Posts Tagged: "Lanham Act"

Supreme Court’s Unanimous Decision in Romag Fasteners Resolves Split on Trademark Infringers’ Profits, But Raises Questions

Circuits have long split over whether willfulness is required before a trademark infringer’s profits may be awarded. Section 1117(a) of the Lanham Act allows an award of profits “subject to principles of equity.” In Romag v. Fossil, the jury awarded Fossil’s $6.7 million in profits to Romag to deter infringement, even though the jury found only 1% of those profits were attributable to the infringement. However, because the jury found Fossil infringed “in callous disregard” but not willfully, the Federal Circuit refused to allow the award of Fossil’s profits. The Supreme Court disagreed, reversing the Federal Circuit in today’s decision. Instead, “mental state” or “mens rea” is only a consideration for an award of the infringer’s profits, albeit an “important” or “highly important” consideration. The Court gave nodding mention to the substantial competing policy-based arguments submitted by both parties and amicus briefing and fleshed out further at oral argument. But ultimately, the decision stuck closely to the statutory language, finding Section 1117(a) could not support the weight of a willfulness prerequisite.

USPTO Urges Supreme Court to Reverse in Now-Delayed Booking.com Case

On March 13, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) filed a reply brief urging the Supreme Court on to reverse a judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that held BOOKING.COM to be a registrable trademark. The case was set to be argued on Monday, March 23, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Fifteen parties have filed amicus briefs in the case, most of those in support of Booking.com. In response to Booking.com’s brief of February 20, the USPTO primarily argued that, 1) Goodyear Co. v. Goodyear Rubber Co. remains good law and resolves the question presented in the present case, 2) Sound trademark policy supports the conclusion that adding a top-level domain, such as .com, to a generic term does not lead to a protectable trademark, and 3) Booking.com’s survey evidence does not provide a sound basis for treating the term “Booking.com” as a registrable trademark.

Greta Thunberg Does Not Need a Trademark Registration

Climate activist Greta Thunberg is reportedly planning to register her name as a trademark based on her fears that third parties will exploit her identity for commercial gain. While registering a trademark has many advantages under U.S. law, she can likely accomplish her goal of protecting her name without the cost, delay, and uncertainty associated with the trademark registration process. As an initial matter, a trademark does not exist in the abstract. It is only protectable in connection with particular identified goods and services. Consequently, her trademark (or service mark) application would need to identify the goods or services she offers or intends to offer under the mark. To obtain registration, she would ultimately need to provide specimens showing technical trademark (or service mark) use. 15 U.S.C. § 1051.

Supreme Court Poised to Reverse CAFC Trademark Decision on Willfulness as Prerequisite for Profits Award

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Romag Fasteners v. Fossil, Inc., Fossil Stores, I. Inc., Macy’s Inc, and Macy’s Retail Holdings, Inc. to decide whether a successful trademark plaintiff must establish that infringement was willful as a hard prerequisite to an award of the infringer’s profits, rather than being just one of multiple factors to be weighed when determining entitlement to a profits award. Under the latter scheme, profits may be awardable even if the infringement was not willful. Taking the Justices’ comments at face value, it seems likely that Romag will prevail and profits may be disgorged for less-than willful infringement.

Final Briefs Filed with SCOTUS in Romag Fasteners Case on Trademark Infringement Damages

On November 27, briefing concluded at the Supreme Court with the filing of Fossil’s respondent’s brief in Romag Fasteners, Inc., v. Fossil, Inc., et al. The final briefing sets the stage for the Court to hear the case on January 14, 2020. The Court will hopefully resolve a current Circuit split on the availability of disgorgement of profits as damages for trademark infringement. Currently, the First, Second, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth and D.C. Circuits all require willful infringement before allowing disgorgement of an infringer’s profits (the First Circuit requires willfulness if the parties are not direct competitors and there is also some disagreement on where the Eighth Circuit falls on the issue). The Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eleventh Circuits all allow for disgorgement of profits without willful infringement. There has been a Circuit split for some time on this issue and the Supreme Court previously denied certiorari on similar cases but the Court is now set to resolve the split.

From the Flea Market to the Online Marketplace: How Brand Owners are Fighting to Keep Infringers at Bay

Trademark and copyright enforcement remains a significant challenge for licensors of popular brands across sports, entertainment, fashion and other industries. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group of three dozen industrial countries, estimates counterfeit goods account for 3.3% of global trade. Brand owners cannot rely on the belief that their trademark and copyright registrations will be respected, and they cannot confine their enforcement to demand letters and traditional intellectual property litigation. Rather, a brand owner must avail itself of additional approaches to address both traditional and newer platforms offering infringing products. We continue to see an increase in online infringements, especially in connection with certain e-commerce sites and targeted advertisements on social media. Under the current law, enforcement against online providers can be difficult, particularly when compared to traditional infringement hot sports in the brick-and-mortar marketplace. Flea markets, swap meets and other brick-and-mortar shopping venues reported verdicts and settlements in the last 10 years that confirm commercial landlords/owners can be held liable for the trademark infringement activity of their tenants, with courts around the country extending liability for trademark infringement beyond just the party selling infringing products.

Facebook Sued by FinTech Company Over Calibra Logo

Facebook is being sued by online banking company, Finco Services, Inc., which operates as Current, for trademark infringement, unfair competition, and false designation of origin relating to Facebook’s controversial subsidiary, Calibra, which plans to launch the digital currency Libra by 2020. Current’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on October 10, says that the company hired Character, a branding and design agency, in 2016 to develop a logo and branding strategy for Current’s banking services and mobile app. The resulting logo, and iterations thereof, have been used by the company since at least as early as 2016.

Patagonia Case Cautions Against Rule 12 Motions to Dismiss Dilution Claims

The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California recently issued a decision in the closely watched Patagonia, Inc. v. Anheuser-Busch, LLC, 19-CV-02702 case. Here, the clothing company Patagonia sued the beer company Anheuser-Busch for trademark infringement, unfair competition, dilution of a famous mark, and cancellation of Anheuser-Busch’s various PATAGONIA trademark registrations. Anheuser-Busch moved to dismiss certain claims, including the dilution claim, for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). The court issued a decision finding that Patagonia had adequately pled its dilution claim. The case provides trademark practitioners with insight into early case strategies when asserting and defending against a trademark dilution claim.

Michigan Court Dismisses Trademark Suit Between Ready for the World Band Members

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, on September 9 granted Motions to Dismiss in favor of all defendants in a federal trademark infringement action brought by R&B band Ready for the World, Inc. (Ready for the World) against Melvin Riley, John Eaton, Daniel Dillman, Renee Atkins, and Jan Mark Land. Ready for the World brought us classic 1980s hits including “Oh, Sheila!” and “Love You Down”. Riley and Eaton are original band members, while Dillman works for a nonprofit that promoted a concert performed by Riley and Atkins and Land were alleged to be employed by Riley. In their Motions to Dismiss, Eaton and Riley argued lack of subject matter jurisdiction because Ready for the World did not plead a claim arising under the Lanham Act. Citing Derminer v. Kramer, they argued that they are co-owners of the Ready for the World trademark and thus cannot infringe upon the mark. The court agreed, and also granted the motions of Dillman, Atkins and Land.

Romag Fasteners: IPO Departs From Other Amici in Urging SCOTUS to Require Willfulness to Award Trademark Profits

The Intellectual Property Owners Association and four other associations have filed amicus briefs with the Supreme Court in the case of Romag Fasteners v. Fossil, Inc., Fossil Stores, I. Inc., Macy’s Inc, and Macy’s Retail Holdings, Inc. The case will examine whether lower courts have discretion under the Lanham Act with respect to how to award damages in trademark infringement cases, or whether courts are required to establish that the infringement was willful before awarding profits. While the American Bar Association (ABA), the International Trademark Association (INTA), the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) and the Intellectual Property Law Association of Chicago (IPLAC) support adopting a more flexible approach that would not make willfulness a prerequisite to recover profits, IPO argues that the plain language of the statute necessitates such a requirement.

Monster Energy Appeals to Ninth Circuit Following District Court Denial of Injunction Against ISN

In the most recent development in a case between energy drink brand Monster Energy Company and maker of automotive tools Integrated Supply Network, LLC (ISN), the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on July 2 denied Monster’s request for a permanent injunction against ISN. Monster appealed on July 3 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and ISN cross-appealed on July 12. The district court found that Monster did not offer evidence demonstrating that ISN’s infringement had actually caused a loss of control over its business reputation leading to irreparable harm and loss of prospective customers. Additionally, the court reasoned that evidence regarding consumer confusion does not necessarily demonstrate irreparable harm. Even where ISN had not ceased infringing activity, Monster still had not proven irreparable harm as required to justify a permanent injunction, said the court.

Eleventh Circuit Affirms Contributory Trademark Infringement Verdict Against Landlord for Luxury Eyewear Manufacturers

On August 7, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed a jury verdict from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia finding a landlord liable for contributory trademark infringement . The jury ruled for Plaintiffs Luxottica Group, LLC and Oakley, Inc., holding that Defendants Airport Mini Mall, LLC (AMM); Yes Assets, LLC; Chienjung (Jerome) Yeh; Donald Yeh; Jenny Yeh; and Alice Jamison were liable for contributory trademark infringement under the Lanham Act for allowing their subtenants to sell counterfeit goods that infringed the plaintiffs’ trademarks.

Second Circuit Ruling on “Velocity” Trademark Clarifies Standards For Awards in Lanham Act Cases

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a decision in an appeal from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York last Thursday that in part clarified that “a plaintiff prosecuting a trademark infringement claim need not in every case demonstrate actual consumer confusion to be entitled to an award of an infringer’s profits.” The Second Circuit court also remanded the case back to the District Court to apply the Octane Fitness standard for determining “exceptional” cases under the Lanham Act.

Seventh Circuit Finds Gatorade’s Use of ‘Sports Fuel’ in Its Slogan Constitutes Fair Use

The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit last week ruled that well-known sports drink maker Gatorade’s use of the slogan, ““Gatorade The Sports Fuel Company” beginning in 2016 amounted to  fair use under the Lanham Act and therefore did not violate SportFuel Inc.’s trademark rights. SportFuel is a nutrition and wellness consulting company based in Chicago that holds two registered trademarks for “SportFuel.” Around 2013, Gatorade, a subsidiary of PepsiCo., began a rebranding effort that included public descriptions of its products as “sports fuels”. Gatorade registered a trademark for “Gatorade The Sports Fuel Company” in 2016 but disclaimed “The Sports Fuel Company” due to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO’s) notice that the phrase was descriptive of its products. However, the company continued to use the slogan.

The Trademark Cases the Supreme Court Will Hear Next Term

On June 28, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to take up a pair of cases that could affect how trademark cases are argued in federal courts. In Lucky Brands Dungarees, Inc. v. Marcel Fashion Group, Inc., the Court will determine whether federal preclusion principles bar defendants from raising defenses that could have been raised in previous cases between the same parties, even when the plaintiff asserts new claims. In Romag Fasteners, Inc. v. Fossil, Inc., SCOTUS will decide whether a finding of willful infringement is required to award an infringer’s profits in cases involving false designation of origin or false description.