United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division
OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM S. DUFFEY, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff The Preston
Partnership, LLC's (“Plaintiff” or
“Preston”) “Emergency Motion for Temporary
Restraining Order and Injunctive Relief” 
(“Motion for TRO”).
is an architectural and interior design firm located in
Atlanta, Georgia. (Compl. ¶ 9). Preston has a nationwide
portfolio of mid- to large-scale multifamily and mixed-use
Chandra Cherry (“Ms. Cherry”) is an interior
designer. From March 1, 2006, to March 31, 2017, Ms. Cherry
worked at Preston as a Principal of Interior Design.
(Id. ¶ 10).
April 2017, Ms. Cherry and three (3) other former Preston
employees joined ADG Design Studio, LLC (“ADG
Studio”), a newly-created division of Defendant Atlanta
Design Group, Inc. (“Atlanta Design Group”).
(Id. ¶ 11; Tr. at 32, 35). Ms. Cherry is a
Managing Partner of ADG Studio and Atlanta Design Group.
(Compl. ¶ 11). Defendant Mark Darnell is the Managing
Member of ADG Studio and the President of Atlanta Design
Group. (Id. ¶ 5).
2017, ADG Studio launched its website,
studio.atldesigngroup.com (the “Website”). (Tr.
at 13; see also Compl. ¶ 12). The Website
contains photographs of interior design projects that were
completed by Ms. Cherry, along with other Preston employees,
while Ms. Cherry worked at Preston (the
“Photographs”). (Tr. at 8). The Photographs
appear on the Website: (1) on the homepage, as sliding images
moving across the screen; (2) as a collection of thumbnail
images under the main “Portfolio” page; and (3)
individually, in larger format, when selected from the
“Portfolio” page. In small, white letters on the
bottom right corner of the Photographs is a statement which
reads: “Work done while Principal at The Preston
Partnership.” Plaintiff asserts that this statement is
false because neither ADG Studio nor Atlanta Design Group was
ever a Principal at Preston. Plaintiff asserts further that
the small text, coupled with the images sliding across the
screen, make the statement “indecipherable.”
(Compl. ¶ 15; Tr. at 8-10).
also alleges that the design of the Website is misleading
because the Website does not contain a section highlighting
Ms. Cherry's personal portfolio of work. Rather, the
Photographs are represented as showing ADG Studio's
portfolio of work, when in fact ADG Studio-a newly created
company-does not have a portfolio of work. (Compl. ¶ 16;
Tr. at 7-8, 10).
12, 2017, Robert Preston (“Mr. Preston”),
President of The Preston Partnership, sent Ms. Cherry an
email, asserting that the Photographs on the Website were
misleading and asking that they be removed. (Id.
21, 2017, Preston's counsel sent Ms. Cherry a letter
demanding that ADG Studio “cease and desist the
unauthorized representation of Preston's work on the ADG
Studio website.” (Id. ¶ 20). Mr. Darnell
and three other ADG Studio employees were copied on the
letter. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants failed to respond
to Plaintiff's communications.
27, 2017, Plaintiff filed its Complaint , asserting claims
for violation of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a),
for false designation of origin of services; violation of the
Georgia Deceptive Trade Practices Act, O.C.G.A. §
10-1-372 (Count II); injunctive relief (Count III); and
attorneys' fees (Count IV).
28, 2017, Plaintiff filed its Motion for TRO under its Lanham
Act claim, seeking to enjoin Defendants (1) from displaying
any photographs on the Website depicting Plaintiff's
interior design work, and (2) from misrepresenting the origin
of the Photographs in a way that is likely to cause confusion
as to the origin of the work.
August 9, 2017, the Court conducted a hearing on
Plaintiff's Motion for TRO. At the hearing, Mr. Preston
stated that having photographs of Preston projects on ADG
Studio's Website “is very deceiving because it
gives the impression that ADG has a history very similar to
what our history is. It gives the clear impression that those
projects were done . . . by ADG when obviously they were not.
And I think it gives them a false portfolio of work when
really they obviously don't have a portfolio of work
because they are a start-up company.” (Tr. at 8). Mr.
Preston testified that he “think[s] there will
inevitably be confusion that those projects [in the
Photographs on the Website] were done by ADG and not by
Preston.” (Tr. at 20). Mr. Preston admitted, however,
that he is not aware of any complaints from prospective or
existing clients that the projects depicted in the
Photographs on the Website were completed by ADG, and not
Preston, and he does not expect to know of clients that have
engaged ADG because of their portfolio of work. (Tr. at
19-20). Mr. Preston also stated that he has not lost any
business as a result of people seeing the Photographs on the
Website and being drawn to ADG for design work. Mr. Preston
No, I can't sit here and say that I have lost business.
I'm not aware that I have lost business. But, again, I
don't know ...