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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a Lanham Act action brought by Applied Underwriters, alleging claims for trademark infringement and unfair competition. Although the district court abused its discretion when it sanctioned Applied Underwriters and dismissed the case pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) absent an order requiring Applied Underwriters to file an amended complaint, the panel nevertheless affirmed the district court's earlier Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal because the use of Applied Underwriters' trademarks by defendants constituted nominative fair use. In this case, Applied Underwriters' service was not readily identifiable without use of the trademarks; defendants used only so much of the marks as was reasonably necessary; and use of the marks did not suggest sponsorship or endorsement. View "Applied Underwriters, Inc. v. Lichtenegger" on Justia Law

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Guild makes mortgage loans and has used the mark “GUILD MORTGAGE COMPANY” since 1960. Guild was founded in California and has expanded to over 40 other states. It applied to register the mark “GUILD MORTGAGE COMPANY,” and design, in International Class 36 for “mortgage banking services, namely, origination, acquisition, servicing, securitization and brokerage of mortgage loans.” The application states that color is not claimed as a feature of the mark and that the “mark consists of the name Guild Mortgage Company with three lines shooting out above the letters I and L.” Registration was refused (15 U.S.C. 1052(d)) due to a likelihood of confusion between Guild’s mark and the mark “GUILD INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT” registered in International Class 36 for “investment advisory services,” which is owned by Guild Investment Management, Inc. a Los Angeles investment company. The Board affirmed. The Federal Circuit vacated. The Board erred by failing to address Guild’s argument and evidence related to “DuPont factor 8,” which examines the “length of time during and conditions under which there has been concurrent use without evidence of actual confusion.” Guild argued that it and Guild Investment have coexisted in business for over 40 years without any evidence of actual confusion. View "In re: Guild Mortgage Co." on Justia Law

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Springboards filed suit against the school district under the Lanham Act, alleging that the school district used the company's marks in the course of operating a summer reading program. At issue was the school district's use of "Houston ISD Millionaire Club" on its incentive items and informational material. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the school district, holding that a reasonable jury could not find that the allegedly infringing use of the marks created a likelihood of confusion. The court held that no reasonably jury could conclude that it was likely potential purchasers of Springboards' products would have believed that Springboards was affiliated with HISD's summer reading program. View "Springboards to Education, Inc. v. Houston Independent School District" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of Hargis in an action brought by B&B, alleging a trademark infringement claim involving B&B's SEALTIGHT mark and Hargis' SEALTITE mark. The court found no plain error in the district court's determination that B&B willfully failed to disclose a prior adverse decision and thus the district court did not err in its determination that B&B committed fraud on the PTO and that Hargis was therefore entitled to the affirmative defense of fraud under 15 U.S.C. 1115(b)(1). The court also held that B&B's claims were barred by collateral estoppel because B&B failed to present evidence of any significant intervening factual change from the date of the 2000 jury verdict. In regard to Hargis' cross-appeal, the court affirmed the district court's denial of Hargis' motion for attorney fees and nontaxable litigation costs. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding this an unexceptional case. View "B&B Hardware, Inc. v. Hargis Industries, Inc." on Justia Law

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Laerdal, which manufactures and distributes medical devices, filed a complaint at the International Trade Commission asserting violations of 19 U.S.C. 1337 by infringement of Laerdal’s patents, trademarks, trade dress, and copyrights by importing, selling for importation, or selling within the U.S. certain medical devices. The Commission investigated Laerdal’s trade dress claims, one patent claim, two copyright claims, and one trademark claim, excluding all others. Despite being served with notice, no respondent responded. An ALJ issued the Order to Show Cause. Respondents did not respond. An ALJ issued an initial determination finding all respondents in default. Laerdal modified its requested relief to immediate entry of limited exclusion orders and cease and desist orders. The Commission requested briefing on remedies, the public interest, and bonding. The Commission's final determination granted Laerdal limited exclusion orders against three respondents and a cease and desist order against one, based on patent and trademark claims; it issued no relief on trade dress and copyright claims, finding Laerdal’s allegations inadequate. As to trade dress claims, the Commission found that Laerdal failed to plead sufficiently that it suffered the requisite harm, the specific elements that constitute its trade dresses, and that its trade dresses were not functional; despite approving the ALJ’s initial determination of default and despite requesting supplemental briefing solely related remedy, the Commission issued no relief on those claims. The Federal Circuit vacated. The Commission violated 19 U.S.C. 1337(g)(1) by terminating the investigation and issuing no relief for its trade dress claims against defaulting respondents. View "Laerdal Medical Corp. v. International Trade Commission" on Justia Law

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Saint Louis Brewery (SLB), a craft brewery founded in 1989 by Thomas Schlafly and Daniel Kopman, began selling beer with the SCHLAFLY logo in 1991 and asserts that it “has continuously sold beer under its SCHLAFLY trademark” ever since. In 2011, SLB applied for trademark registration for the word mark “SCHLAFLY” for use with various types of beer. The application drew opposition from Phyllis Schlafly, Thomas’s aunt and a well-known conservative activist (now deceased), and Bruce Schlafly (Opposers). The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board denied the opposition. The Federal Circuit affirmed the registration, rejecting an argument that the Board did not recognize that the mark was “primarily merely a surname,” and improperly accepted that the mark has acquired secondary meaning although the applicant did not provide survey evidence. The court also rejected claims of violation of the Opposers’ First Amendment, Fifth Amendment, and Due Process rights and protections. A trademark registration does not constitute a “taking” and the trademark opposition procedure, of which the Opposers have availed themselves, provides an appropriate process of law. View "Schlafly v. Saint Louis Brewery, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit filed an order granting defendants' petition for panel rehearing, withdrawing the panel’s opinion, and ordering the filing of a superseding opinion. The panel also filed a superseding opinion reversing the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants in a trademark infringement suit over the "Honey Badger" catchphrases under the Lanham Act. The panel held that, under the test in Rogers v. Grimaldi, 875 F.2d 994 (2d Cir. 1989), the Lanham Act applies to expressive works only where the public interest in avoiding consumer confusion outweighs the public interest in free expression. In this case, defendants have not used plaintiff's mark in the creation of a song, photograph, video game, or television show, but have largely just pasted plaintiff's mark into their greeting cards. The panel held that a jury could determine that this use of plaintiff's mark was explicitly misleading as to the source or content of the cards. Therefore, the panel reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Gordon v. Drape Creative, Inc." on Justia Law

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Around 1959, the company started doing business as Omaha Steaks. It has multiple trademark registrations that include the words “Omaha Steaks" and spent over $50 million in 2012 and 2013, on domestic advertising of its beef products through national radio, television, and freestanding print campaigns. It has been featured in national newspapers, magazines, television shows, and movies. It promotes its products via catalog and direct mail, a daily blast email, customer calls, and on social media. Omaha Steaks has 75 stores and two airport kiosks and sells via Amazon. In 1920, Greater Omaha Packing Company was formed; it sells boxed beef to wholesalers, such as hotels, restaurants, and food service institutions and has sold beef to Omaha Steaks since 1966. GOP sought to register the mark “GREATER OMAHA PROVIDING THE HIGHEST QUALITY BEEF” with a design for: “meat, including boxed beef primal cuts.” The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board dismissed Omaha Steak’s opposition, finding no likelihood of confusion between the opposed mark and Omaha Steaks’ registered trademarks. The Federal Circuit vacated. The Board’s fact-findings confirm that due to Omaha Steaks’ sales and marketing, the consuming public has been regularly exposed to its marks on a nationwide scale; the Board’s conclusion that Omaha Steaks did not provide any context for its “raw” sales figures and ad expenditures lacks substantial evidence. The Board’s findings regarding third-party use improperly relied on marks found on dissimilar goods not directed to the relevant public. View "Omaha Steaks International, Inc. v. Greater Omaha Packing Co." on Justia Law

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SMRI filed suit alleging that defendants, through their participation in the selling of Rushmore's unlicensed motorcycle rally-related products, had violated several provisions of the Lanham Act and related South Dakota statutes. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court did not err in declining to apply licensee estoppel against defendants; the trial record did not support a finding that SMRI owned the rally or its intellectual property, that SMRI and the Chamber before it have been the substantially exclusive users of the word "Sturgis" in relation to either the rally or rally-related goods and services, or that relevant consumers associate the word "Sturgis" with a single source of goods and services in any context; and thus the court reversed the jury's finding that defendants diluted the "Sturgis" mark and vacated the jury's finding that defendants engaged in cybersquatting. The court also held that defendants should have been granted judgment as a matter of law on the infringement claims relating to SMRI's unregistered marks, "Sturgis Motorcycle Rally" and "Sturgis Rally & Races," because the jury was not presented with sufficient evidence to find that the marks had acquired secondary meaning. Finally, the evidence at trial supported the jury's finding that SMRI's mark "Sturgis Bike Week" was valid; there was sufficient evidence to show that SMRI's "Monahan Composite Mark" was widely used in connection with the rally and that defendants' infringement of the mark was willful and intentional; the differences between the shot glass's design and the Monahan mark were so obvious that the jury did not have any basis in the record for its finding of a counterfeit; SMRI's claims for deceptive practices, false advertising and unfair competition were not time-barred; the district court did not err in granting judgment as a matter of law to JRE; the court vacated the district court's order granting defendants the defenses of laches and acquiescence; and the court reversed and remanded the permanent injunction. View "Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Inc. v. Rushmore Photo & Gifts, Inc." on Justia Law

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The 753 trademark, issued to Converse in 2013, describes the trade-dress configuration of three design elements on the midsole of Converse’s All Star shoes. Converse filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission (ITC), alleging violations of 19 U.S.C. 337 by various companies in the importation into the U.S., the sale for importation, and the sale within the U.S. after importation of shoes that infringe its trademark. The ITC found the registered mark invalid and that Converse could not establish the existence of common-law trademark rights, but nonetheless stated that various accused products would have infringed Converse’s mark if valid. The Federal Circuit vacated. The ITC erred in failing to distinguish between alleged infringers who began infringing before Converse obtained its trademark registration and those who began afterward. With respect to the pre-registration period, Converse, as the party asserting trade-dress protection, must establish that its mark had acquired secondary meaning before the first infringing use by each alleged infringer. In addition, the ITC applied the wrong legal standard in its determination of secondary meaning. On remand, the ITC should reassess the accused products to determine whether they are substantially similar to the mark in the infringement analysis. View "Converse, Inc. v. International Trade Commission" on Justia Law