Justia Trademark Opinion Summaries

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In 1969, Beasley founded a band, “The Ebonys,” one of many bands that created the “Philadelphia Sound.” The Ebonys achieved some commercial success in the 1970s but never reached the notoriety of similar artists such as The O’Jays. Beasley alleges that The Ebonys have performed continuously. Howard joined the band in the mid-1990s. Beasley obtained a New Jersey state service mark for THE EBONYS in 1997. Beasley and his bandmates performed with Howard for several years before parting ways. Each artist claimed the Ebonys name. In 2012, Howard registered THE EBONYS with the Patent & Trademark Office (PTO). Beasley alleges that Howard’s registration has interfered with his business; he has not been able to register a band website that uses “the Ebonys” in its domain name, Howard has kept concert venues from booking Beasley’s performances, Howard has tried to collect royalties from Beasley’s recordings, and Howard has claimed to be the Ebonys’s true founder. Beasley filed unsuccessful petitions with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) to cancel the mark, contending that Howard defrauded the PTO. The district court relied on claim preclusion to dismiss Beasley’s subsequent complaint. The Third Circuit remanded for a determination of the scope of Beasley’s claims. Trademark cancellation proceedings before TTAB do not have claim preclusive effect against federal trademark infringement lawsuits. TTAB’s limited jurisdiction does not allow trademark owners to pursue infringement actions or the full scope of infringement remedies. The court affirmed the dismissal of any claim that Howard defrauded the PTO. View "Beasley v. Howard" on Justia Law

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Hamilton filed suit against Vortic and its founder for selling wristwatches that featured restored antique pocket watch parts with Hamilton's trademark. The district court entered judgment in favor of defendants, finding that Vortic's use of the mark was not likely to cause consumer confusion.The Second Circuit confirmed that a plaintiff in a trademark infringement suit bears the burden of proving that a defendant's use of its mark is likely to mislead consumers, even when Champion Spark Plug Co. v. Sanders, 331 U.S. 125 (1947), is implicated, and that no particular order of analysis is required, provided that the district court considers all appropriate factors in light of the circumstances presented. The court affirmed the district court's judgment in this case, concluding that the district court properly placed the burden of proving trademark infringement on Hamilton, and correctly analyzed the relevant considerations under Polaroid Corp. v. Polarad Electronics Corp., 287 F.2d 492 (2d Cir. 1961), and Champion. Furthermore, the district court correctly applied Champion and Polaroid to these factual findings to conclude that there was no likelihood of consumer confusion. Finally, the district court properly concluded that defendants were entitled to judgment on the remaining claims. View "Hamilton International Ltd. v. Vortic LLC" on Justia Law

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Schiedmayer makes and sells celestas, keyboard instruments that resemble small pianos. and is the successor to a line of German companies that have sold keyboard musical instruments under the Schiedmayer name for nearly 300 years. In 1980, Georg Schiedmayer, the owner of Schiedmayer & Soehne, stopped making pianos and renamed the company Schiedmayer GmbH, then briefly entered into a joint venture with Ibach. The “Schiedmayer” trademark was not sold, assigned, or otherwise transferred to Ibach or any other entity. but Ibach entered into an agreement with Kawai under which Kawai produced pianos carrying the Schiedmayer name. Georg’s widow, Elianne, became the sole owner of Schiedmayer, and, in 1995, founded a new company that became Schiedmayer Celesta.In 2002, the owner of Piano Factory retail outlets, believing that the “Schiedmayer” mark had been abandoned for pianos, acquired the domain name “schiedmayer.com.” The Patent and Trademark Office issued a registration for the “Schiedmaryer” mark in 2007. Piano Factory assigned the registration to Sweet 16, which purchased “no-name” pianos from China and affixed labels on them, including the Schiedmayer label. Schiedmayer Celesta filed a cancellation petition with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, citing the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1052(a). The Federal Circuit affirmed the cancellation of the mark. All of the relevant factors—similarity of the goods, recognition among particular consumers, and intent in using the mark—support the Board’s finding that the name was sufficiently well known among consumers of Sweet 16’s products that a connection with Schiedmayer would be presumed. View "Piano Factory Group, Inc. v. Schiedmayer Celesta GmbH" on Justia Law

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Ayla, a San Francisco-based brand, is the registered owner of trademarks for use of the “AYLA” word mark in connection with on-site beauty services, online retail beauty products, cosmetics services, and cosmetics. Alya Skin, an Australian company, sells and ships skincare products worldwide. Ayla sued in the Northern District of California, asserting trademark infringement and false designation of origin under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1114, 1125(a).Alya Skin asserted that it has no retail stores, offices, officers, directors, employees, bank accounts, or real property in the U.S., does not sell products in U.S. retail stores, solicit business from Americans, nor direct advertising toward California; less than 10% of its sales have been to the U.S. and less than 2% of its sales have been to California. Alya Skin uses an Idaho company to fulfill shipments outside of Australia and New Zealand. Alya Skin filed a U.S. trademark registration application in 2018, and represented to potential customers that its products are FDA-approved; it ships from, and allows returns to, Idaho Alya Skin’s website listed U.S. dollars as the default currency and advertises four-day delivery to the U.S.The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit. Jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(2) comports with due process. Alya Skin had minimum contacts with the U.S., and subjecting it to an action in that forum would not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. The company purposefully directed its activities toward the U.S. The Lanham Act and unfair competition claims arose out of or resulted from Alya Skin’s intentional forum-related activities. View "Ayla, LLC v. Alya Skin Pty. Ltd." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that defendants purchased trademark terms as keywords for search-engine advertising, then placed generic advertisements that confused customers as to whether the advertisements belonged to or were affiliated with plaintiffs. Plaintiffs alleged claims for trademark infringement in violation of the Lanham Act and claims under Texas law.The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the complaint for failure to state a claim, vacated the denial of leave to amend, and remanded for further proceedings. The court agreed with Southwest Recreational, Ninth Circuit precedent, and the author of a leading treatise that in the context of internet searches and search-engine advertising in particular, the critical issue is whether there is consumer confusion and that distraction is insufficient. In regard to plaintiff's trademark infringement claims, the court concluded that whether an advertisement incorporates a trademark that is visible to the consumer is a relevant but not dispositive factor in determining a likelihood of confusion in search-engine advertising cases. In this case, plaintiff's complaint contains sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a Lanham Act claim that is plausible on its face. View "Jim S. Adler, PC v. McNeil Consultants, LLC" on Justia Law

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America Can! Cars for Kids and Kars 4 Kids are charities that sell donated vehicles to fund children’s programs. America began receiving donations in the late 1980s and, in the early 1990s, began using the mark “Cars for Kids” in advertising campaigns. Kars first used flyers and bumper stickers, then distributed nationwide mailers. In the early 2000s, Kars began other advertising. In 2003, America noticed Kars’ advertisements in Texas and sent a cease and desist letter. America did not notice Kars’ advertisements in Texas for several years. Kars, however, kept advertising, including in Texas, and procured the URL www.carsforkids.com. In 2013, America sent Kars another cease and desist letter. Kars sued in 2014, bringing federal and state trademark infringement, unfair competition, and trademark dilution claims, and seeking equitable relief. America filed suit in 2015, asserting the same claims and seeking cancelation of Kars’ trademark for 1-877- KARS-4-KIDS under 15 U.S.C. 1119, financial compensation, and a nationwide injunction prohibiting Kars from using the mark.The Third Circuit held that America did not preserve its challenge to the denial of summary judgment on its trademark cancelation claims; America was first to use its mark in Texas and Kars waived any challenge to the validity of America’s marks; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by declining to award enhanced monetary relief or prejudgment interest. The court remanded for reexamination of the court’s conclusions on laches and disgorgement. View "Kars 4 Kids Inc. v. America Can! Cars For Kids." on Justia Law

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EWC, which runs a nationwide beauty brand European Wax Center and holds the trademark "European Wax Center," filed suit under the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), against defendant, who used GoDaddy.com to register the domain names "europawaxcenter.com" and "euwaxcenter.com." EWC alleged that defendant registered his domain names with a bad faith intent to profit from their confusing similarity to EWC's "European Wax Center" mark.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of EWC, concluding that no reasonable juror could conclude that "europawaxcenter" and "euwaxcenter" are not confusingly similar to "European Wax Center" -- they are nearly identical to the mark in sight, sound, and meaning. View "Boigris v. EWC P&T, LLC" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose out of a trademark dispute between two advertising and marketing companies—both of which operate under the name Pinnacle Advertising and Marketing Group. Pinnacle Illinois filed suit, and then Pinnacle Florida filed a counterclaim seeking to cancel Pinnacle Illinois's trademark registrations under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1119.The Eleventh Circuit concluded that the district court erred by disregarding the jury's findings that Pinnacle Illinois's marks were distinctive and protectable and misapplying the presumption of validity given to registered marks. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded the district court's order cancelling Pinnacle Illinois's registrations. Although the court affirmed the district court's finding that Pinnacle Illinois's claims for monetary damages were barred by laches, the court remanded for the district court to consider whether to grant Pinnacle Illinois injunctive relief to protect the public's interest in avoiding confusion. View "Pinnacle Advertising and Marketing Group, Inc. v. Pinnacle Advertising and Marketing Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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Klayman founded Judicial Watch in 1994 and served as its Chairman and General Counsel until 2003. Klayman claims he left voluntarily. Judicial Watch (JW) claims it forced Klayman to resign based on misconduct. During negotiations over Klayman’s departure, JW prepared its newsletter, which was mailed to donors with a letter signed by Klayman as “Chairman and General Counsel.” While the newsletter was at the printer, the parties executed a severance agreement. Klayman resigned; the parties were prohibited from disparaging each other. Klayman was prohibited from access to donor lists and agreed to pay outstanding personal expenses. JW paid Klayman $600,000. Klayman ran to represent Florida in the U.S. Senate. His campaign used the vendor that JW used for its mailings and use the names of JW’s donors for campaign solicitations. Klayman lost the election, then launched “Saving Judicial Watch,” with a fundraising effort directed at JW donors using names obtained for his Senate run. In promotional materials, Klayman asserted that he resigned to run for Senate, that the JW leadership team had mismanaged and the organization, and that Klayman should be reinstated.Klayman filed a complaint against JW, asserting violations of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a)(1), by publishing a false endorsement when it sent the newsletter identifying him as “Chairman and General Counsel” after he had left JW. Klayman also alleged that JW breached the non-disparagement agreement by preventing him from making fair comments about JW and that JW defamed him. During the 15 years of ensuing litigation, Klayman lost several claims at summary judgment and lost the remaining claims at trial. The jury awarded JW $2.3 million. The D.C. Circuit rejected all of Klayman’s claims on appeal. View "Klayman v. Judicial Watch, Inc." on Justia Law

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Spectrum filed suit against Lifetime and Jay Tuttle for trademark violations under the Lanham Act over a domain name. After Spectrum was awarded statutory damages, the district court declined to award attorneys' fees to Spectrum.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's admission of certain deposition testimony at trial and agreed with the Fourth Circuit that the plain text of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 32(a)(4)(B) is clear that "the place of trial" is the courthouse where trial takes place. In this case, the Lifetime Defendants were not prejudiced by the transfer of trial venue from San Antonio to Waco, and the court rejected the Lifetime Defendants' contention that the witness was not an unavailable trial witness. The court affirmed the district court's statutory damages award, concluding that the district court did not abuse its broad discretion, under 15 U.S.C. 1117(d), in awarding $100,000 for the Infringing Domain. However, the court reversed the district court's finding that Spectrum was not entitled to attorneys' fees in this exceptional case where the record confirms that the Lifetime Defendants engaged in willful, bad-faith infringement of Spectrum's trademarks, justifying an award of maximum statutory damages. The court remanded for a determination of reasonable attorneys' fees. View "Spectrum Association Management of Texas, LLC v. Lifetime HOA Management LLC" on Justia Law