Articles Posted in Trademark

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for McKeon in a trademark infringement action alleging that McKeon's green ear plugs infringed Moldex's green earplugs. The panel held that the existence or nonexistence of alternative designs was probative of functionality or nonfunctionality, and thus evidence of alternative colors must be considered in deciding the functionality of Moldex's mark. The panel held that there was a material dispute of material facts as to whether Moldex's bright green color earplugs was functional. Therefore, the panel remanded for the district court to consider McKeon's arguments both that Moldex's green color lacked secondary meaning and that there was no likelihood of confusion, and then if necessary go to trial. View "Moldex-Metric, Inc. v. McKeon Products, Inc." on Justia Law

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Skechers challenged the district court's issuance of a preliminary injunction prohibiting it from selling shoes that allegedly infringe and dilute adidas America, Inc.’s Stan Smith trade dress and Three-Stripe trademark. The panel affirmed in part, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in issuing the preliminary injunction as to adidas's claim that Skechers's Onix shoe infringes on adidas's unregistered trade dress of its Stan Smith shoe. However, the panel reversed in part, holding that the district court erred in issuing a preliminary injunction as to adidas's claim that Skechers's Cross Court shoe infringes and dilutes its Three-Stripe mark. View "adidas America, Inc. v. Skechers USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment for Whole Foods in a trademark infringement action. The panel held that the district court impermissibly resolved disputed questions of material fact in favor of the moving party regarding Whole Foods' affirmative defenses of laches and acquiescence. Therefore, the panel vacated the district court's reasonableness finding and remanded for further proceedings. On remand, the district court should reevaluate the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party—i.e., as if ERF delayed filing suit because it was trying to settle its claims against Whole Foods. If the district court determined on remand that ERF delayed unreasonably in filing suit and this delay prejudiced Whole Foods, it must consider the extent and reasonableness of Whole Foods' reliance on ERF's affirmative representations before it reaches a finding on acquiescence. View "Eat Right Foods Ltd. v. Whole Foods Market, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Fox and held that Fox's use of the name "Empire" was protected by the First Amendment and was outside the reach of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125. At issue was a Fox television show entitled Empire, which portrays a fictional hip hop music label named "Empire Enterprises" that was based in New York. The panel applied a test developed by the Second Circuit in Rogers v. Grimaldi, 875 F.2d 994 (2d Cir. 1989), to determine whether the Lanham Act applied. The panel held that Fox's expressive work sufficiently satisfied the first prong of the Rogers test where the title Empire supported the themes and geographic setting of the work and the second prong of the Rogers test where the use of the mark "Empire" did not explicitly mislead consumers. View "Twentieth Century Fox Television v. Empire Distribution" on Justia Law

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This petition for writ of mandamus arose in the context of a contested trademark action initiated by San Diego Comic Convention (SDCC) against petitioners, over the use of the mark "comic-con" or "comic con." The Ninth Circuit granted the petition and vacated the district court's orders directing petitioners to prominently post on their social medial outlets its order prohibiting comments about the litigation on social media, dubbing this posting a "disclaimer." The panel held that the orders at issue were unconstitutional prior restraints on speech because they prohibit speech that poses neither a clear and present danger nor a serious and imminent threat to SDCC's interest in a fair trial. The panel explained that the well-established doctrines on jury selection and the court's inherent management powers provide an alternative, less restrictive, means of ensuring a fair trial. View "Dan Farr Productions v. USDC-CASD" on Justia Law

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In this trademark infringement suit under the Lanham Act, furniture manufacturer Omnia admitted that it blatantly copied and began selling the same goods branded with the mark of its (now ex) business partner, retail furniture company Stone Creek. The district court granted judgment for Omnia. The panel reversed and held that Omnia's use of Stone Creek's mark was likely to cause confusion where placing an identical mark on identical goods creates a strong likelihood of confusion, especially when the mark was fanciful. Furthermore, Stone Creek also sells in overlapping market channels and other factors heighten the likelihood that consumers will be confused as to the origin of the furniture. The panel rejected Omnia's invocation of a common-law defense—known as the Tea Rose–Rectanus doctrine—that protects use of a mark in a remote geographic area when the use is in good faith. In this case, Omnia's knowledge of Stone Creek's prior use defeated any claim of good faith. Finally, the panel confirmed that a 1999 amendment to the trademark statutes did not sweep away the panel's precedent requiring that a plaintiff prove willfulness to justify an award of the defendant's profits. The panel remanded this issue for the district court to make such a determination. View "Stone Creek, Inc. v. Omnia Italian Design, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment for defendants in this trademark infringement suit regarding defendants' use of Marketquest's "All-in-One" and "The Write Choice" trademarks. The panel held that Marketquest's pleading was adequate to support a cause of action for trademark infringement under a reverse confusion theory of likely confusion; consideration of the intent factor in the likelihood of confusion analysis varies with the type of confusion being considered; the district court erred by granting summary judgment in favor of defendants based upon the fair use defense regarding their use of "All-in-One;" and the district court erred by applying the fair use analysis to defendants' use of "The Write Choice" after determining that Marketquest presented no evidence of likely confusion. View "Marketquest Group, Inc. v. BIC Corp." on Justia Law

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A claim of genericness or "genericide," where the public appropriates a trademark and uses it as a generic name for particular types of goods or services irrespective of its source, must be made with regard to a particular type of good or service. Plaintiffs petitioned for cancellation of the GOOGLE trademark under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1064(3), based on the ground that it is generic. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Google, Inc., holding that plaintiffs failed to recognize that a claim of genericide must always relate to a particular type of good or service, and that plaintiffs erroneously assumed that verb use automatically constitutes generic use; the district court correctly framed its inquiry as whether the primary significance of the word "google" to the relevant public was as a generic name for internet search engines or as a mark identifying the Google search engine in particular; the assumption that a majority of the public uses the verb "google" in a generic and indiscriminate sense, on its own, could not support a jury finding of genericide under the primary significance test; and plaintiffs have failed to present sufficient evidence in this case to support a jury finding that the relevant public primarily understands the word "google" as a generic name for internet search engines and not as a mark identifying the Google search engine in particular. View "Elliott v. Google, Inc." on Justia Law

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Slep-Tone produces karaoke music tracks marketed under the trademark "Sound Choice" on encoded compact discs (CD-G). Plaintiffs filed suit against defendants for, inter alia, trademark infringement after finding out that defendants were using unauthorized media-shifted files instead of Slep-Tone's original CD-Gs. The district court granted defendant's motion to dismiss. Slep-Tone argues that, by "media-shifting" its tracks from physical CD-Gs to digital files and performing them without authorization, defendants committed trademark infringement and unfair competition under the Lanham Act,15 U.S.C. 1114, 1125. The court agreed with the Seventh Circuit's holding that "the ‘good’ whose ‘origin’ is material for purposes of a trademark infringement claim is the ‘tangible product sold in the marketplace’ rather than the creative content of that product." Therefore, the court concluded that Slep-Tone failed to plausibly allege consumer confusion over the origin of a good properly cognizable in a claim of trademark infringement. Accordingly, the court affirmed as to this issue. In a concurrently filed memorandum opinion, the court also reversed in part and remanded in part. View "Slep-Tone Entertainment Corp. v. Wired for Sound Karaoke" on Justia Law

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Trader Joe's filed suit against defendant for trademark infringement and unfair competition under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1051 et seq., and Washington law after defendant purchased Trader Joe's-branded goods in Washington state and transported them to Canada for resell in a store defendant designed to mimic a Trader Joe's store. The district court dismissed the Lanham Act and state law claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court held, consistent with recent case law from the Supreme Court and this court, that the extraterritorial reach of the Lanham Act raises a question relating to the merits of a trademark claim, not to federal courts’ subject-matter jurisdiction. The court concluded, on the merits, that Trader Joe’s alleges a nexus between defendant's conduct and American commerce sufficient to warrant extraterritorial application of the Lanham Act. Therefore, the court reversed as to the Lanham Act claim. The court affirmed the dismissal of the state law claims because Trader Joe’s did not allege trademark dilution in Washington or harm to a Washington resident or business. View "Trader Joe's Co. v. Hallatt" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trademark