A Corp. the franchisor for “Rooter Man” plumbing franchises, accuses former South Carolina franchisee Kenneth Hart, Hart’s wife and son, and several businesses owned by the Harts. A Corp. was formed in 1982 for the purpose of selling Rooter Man franchises. By 2019, there were about 89 franchisees operating at more than 600 locations in more than half of the states as well as in Bermuda and Canada. A Corp. obtained a number of federal and state trademark registrations related to the “Rooter Man” businesses, including state registrations in South Carolina. Kenneth Hart signed a franchise agreement with A Corp. in 2018. The agreement included minimum monthly payments and a personal guarantee by Hart. By February 2020, A Corp. asserts that Hard was in default for failure to make payments due under the agreement, and that Hart had obtained domain registrations that include the “Rooter Man” mark in violation of the agreement. When Hart failed to cure these breaches, A Corp. terminated the agreement on March 31st and demanded the defendants cease use of the marks and de-identify themselves as a Rooter Man business. A Corp. says that Hart’s wife responded that Kenneth Hart had passed away, but that Hart in fact remains alive as evidenced by ongoing active posting on his Facebook page and records of a complaint filed in July with the Better Business Bureau to which Hart personally filed a response. A Corp. asserts counts of trademark infringement, false designation of origin, dilution, breach of contract, interference with contractual relations, cybersquatting, conversion, unjust enrichment, and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Judge Wolf is assigned to the case.
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