Trademark Infringement Cases: Everything You Need to Know
Trademark infringement cases are legal cases wherein another party infringes on the rights of a trademark. 11 min read
What Are Trademark Infringement Cases?
Trademark infringement cases are legal cases wherein another party infringes on the rights of a trademark. Patents, logos, and copyrights are three distinct legal instruments used to announce ownership in numerous ways.
Patents are limited-duration rights associated with an invention. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office distributes patent rights for public view of the invention.
Copyrights are designed to guard “works of authorship,” usually referring to works of literature, music, and artwork that were “tangibly expressed.” The U.S. Copyright Office handles the distribution of copyrights.
A trademark is a phrase, image, and design that identifies and distinguishes the products that set it apart from others. Registering a trademark provides you legal ownership and the only proper way to make use of the trademark nationwide.
Likelihood of Confusion: Determining if a Trademark Is Infringing
As a way to prevent trademark infringement problems, the senior buyer — the primary business to undertake and use a selected mark in reference to its items or companies — should show likelihood of confusion. There are three ways in which problems with the likelihood of confusion come up: registration, inter partes proceedings, and infringement litigation.
The Polaroid Factors
When figuring out the likelihood of confusion, the Court uses a number of elements derived from Polaroid Corp. v. Polarad Elecs. Corp., 287 F.2nd 492 (2nd Cir. 1961), a 1961 case. These elements, generally called the “Polaroid factors,” might vary widely as federal courts use them all through the nation. These factors are meant as an outline, and rarely can all factors also be significantly useful in any particular case. Each federal circuit in America makes use of a multi-issue evaluation in figuring out if there's a likelihood of confusion. Though the variety of factors might range from every federal circuit to the next, the ideas are related and are all related ultimately to consumer impression.
The Power of the Senior User's Mark
The stronger or more distinctive the senior user's mark, the more confusion there seems to be. A mark is considered to be "weak" if the mark describes the product and doesn't have adequate secondary identification. A trademark is "sturdy" when the mark's attained secondary identification, or if it's suggestive, fanciful, or arbitrary. The owner of a weak trademark can have a problem proving the likelihood of confusion.
Similarity of the Marks
The extra similarity between the two marks, the more confusion there seems to be. As a normal rule, trademarks should contrast completely, together with the following:
- Industrial impression
Nonetheless, whether or not two marks are related might need dissecting and evaluating. Including a prefix or suffix, altering letters, or including clarifying info might not prevent another from declaring similarity of trademarks.
Similarity of the Services or Products
The more the senior and junior user's items or companies are associated, the more the confusion. The usual infringement is if a particularly savvy buyer can be prone to buy a piece of merchandise, believing he was buying the opposite. The safety granted to the owner of a trademark might apply to associated items. The more thoroughly and commonly used and the more standard the mark is, the more customers will expect the growth of the base of the product. The courts additionally think about the similarity of the promoting and distribution channels.
Probability That the Senior User Will Bridge the Hole
Whether it is possible that the senior user will broaden into the junior consumer's product space, the more seemingly there will be confusion. The junior consumer intends to adopt the mark. If the junior consumer adopts the mark in bad faith, confusion is high. Based on the Restatement of Logos, it's acceptable to think about the defendant's intent as a result of a celebration aspiring to trigger confusion will usually achieve success in doing so. Direct proof of the defendant's intention to deceive is normally unavailable, and the plaintiff should depend upon circumstantial proof equivalent to how the defendant's mark was chosen or whether or not the defendant continued use of the trademark after the plaintiff's warning.
Proof of Actual Confusion
Proof of shopper confusion will not be required; however, when the trademark owner can present that the common moderately savvy shopper is confused, it's highly effective proof of infringement. Proof of actual confusion will not be vital to figure out trademark infringement. Nonetheless, such proof could also be compelling in an infringement case.
Sophistication of the Consumers
The less refined the purchaser, the greater the confusion. The degree of care used by the patron varies based on the purchase. Typically, a purchaser making a really costly buy is extra prone to be discriminating and is much less prone to be simply confused by related marks. Due to this fact, the courts concluded that these types of purchasers are prone to be extra source-conscious and discriminating when buying actual property companies, insurance coverage, or different "big-ticket" gadgets.
A knowledgeable purchaser is an individual who arrives on the buying level already educated in regards to the items (for example, a doctor, pharmacist, architect, builder, and many others.) A knowledgeable purchaser is much less prone to be confused due to their superior information about the buying selections. A specific purchaser, especially one who buys cheap gadgets on an impulse, is likely to be confused with related marks.
High Quality of the Junior User's Services or Products
In some instances, the less standard the junior user's items, the more trouble is probably going to result from shopper confusion.
How to Avoid Nasty Trademark Infringement Lawsuits
In 2014, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) processed 455,017 trademark applications. A trademark may be a necessary safeguard against competition stealing a profitable marketing strategy without paying compensation. Not every firm will pursue a legal motion to guard their trademarked product or companies. Usually, the outcomes may have been fully averted with more practical trademark analysis. Human error and incomplete searches can open your model to huge dangers, equivalent to those seen in notable infringement lawsuits.
Sporty's Farm, LLC vs. Sportsman's Market, Inc., is the primary appellate case determined under the brand-new Anti-Cyberpiracy Act (ACPA). Sportsman's Market, a firm catering to aviation fanatics, makes use of the brand and trademark image to establish its catalogs. Catalog firm Omega Engineering that sells primarily scientific devices, registered the domain to identify sports activities.
Several months post registering sportys.com, Omega transferred the identity to a subsidiary it created named Sporty's Farm and offered the rights to sportys.com to the subsidiary. The appellate analyzed the details within the case and found there was greater than sufficient proof within the document to reveal dangerous doctrine. Neither Omega nor Sporty's Farm held intellectual property rights for sportys.com, and the subsidiary Sporty's Farm didn't use the identity as a legitimate providing of products or companies until the litigation had already started.
A French group registered quite a lot of domains together with the WorldSport trademark. The plaintiff sued to combine these domains. The defendant put forth that they'd not make use of the mark and stated that their use of the mark created infringement.
The Court originally ruled that NSI not permit anybody to register a trademark much like the one they were going to use. The Court fixed its order in April 1999 and mandated the NSI display the defendant's applications to check for similarities.
NSI is not accountable for stopping related registrations by the defendants as an alternative, if the defendants register a website identity, they're mandated to file a report with the plaintiffs and the Court agreeing that the register doesn't violate the court's order.
Lockheed Martin sued NSI for contributory infringement. The Court explained that NSI's involvement doesn't lengthen past registration, and thus a trademark holder couldn't hold the registrar answerable for contributory infringement. Based on the Court, NSI cannot be thought to observe the web for infringement.
Trademark Infringement Cases
Each group desires to try not to generate an expensive and prolonged trademark infringement. Distinctive elements can range considerably. However, specialists estimate that the common value of a trademark case may be from $120,000 and $750,000, plus what can be years of invaluable time. The output of assets essential to guard your model or group in litigation may be exhausting to firms big or small.
Whereas giant organizations aren't essentially probably the most prone to litigation about trademark infringement, these firms typically endure a lack of public view when their instances hit the information.
The 3M company lawsuit toward Changzhou Huawei Superior Materials Co. Ltd. regarding using 3N ended in victory and great reward for 3M. The Court finally decided that, regardless of some differences in pricing and merchandise, the 3M mark's fame, and truth that 3N was able to amass shoppers and advertise share by using the same mark, was infringement.
D2 Holdings, a firm in Massachusetts, not too long ago issued a lawsuit toward MRC II Distribution, the home of the Netflix popular political show “House of Cards.” The D2 Holdings owned the trademark on “House of Cards” for "leisure items and companies" since 2009, and a Granary Media radio program about gaming was given license. MRC was said to have filed to trademark the name on a number of occasions, and the show began in 2013. It will have been continuing for five years. D2's lawsuit called for multiple infringements to stop, together with gaming machines and fan merchandise.
Domain retailer GoDaddy and the Academy Awards not too long ago ended a case that lasted for five years over "cybersquatting" points. Originally in 2010, it was alleged by the Academy that GoDaddy's choice to permit clients to purchase "confusingly" related domains equivalent to 2011Oscars.com, granted revenue from people who wished to "squat" on the domains and acquire income. In the end, it was decided that GoDaddy didn't "possess the requisite bad faith intent to revenue" from their gross sales. Whereas this legal fight was surely costly, it could be thought of as a landmark decision within the cybersquatting area.
A South Korean restaurant not too long ago lost a lawsuit with designer Louis Vuitton, an extra surprising example of worldwide trademark infringement. The Court ruled in LV's favor after figuring out that the restaurant's identity of Louis Vuitton Dak was too much like Louis Vuitton. Along with the identity infringement, the restaurant's brand and packaging carefully mimic the designer's popular graphics. The restaurant was in the end hit with one other 14.5 million surplus for non-compliance, after altering their identity instantly after the primary ruling to LOUIS VUI TONDAK.
Manufacturers can keep away from equally costly legal cases by avoiding imitating their model carefully after one other, even when the merchandise and distribution channels don't have anything in common.
Adidas not too long ago filed a lawsuit toward clothes retailer Forever21, citing that the retailer's merchandise, which includes a "three-stripe" design, represents "counterfeit merchandise." Adidas reviews they've "invested thousands and thousands" to construct and shield the three-stripe design as trademark part of their model and created "quite a few" patents. Whereas reps for Forever21 and Adidas haven't launched additional feedback regarding the lawsuit since preliminary statements, it still isn't determined how the court will reply to the lawsuit. With the similarities of Adidas' and Forever21's merchandise and channels of distribution, Forever21 might have been capable of keep away from this lawsuit by assessing their current designs toward Adidas' merchandise and logos.
Segway has filed suits against both Swagway and Razor over infringement. Razor itself has also filed against Swagway. While part of the motivation behind the lawsuits is clearly a similarity between the products, there is likely more to the case. In addition to the infringement cases, Swagway is also facing suits for accidents, as well as safety issues due to both fires and falls.
While the two companies suing Swagway are probably interested in protecting their brand, it is also likely that they wish to distance their products from those of Swagway due to the safety concerns associated with them.
Another infringement case involves American Eagle Retail Royalty Company, which has a case pending against Pantaloons Fashion & Retail in India. Their suit claims that both the logo and the brand of Pantaloons are deceptively similar to American Eagle's.
Taylor Swift settled a lawsuit with Blue Sphere, a retail clothing company that owns the trademark "Lucky 13." The suit came after Taylor Swift began selling fan merchandise with the phrase "Lucky 13" printed on them. Swift had also held sweepstakes using the phrase as well. While the terms of the settlement remain confidential, Swift has begun to proactively trademark her phrases and lyrics.
After New York's Coffee Culture Cafe's launch of a new drink called the "Freddocino," Starbucks filed a lawsuit claiming that the drink and the structure of the name were so close to Starbuck's Frappuccino that it would cause marketplace confusion. While Starbucks does not own a trademark for the name Frappucino, they claim that Coffee Culture's packaging deceptively implies that they have a trademark when they do not.
Trademark Cases and What You Should Learn From Them
There are many trademark infringement cases that have occurred that can teach business owners valuable lessons on protecting and using certain logos and phrases. For example, Marvel and DC Comics have trademarked the term "superhero" and routinely look for comic book publishers who attempt to infringe on this term. While this practice has been seen by many as a form of trademark bullying, no one has yet made an effort to contest the companies' ownership of the phrase.
Another major battle about trademark infringement between two large entities is the fight between Apple Inc., the corporation founded by Steve Jobs, and Apple Corps, the music company founded by the Beatles. These two corporations have been battling it out over this issue since 1978.
The Beatles came first, with their music company Apple Corps. Eight years later, Steve Jobs introduced Apple Inc. to the world. Early during this legal battle, Apple Inc. offered a settlement to Apple Corps with the contingency that Apple Inc. would stay out of the music industry. Litigation began again when Apple introduced iTunes. The issue was concluded when Apple bought out the Apple Corp trademark in 2007 and licensed its use back to the company.
There are other instances in which companies have lost their trademark. This occurred with the Washington Redskins, who lost the protection of their trademark after the United States Patent and Trademark Office ruled that the name was derogatory to Native Americans. While this did not prevent the team from using their name, they have lost the protection of the trademark, allowing counterfeiters to produce merchandise with no consequences.
When the gum company Wrigley attempted to trademark the term Doublemint, Europe denied their claim, saying the term was not imaginative enough to warrant protection.
Jack Daniels sent a cease and desist letter to an author named Patrick Wensink which claimed that the cover of his book looked similar to their trademarked logo. Instead of drafting a threatening legal letter, Jack Daniels took a more friendly route, asking Wensink if he would consider changing it and offering to cover the cost. The author published the letter, gaining Jack Daniels a significant amount of publicity.
Ludicrous Celebrity Trademark Stories
While trademarking can be important to many celebrities, sometimes it can result in some of the most Ludacris cases the USPTO would ever encounter. Some of the strangest stories of celebrity trademarks include:
- The New England Patriots attempt to trademark “19-0,” fail, lose the 19th game anyway.
- A successful suit was filed by Paris Hilton against Hallmark for the use of the phrase "That's Hot."
- Sarah Palin tried and failed to trademark her name by forgetting to sign it on the application.
- Twitter lost its trademark rights to the term "tweet" to a company that was a subsidiary.
- Boise State University failed to obtain the exclusive right to use a blue football field.
- Harley Davidson was unable to trademark the sound of one of their engines revving.
- Facebook attempted to trademark the word "face."
- Trump failed when he tried to trademark the phrase "you're fired."
- Beyonce and Jay-Z are in the process of trying to trademark their child's name.
Trademark Lawsuits That Were Insane
- Hansen Beverage and Monster Cable both wanted the rights to the word "monster."
- T-Mobile won an action preventing anyone from using the color magenta.
- A game design company Edge has trademarked every use of the word "edge" in the titles of their video games.
- An artist named John T. Unger almost lost the right to sell his art in a lawsuit.
- Clint Eastwood fought with a small furniture company (that sold "Eastwood" chairs) as he believed they were infringing on his brand and name.
If you need help with trademark infringement, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.