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.
What is interesting about the lawsuit is that Salt Armour, Inc. is a Florida based fishing apparel company. It has chosen to brand its products under the names Salt Armour and Defense Armour. Like Plank, the company also sought out trademark registration on its brands and filed trademark applications on both terms in 2014. When these trademark applications came to the attention of Under Armour, its attorneys filed oppositions to the applications at the Trademark Office. While fishing apparel is not the main market for Under Armour, it does sell fishing clothing and believes that there is a strong likelihood of consumer confusion between Under Armour and the Salt Armour brands.
Salt Armour did not immediately abandon its trademark applications and responded to Under Armour’s opposition, stating that the brand name “Armour” is not unique to Under Armour and the Maryland company shouldn’t be afforded a complete monopoly on the term. While Salt Armour’s trademark applications are slowly moving through the opposition process at the Trademark Office, Under Armour sought to put more pressure on Salt Armour by filing the lawsuit. One way or another, the court or the Trademark Office will be forced to determine the breadth of Under Armour’s trademark rights and whether Salt Armour infringes on them.
It will be interesting to see the outcome of this case. The standard for trademark infringement is likelihood of consumer confusion. Are consumers likely to be confused between these two brands and assume that Salt Armour is connected with Under Armour or vice versa? The determination is based on a number of factors which are weighed and a great deal of case law opining on how those factors are applied.