Netflix’s House of Cards series has enjoyed a highly successful run on the streaming site and just released its fourth season. With so much success, it has built up a nice name for itself. Even many of those that haven’t watched the series probably have at least heard of it. That could all be in jeopardy though, as the series distributor, MRC II Distribution Company, faces a trademark challenge from the registered owner of the trademark on “House of Cards”.
Delta is one of the largest airlines in the world. That’s what makes it an attractive target for trademark infringement. If you want your business to look legitimate, it helps to be associated with Delta. But if you aren’t legitimate and don’t have Delta’s permission to use its brand, you run the risk of getting sued, which is exactly where a group in Florida finds itself.
Delta recently filed a sealed trademark infringement lawsuit against a group of Florida based “trademark pirates” that Delta claims have been using materials with Delta logos and branding to scam people into buying bogus vacation packages. The lawsuit is sealed, which means that the defendant is not immediately named. Delta hopes by not naming the group it will be able to prevent them from destroying incriminating evidence. Delta is pursuing a federal raid to obtain the counterfeit materials. If the defendants are notified too early, the infringers have the chance to destroy marketing materials using unauthorized Delta branding, making it more difficult for Delta to prove infringement.
The lawsuit claims that the company advertises a special relationship with Delta and offers up to 60% off on travel. The company targets consumers both domestically and internationally via fax and other forms of communications. These advertisements mislead consumers into believing there is a real association with Delta. Delta says that this illegal use of its intellectual property harms the company’s brand and is seeking punitive damages. This is an interesting infringement case because it involves direct copying and use of an actual brand. More often, trademark infringement cases involve at least some difference between the infringing brand and the actual brand. Typically a mark is not copied exactly but is similar enough that it confuses consumers into believing there is some connection between the two products or companies.
This, however, appears to be a classic case of counterfeiting. A claim for trademark counterfeiting can be pursued under federal law using the Lanham Act. A “counterfeit” trademark is defined under federal law as a “spurious mark which is identical with, or substantially indistinguishable from, a registered trademark.” Classic trademark counterfeiting commonly involves an unauthorized third party providing a product or service that is made to imitate a product or service of the victim, including the victim’s trademark, so that consumers are deceived into purchasing what they believe is the victim’s product or service.
Regardless of the type of infringement, it is important to protect your brand. Any type of infringement can damage your company’s reputation even if by merely diluting the strength of your brand identity. If you have questions about the trademark process or are ready to file a trademark application, please contact the trademark attorneys at Trademark Access. Let our experience protect your valuable brand.
While a traditional cookie is round, they can come in all kinds of delicious shapes and sizes. A cookie that ventures outside the cookie shape norm is Pepperidge Farms’ Milano cookie. The Milano is a distinctive oval shaped cookie sandwich with chocolate in the middle. It has been a big hit for Pepperidge Farms and they intend to keep it that way. That’s why they recently filed a lawsuit for trademark infringement against Trader Joe’s alleging Trader Joe’s Crispy Cookies infringe the look and package design of Pepperidge Farm’s iconic Milano cookies. Continue reading “Milano Cookie Trademark: Pepperidge Farms versus Trader Joe’s”
Everyone has seen the tree shaped air freshener dangling from a rear view mirror used to cover up the scent of stale French fries and gym clothes. Air fresheners turn out to be big business. That’s why Car-Freshener Corp of New York is suing Exotica Fresheners of Ohio for trademark infringement, claiming Exotica is knocking off its trademark look right down to the packaging and style of the writing it uses. Car-Freshener wants Exotica to stop imitating its branding and pay Car-Freshener damages for misleading consumers. Continue reading “Air Freshener Trade Dress Fight: Pine Vs Palm”
In David versus Goliath fashion, Christine Palmerton, owner of a small business and the brand Nautigirl, overcame a challenge to her trademark registration by mega brand Nautica. Palmerton had a U.S. trademark registration for her Nautigirl logo, which included the word Nautigirl and an image of a sassy looking sailor woman. Nautica claimed that Palmero’s brand was too similar to its brand and sought cancellation of her mark. After nearly three years of litigation and the support of a law school pro bono clinic, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office sided with Palmerton. Continue reading “Cancellation Proceeding: Nautigirl Defeats Nautica”
A panel of three federal appeals judges had second thoughts recently, changing its mind on whether Amazon would have to face trial over a trademark dispute with a watchmaker. The change in course was most likely spurred by a desire to avoid re-opening the debate over the internet “initial interest confusion” doctrine. While this decision provides relief to Amazon, watchmaker Multi Time Machine (Multi Time) probably feels a little gypped.
This flip-flopping by the panel relates to the issue of “initial interest confusion” which arises from the trademark claim brought against Amazon. Multi Time claims go something like this: Amazon returns suggestions for competitors’ watches when a customer searches for a particular model of watch made by Multi Time that Amazon does not carry. By suggesting competitors’ watches, it may lead to consumers falsely assuming these other products are from or associated with Multi Time. In doing so, Amazon allegedly uses Multi Time’s own brand equity to steer customers away from Multi Time and toward competitors, thus capitalizing on the good will of Multi Time.
Initial Interest Confusion type of trademark infringement does not require a likelihood of confusion at the time goods are purchase, only that consumers are initially confused in order to get their attention leading to a sale. There is a well-known analogy to explain Initial Interest Confusion that was proffered in Brookfield v West Coast Entertainment. In that case, the court proposed a hypothetical regarding competing video stores. Blockbuster Video puts a billboard on the highway advertising a West Coast Video (its competitor) at an exit. However, there is no West Coast Video at this exit, but there is a Blockbuster Video. A consumer exits the freeway in hopes of finding a West Coast Video store, but instead finds the Blockbuster Video store. The consumer obviously sees that there is no West Coast Video store and that there is only a Blockbuster Video. The consumer decides to purchase from Blockbuster Video as a suitable replacement. Even though the there is no confusion at the time of purchase, Blockbuster is still capitalizing on West Coast Video’s trademark and misappropriating West Coast Video’s goodwill.
Multi Time challenges Amazon’s redirect of customers to competitors based off of a search for genuine Multi Time watches. Multi Time believes that Amazon should return a search indicating there are no matches instead of suggesting competitors’ products. In response, Amazon contends that there is no likelihood of consumer confusion, the keystone of trademark law, because its search results are labeled with the name and manufacturer of each item and include a picture. Allegedly, reasonable consumers who are familiar with online shopping would realize that there is no connection between the other suggested products and Multi Time’s MTM watches.
It’s interesting that the panel was so quick to reverse itself. With this flip-flopping of decisions, it’s easy to see that there is still some confusion about the correct trademark outcome here. The internet has created some new and unique trademark issues and sometimes it is a struggle to identify exactly how they should be handled. Ultimately, utilizing the likelihood of confusion standard gives good guidance to whether there really is a trademark issue or not. Would a reasonably prudent consumer be confused as to the source of the goods offered? If not, there is no likelihood of consumer confusion. That is what the panel of judges decided in this case the second time around.
Amazon isn’t the only company who has faced this type of challenge. Google and Yahoo were victorious in similar suits. With the explosion of internet keyword searches, initial interest confusion has become a hotly contested issue.
Article written by DA Johnson. Connect with DA on Google+
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Sporting apparel and equipment manufacturer Under Armour, has rapidly grown into a heavy hitter in the athletic gear market. Started in 1996 by University of Maryland football player, Kevin Plank, out of the back of his car, the company has grown to challenge the likes of Nike and Adidas. Part of the company’s explosive growth has been due to marketing and branding. Before hitting the big time, Plank wisely filed a trademark application on Under Armour in 1996, which received a trademark registration in 1999. Armed with this trademark registration and a desire to protect the brand, Under Armour recently filed a lawsuit against Salt Armour, Inc. for trademark infringement. Continue reading “Under Armour Sues Salt Armour”
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