The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals published its opinion in Eureka Water Co. v. Nestle Waters North America, Inc. on Friday, August 3, 2012.
The Tenth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s decision. “Eureka Water Company, Respondent, contends that a 1975 agreement grants it the exclusive license in 60 Oklahoma counties to sell spring water and other products using the Ozarka trademark. It sued Nestle Waters North America, Inc., Petitioner, the current owner of the Ozarka trademark, to obtain a declaratory judgment of that right and to obtain monetary relief under several theories, including breach of contract, tortious interference with business relations, unjust enrichment, and promissory estoppel. A jury found for Eureka on its contract and tortious interference claims, and the district court entered a judgment declaring that the 1975 agreement granted Eureka the exclusive right that it claimed in the Ozarka mark. In a postverdict ruling, the district court denied as duplicative Eureka’s equitable claims based on unjust enrichment and promissory estoppel.”
“After the district court denied Nestle’s postverdict motion for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL), Nestle appealed. Nestle argues on appeal that it is entitled to JMOL on the contract claim because the unambiguous terms of the 1975 agreement do not cover Ozarka spring water and that it is entitled to JMOL on the tortious-interference claim because its conduct was privileged and justified as a matter of law. In the alternative it seeks a new trial because the district court admitted a prejudicial privileged document, and a new trial or judgment in its favor because the district court erred in admitting testimony of Eureka’s damages expert. On cross-appeal Eureka argues that the district court erred in denying relief on its unjust-enrichment and promissory-estoppel claims.”
The Court agreed with most of Nestle’s principal arguments. First, the Court reversed “the district court’s denial of Nestle’s motion for JMOL on the contract claim because the 1975 agreement unambiguously does not cover spring water and under Oklahoma contract law (which applies because the agreement does not come under the Uniform Commercial Code) extrinsic evidence on the contract’s meaning was inadmissible.” The Court’s construction of the contract also required it to vacate the district court’s declaratory judgment. Second, the Court reversed “the denial of JMOL on the tortious-interference claim because Eureka failed to show that Nestle’s decision to charge Eureka what it charged other vendors for bottled water was not privileged or justified.” Third, the Court affirmed “the denial of Eureka’s unjust enrichment claim because the claim is based on the false premise that Eureka’s license to use the Ozarka trademark covers spring water.” However, the Court reversed “the denial of Eureka’s promissory-estoppel claim, remanding that claim for further consideration by the district court.”