Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

JL Beverage v. Jim Beam Brands

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JL Beverage filed suit against Jim Beam, alleging trademark infringement, false designation of origin, and unfair competition. The district court granted summary judgment for Jim Beam. In its summary judgment ruling, the district court used the standard applicable to preliminary injunctions instead of the standard for summary judgment rulings. Balancing the Sleekcraft factors as a whole, the court concluded that there is a genuine dispute of material fact as to the likelihood of consumer confusion. In this case, a reasonable fact-finder could conclude that: the JLV Mark has conceptual strength because the Mark’s salient feature, the color-coordinated lips, requires consumers to use their imagination to connect the color to the vodka flavor; the Lips Mark has conceptual strength because the lips have no commonly understood connection to the vodka product; Johnny Love Vodka does or does not have commercial strength (because a finding of either would support one of JL Beverage’s theories of confusion–reverse or forward); Johnny Love and Pucker Vodka are related flavored-liquor products sold to the same customers and distributors; the products are similar given their use of color-coordinated, puckered human lips as the focal point of their bottle designs; consumers purchasing the vodka products are not likely to exercise a high degree of care in distinguishing between the two; and Jim Beam was aware of JL Beverage’s trademarks prior to rolling out its Pucker Vodka line. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "JL Beverage v. Jim Beam Brands" on Justia Law