined issues concerning the use of similar brand names by a pet food company and a fitness company providing exercise regimens for dog owners, and whether the fitness company willfully infringed the pet food company’s trademark.

The plaintiff, Natural and Organic Real Meat Meals, LLC (NORMM), created and introduced to the market in 2014 the NORMM brand of pet food with recipes featuring natural and organic meats and vegetables. The NORMM brand pet food quickly became popular and trusted by pet parents nationwide.

The defendant, Norman Herman III Enterprises, LLC d/b/a “The New Norm” (The New Norm), was founded in 2016 by Norman Herman III, a former pizza delivery man and proud pet parent to dog Bingo. Mr. Herman regularly purchased the NORMM brand dog food for Bingo. The New Norm brand exercise and fitness program came to be after Mr. Herman reversed course on years of poor diet choices and lack of physical activity for him and his dog. He tailored The New Norm brand fitness program to canine pet owners because his dog was key to his motivation to get in shape and had participated alongside him during his transformation to a healthier and fitter citizen.

As the popularity of The New Norm exercise routines took off, NORMM learned about the brand and became concerned that consumers would mistake The New Norm fitness routines as coming from or being associated with NORMM pet food. NORMM sued, alleging that The New Norm infringed its trademark rights. The parties engaged in discovery and NORMM filed a motion for summary judgment. The district court granted summary judgment, finding willful trademark infringement.

The issues on appeal were (1) whether there is likelihood of confusion between the marks NORMM and THE NEW NORM, and if so, (2) whether The New Norm’s adoption and use of THE NEW NORM mark was willful, and (3) whether NORMM is entitled to money damages in the form of The New Norm’s profits.

At the National Finals, the students argued these issues before TTAB judges, including Deputy Chief Mark Thurmon, and TTAB interlocutory attorneys, all of whom subjected the student advocates to rigorous questioning.

Ultimately, the following teams prevailed, becoming the National Finals winners:

  • Winning Team: Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, with team members, Anton Khilkov, Elizabeth Charles, and Andrew Hartford
  • Second Place Team: Emory University School of Law, with team members Daniel Kaltman and Kathryne Hunter
  • Dolores K. Hanna Best Brief Award: Gonzaga University School of Law, with team members Joe Huston, Josiah Alter, Blake DeVerney, and Sean Clavere
  • Second Place Brief: Notre Dame Law School, with team members Jaemie Paraon, Chelsea Spence, and Isaac Behnawa
  • Best Oral Argument: University of Alabama School of Law, with team members Erin Hall, Reave Shwemake, and Nancy Gracen Klein
  • Second Place Oral Argument Team: Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, with team members Anton Khilkov, Elizabeth Charles, and Andrew Hartford

At the awards ceremony, 2021 INTA President Tiki Dare (Oracle Corporation, USA) delivered opening remarks in which she recognized INTA’s 30 years of hosting the Saul Lefkowitz Moot Court Competition. She praised judges, bailiffs, and volunteers, congratulated the law school student winners and finalists, and encouraged the law students to pursue legal careers in trademark and branding by joining INTA member organizations and working as brand guardians and defenders of consumer trust.

The organizer of the National Finals, Chris Foley (Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner LLP, USA), then shared personal memories and commentary about Saul Lefkowitz, with whom Mr. Foley worked as a young attorney at Finnegan and who mentored Mr. Foley and encouraged him to learn trademark law. Mr. Foley encouraged the law student finalists to be grateful for the many mentors and coaches supporting them and, when the time comes, to return the favor by being a mentor to others.

Chief Judge Rogers then graciously joined the virtual awards ceremony, helping celebrate the Competition’s 30th anniversary and recognizing the Lefkowitz Competition Project Team and veteran volunteers and supporters. For example, he recognized TTAB Judge Linda Kuczma for her many years of supporting and judging the Chicago regional competition and Attorney John Baum for his longtime support of the Lefkowitz Competition and judging of the San Francisco regional.

Chief Judge Rogers recognized Mr. Foley for his three decades of shepherding the National Finals, describing him as “our indefatigable coordinator of the final round.” Chief Judge Rogers praised Mr. Foley for once again sharing his annual story about how important Saul Lefkowitz’s mentorship was to him and the importance of mentorship in general.

2021 Saul Lefkowitz Project Team Chair Alisa Simmons (Fitch Even Tabin & Flannery LLP, USA) thanked the oral argument judges, bailiffs, and other volunteers and congratulated the students on the completion of another successful event and INTA on the hosting of the 30th year of the Competition. Ms. Simmons and Mr. Hawkins then announced the winning teams.

For the 2021–2022 year, Brent Hawkins (Morgan Lewis Bockius, LLP, USA) will serve as chair of the Saul Lefkowitz Project Team.

Many students involved in the Competition go on to careers with INTA-member organizations as well as leadership positions in the Association itself.

On behalf of the Saul Lefkowitz Project Team, we would like to thank all the volunteers who participated in this year’s event and making it a success and a valuable educational experience for all involved.

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of this article, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest. 

© 2021 International Trademark Association