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Posts Tagged: "likelihood of confusion"

Third-Party Trademark Usage and Likelihood of Confusion

When examining trademark applications, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) assesses whether the applied-for trademark presents a likelihood of confusion among consumers as compared to other registered U.S. trademarks. In making this determination, the USPTO considers a list of factors first laid out in In re E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. 476 F.2d 1357 (C.C.P.A. 1973), commonly referred to as the Du Pont factors. One of the Du Pont factors is the number and nature of similar marks in use by third parties on similar goods or services. Id. at 1361. This article examines the significance of third-party usage evidence to a likelihood of confusion analysis.

What Recent Case Law Tells Us About the Importance of Consumer Surveys in Trademark Cases

On August 3, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida ruled against plaintiff Vital Pharmaceuticals, Inc.’s claim of trade dress infringement against defendant Monster Energy Co. due in part to plaintiff’s failure to demonstrate secondary meaning or likelihood of confusion. On June 7, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted defendant lululemon’s motion for summary judgment regarding allegations of trademark infringement, basing its decision in part on plaintiff’s failure to show likelihood of confusion. Similarly, in May 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled against plaintiff Christophe Roberts’ request for preliminary injunction against defendant Puma’s alleged trademark infringement due in part to his inability to show consumer confusion. In each of these opinions, the court noted the absence of survey evidence (or, in the Vital Pharmaceuticals case, the inadequacy of an “almost comically flawed” survey). These recent rulings underscore the increasingly important role well-designed surveys play in courts’ consideration of evidence of consumer confusion and/or secondary meaning in trademark and trade dress cases.

Second Circuit Rebukes District Court in Two-Decade Old Patsy’s Pizza Litigation

On August 17, in the case of I.O.B. Realty, Inc. v. Patsy’s Brand, Inc., the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ordered that the June 4, 2020 judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York be vacated for not complying with the Second Circuit’s mandate, with judgment being entered for Patsy’s Brand and the case dismissed. The decision is related to two decades of litigation. As court documents have described, the case has been protracted, highly contentious, and, at times, even scandalous.

Eleventh Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment on Cybersquatting Claims Brought by Owner of ‘European Wax Center’ Mark

On August 6, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued a decision in Boigris v. EWC P&T, LLC in which the appellate court affirmed a ruling by the Southern District of Florida granting summary judgment to EWC, the owner of the nationwide European Wax Center chain of beauty salons, on cybersquatting claims filed against the owner of several GoDaddy domains that were registered in bad faith to profit from EWC’s stores. Although the majority found that the accused domain names and EWC’s registered trademarks were confusingly similar in sight, sound and meaning, the dissent raises interesting questions regarding the proper standard on confusing similarity at the summary judgment stage.

Curbing Cannabis Copycats: How to Protect Your Brand’s Reputation as Marijuana Companies Try to Make Their Mark

To capture attention in the crowded new field of cannabis-related goods and services, many companies are using other companies’ brands to promote their goods and services, including puns in the edibles space. Not surprisingly, brand owners are responding with lawsuits, alleging trademark infringement, dilution, and unfair competition among other claims. The focus of these lawsuits is generally quick injunctive relief to stop harm to the brand, rather than damages. This makes sense because of the uncertainty of collecting from companies who do not rely on the traditional finance services industry. But injunctive relief is not guaranteed without demonstrating the four preliminary injunction factors: (1) likelihood of success on the merits, (2) likelihood of irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, (3) the balance of equities, and (4) the public interest. This article focuses on the first two of these factors.

Trade Dress Considerations for Food and Beverage Products

Companies trying to compete for supermarket shelf space and consumer attention frequently turn to packaging and product designs that will stand out. If the product succeeds, one unfortunate side effect for the brand owner is the market can become flooded with “me too” products that attempt to ride on the coattails of that success. How do owners of unique products protect themselves? Trade dress protection is one legal tool that companies should consider.

CAFC Affirms TTAB Decision Finding Likelihood of Confusion Between STRATUS and STRATA Marks

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) affirmed a decision of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) that denied registration of Stratus Networks, Inc.’s trademark (the STRATUS mark) on grounds of likelihood of confusion with UBTA-UBET Communication Inc.’s registered trademark (the STRATA mark). The CAFC reviewed the Board’s factual findings for each of the considered DuPont factors, determined that the Board’s findings were supported by substantial evidence, and found no legal error in the Board’s determination.

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.

China Court Delivers First Judgment in Favor of a Foreign Company Under Anti-Unfair Competition Law

British automaker Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has been engaged in a multi-jurisdiction battle against Chinese automaker Jiangling Motors (Jiangling) over JLR’s assertions that Jiangling copied distinctive design features of JLR’s RANGE ROVER Evoque (EVOQUE) in the LANDWIND X7 vehicle. JLR previously successfully took action in Brazil and the European Union, resulting in injunctions against the sale of Jiangling’s LANDWIND vehicle in those jurisdictions. JLR’s latest efforts has yielded additional success against Jiangling’s sale and production of the LANDWIND X7 in China, Jiangling’s home base. On March 13, the Beijing Chaoyang District Court in China found Jiangling liable for unfair competition in connection with the sale and manufacturing of the LANDWIND X7, finding that certain design features of the LANDWIND vehicle are “essentially identical” to JLR’s distinctive design features for the EVOQUE. This decision is the first case under China’s 2017 Anti-Unfair Competition Law to find in favor of a foreign company in the auto industry.

Smells Like Trademark Infringement: Nirvana Sues Over Smiley Face Logo

On December 28, 2018, the limited liability company representing famed Seattle-area grunge rock band Nirvana sued clothing designer Marc Jacobs and fashion retailers Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue in the U.S. Federal District Court for the Central District of California. At the center of the lawsuit are copyright and trademark infringement allegations regarding the use of Nirvana’s “smiley face” logo on a line of designer clothing made by Marc Jacobs. Nirvana alleges that Marc Jacobs has used the band’s common law trademarks and infringed the band’s copyright in the smiley face logo in a misleading way in order to make it appear that Marc Jacobs’ “Bootleg Redux Grunge” clothing line is endorsed by or somehow associated with Nirvana. Nirvana first licensed the use of the smiley face logo, designed by deceased Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain in 1992, and it has been continuously used to identify Nirvana’s music and licensed merchandise since.

Federal Circuit Maintains Full-Court Press on Converse’s Chuck Taylor Trade Dress

On October 30, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a decision from the International Trade Court invalidating the Converse Chuck Taylor sneaker design trade dress.  Converse Inc. v. ITC, No. 2016-2497, 2018 WL 5536405 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 30, 2018).  At first glance, this appeared to be great news for Converse.  However, the decision highlights multiple obstacles that Converse, and other brand owners, will continue to face as they seek to enforce product design trade dress in the US.

Museum of Modern Art Wins Injunction Against MOMACHA On Merits of Trademark Infringement, Dilution Claims

U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton recently issued an opinion granting an injunction requested by New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). The injunction prevents the operator of an art gallery and café located in close proximity to a MoMA Design Store in New York’s SoHo neighborhood from using a pair of marks that infringe upon MoMA’s own marks. The marks in question in this case are ‘MOMA’ and ‘MOMACHA,’ both of which were filed by MOMACHA, the SoHo café that began operating in April of this year.

Judge Denies Beyoncé Motion for Summary Judgment in Feyoncé Trademark Case

On Sunday, September 30th, U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan of the Southern District of New York signed a memorandum opinion and order that was officially entered the following day in a trademark case brought by pop music superstar Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter against Feyonce, Inc., a developer of merchandise marketed to engaged people using the brand name Feyoncé. Although the court found no dispute that the mark “FEYONCÉ” was chosen with the intent to capitalize on the famous “BEYONCÉ” mark, Beyoncé’s motion for a permanent injunction couldn’t be granted on summary judgment because there remains a genuine dispute of material fact regarding whether a jury would find that a rational consumer would mistakenly believe an affiliation between the two brands.

OEM Trademarks in the AfterMarket: Exploring the Boundaries

While there are certainly limits on how—and how much—aftermarket sellers can use OEM trademarks to communicate key information about aftermarket parts, the legal boundaries for aftermarket sellers are not always clear. And, in the automotive industry, the question of legal boundaries is perhaps most intriguing when the trademark concerned is one of product configuration. Indeed, several U.S. auto companies own incontestable trademarks registrations for various source-identifying parts of their automobiles such as grilles, headlights, and fenders. In light of such perpetual trademark rights in these part configurations, how can aftermarket sellers offer visually identical replacement grilles, headlights or fenders without significant risk of a trademark infringement claim from the auto companies?

‘Cockygate’ Trademark Row Causes Heartbreak in U.S. Indie Romance Novel Publishing Industry

In recent weeks, the U.S. romance publishing industry has been roiling over a trademark issue which has been less-than-affectionately referred to as Cockygate. According to various news reports, romance writer Faleena Hopkins has been asserting a trademark she registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to prevent the use of the word “Cocky” in the titles of adult romance novels which have been published by other writers. This trademark policing campaign has sparked public outcry and has prompted action from industry organizations like the Romance Writers of America (RWA), which has consulted with an intellectual property lawyer to seek advice regarding the issue.