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AARP awarded hefty sum in trademark infringement case

  • McClatchy Washington Bureau
  • Published Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014, at 10:41 a.m.

Infringing on the AARP's trademark can be costly. Failing to respond to a lawsuit ain't too swift, either.

A federal judge has awarded the venerable organization, still known to many as the American Association of Retired Persons, a total of $600,940 following its victory in a trademark infringement case. 

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly awarded AARP the judgment Friday, after earlier granting the organization a victory by default in its lawsuit against Michael Sycle.

Mr. Sycle, according to the judge's summary, is "an insurance broker operating under the name M&G Insurance Group, Inc." Despite the fact that he does not sell AARP-branded insurance, the judge noted, Mr. Sycle "falsely offers to sell 'AARP Life Insurance' on his website" and also "falsely advertised his ability to sell 'AARP Life Insurance' through Internet advertisements and YouTube videos directing viewers to his website and toll-free telephone number."

Mr. Sycle did not respond to the AARP's trademark infringement lawsuit last year.

Originally, AARP asked for $2 million in damages, plus attorney fees. The organization later scaled back its request, and Judge Kollar-Kotelly's decision is worth reading, for the analysis offered in how to calculate damages.

First comes the estimate for how many leads from potential clients the Sycle website and YouTube videos generated: 6,000 leads.

From this, the calculation turns to what percentage of leads result in sales: about 600 sales. From this came the calculation for commissions earned and AARP sales lost. Mr. Sycle's "failure to cooperate in assessing the appropriate level of damages" was also taken into account in the final judgment, the judge noted.


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