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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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Tawas, Michigan hosts an annual festival called “Perchville.” Its Chamber of Commerce obtained federal trademark registration for the term “Perchville,” in 2003. Trading Post allegedly was selling merchandise depicting the term “Perchville.” The Chamber filed suit against Agnello, a Trading Post employee, and obtained an ex parte injunctive order prohibiting sales of t-shirts with the mark, which stated: “this order shall be binding upon the parties to this action, their officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys and on those persons in active concert or participation with them who receive actual notice of this order by personal service [or] otherwise.” Agnello appeared at a hearing without an attorney, indicated that he had spoken to Trading Post's partial owner about the lawsuit, but repeatedly stated that he was confused. Agnello consented to a permanent injunction. The judge stated that the order would be binding on anyone acting in concert with Agnello. Trading Post filed suit, challenging the Chamber’s trademark of “Perchville.” The district court found the challenge barred by res judicata because a final determination on the merits occurred in the state court. The Sixth Circuit reversed. There may be circumstances when an employee’s interests are so aligned with his employer as to be in privity for purposes of res judicata, that was not true here. Agnello was an hourly employee given a few days’ notice of an injunction. View "AuSable River Trading Post, LLC v. Dovetail Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law

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SCAD appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Sportswear in an action where SCAD asserted a number of claims against Sportswear, including service mark infringement under 15 U.S.C. 1114; unfair competition and false designation of origin under 15 U.S.C. 1125; and unfair competition under O.C.G.A. 10-1-372. The Eleventh Circuit reversed, holding that this case did not involve the alleged infringement of a common-law trademark, and as a result the date of SCAD's first use of its marks on goods was not determinative. Therefore, Boston Prof’l Hockey Ass’n, Inc. v. Dallas Cap & Emblem Mfg., Inc., 510 F.2d 1004 (5th Cir. 1975), controls, as it extends to protection for federally-registered service marks to goods. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Savannah College of Art and Design, Inc. v. Sportswear, Inc." on Justia Law

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Wine & Canvas (W&C) hosts “painting nights.” Patrons, following a teacher’s instructions, create a painting while enjoying wine. W&C operated in Indianapolis, Bloomington, and Oklahoma City. Muylle signed a license agreement, moved to San Francisco, and opened a W&C operation. W&C’s executives were present and taught the first class, worked with Muylle to approve paintings for use, gave Muylle company email addresses, and advertised the San Francisco operation on the W&C website. Disagreements arose. Muylle gave notice to terminate the agreement, changed the business name to “Art Uncorked,” and ceased using the W&C name and marks. W&C alleged trademark infringement, 15 U.S.C. 1051. Muylle’s counterclaims invoked California franchise law, federal trademark cancellation. and Indiana abuse of process law. Plaintiffs failed to meet discovery deadlines, despite being sanctioned three times. The Seventh Circuit affirmed: dismissal of the California law counterclaims; W&C's summary judgment on Muylle’s trademark cancellation counterclaim; Muylle's summary judgment on trademark dilution, sale of counterfeit items, unfair competition, bad faith, tortious conduct, abuse of process, breach of contract, fraud, and a claim under the Indiana Crime Victims Act; and Muylle's partial summary judgment on trademark infringement. Through November 18, 2011, W&C impliedly consented to Muylle’s using the marks. On claims of trademark infringement and false designation of origin (for any use after November 18, 2011), and Muylle’s abuse of process counterclaim, the court affirmed awards to Muylle of $270,000 on his counterclaim and $175,882.68 in fees. View "Wine & Canvas Development, LLC v. Muylle" on Justia Law

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Lottery, a state agency, began operating traditional lottery drawing games and instant lottery scratch-off games in North Carolina in 2006. It introduces new scratch-off games on the first Tuesday of each month and asserts that it has continuously used the mark FIRST TUESDAY since July 2013 in print materials, on its Website, and on point-of-sale displays. In 2014, Lottery applied for registration of the mark FIRST TUESDAY for “Lottery cards; scratch cards for playing lottery games” and for “Lottery services,” submitting specimens that have explanatory text such as “[n]ew scratch-offs” or “[n]ew scratch-offs the first Tuesday of every month.” The examining attorney refused registration, finding that the mark used in the context of Lottery’s promotional materials “merely describes a feature of [its] goods and services, namely, new versions of the goods and services are offered the first Tuesday of every month.” The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board and the Federal Circuit affirmed. Lottery’s promotional materials make clear that “new scratch-off games are offered on the first Tuesday of every month” and that fact would “be so understood by the relevant consumers who encounter the designation FIRST TUESDAY.” No “mental thought or multi-step reasoning is required to reach a conclusion as to the nature of the involved goods and services.” View "In re: North Carolina Lottery" on Justia Law

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Symbolic owns the mark I AM (typed drawing) for “clothing, namely, hats, caps, socks, shirts, t-shirts, sweatshirts, tank tops, shorts, pants, sweatpants, jeans, swimwear, swimsuits, beachwear and footwear, namely, shoes, athletic footwear, boots, clogs, sneakers and sandals” in class 25, and owns the mark WILL.I.AM (standard characters) for certain goods in class 9 and services in class 41. Symbolic’s predecessor-in-interest (William Adams) filed trademark applications for registration of the mark for goods in classes 3, 9, and 14 on an intent-to-use basis under 15 U.S.C. 1051(b). The applications were amended during prosecution to include the statement “associated with William Adams, professionally known as ‘will.i.am.’” The examining attorney refused registration on the ground of likelihood of confusion with previously registered I AM marks pursuant to 15 U.S.C. 1052(d) for the same or similar goods. The Board affirmed, noting that Adams is the well-known front man for the music group The Black Eyed Peas and is known as will.i.am but that the record did not establish that Adams is “widely known by ‘i.am’ or that ‘i.am’ and ‘will.i.am’ are used interchangeably by either Mr. Adams or the public.” The Federal Circuit affirmed, upholding the “likelihood of confusion” finding. View "In re: I.AM.Symbolic, LLC" on Justia Law

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Kerry is the CEO of KEI, the son of Dale Earnhardt (a professional race car driver who died in 2001), and the stepson of Teresa. KEI's ventures include the EARNHARDT COLLECTION lifestyle brand. KEI licensed that mark to Schumacher for use in connection with custom home design and construction. Teresa, Dale's widow, owns trademark registrations and common law rights containing the mark DALE EARNHARDT in connection with various goods and services and has sold licensed merchandise totaling millions of dollars since 2001. Teresa filed notices of opposition to KEI's trademark application. The Trademark Board found that Teresa did not establish a likelihood of confusion and that EARNHARDT COLLECTION is not primarily merely a surname, 15 U.S.C. 1052(e)(4). The Board found that “collection” is “not the common descriptive or generic name” for KEI’s goods and services. The Federal Circuit vacated. The Board's decision could be understood as finding that “collection” is neither generic nor merely descriptive of KEI’s goods and services, and adding “collection” to “Earnhardt” alters the surname significance of Earnhardt in the mark as a whole; it could be understood as finding that a mark consisting of a surname and a merely descriptive term is registrable as a matter of law if the descriptive term is not generic. View "Earnhardt v. Kerry Earnhardt, Inc." on Justia Law

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Parks was founded in the 1950s and was the first African-American-owned company to be publicly traded on the NYSE. Parks engaged in radio and television advertising, using a well-known slogan, “More Parks Sausages, Mom, Please.” Though the PARKS brand had likely developed prominence sufficient for common law trademark protection before 1970, the name was not registered in the Patent and Trademark Office until 1970. In the early 2000s, Parks failed to renew the registration. Following the death of its owner, the company had fallen on hard times and had licensed the production and sale of its products. In 2014, Tyson, the owner of the BALL PARK brand, launched a premium frankfurter product called PARK’S FINEST. Parks sued, alleging false advertising and trademark infringement. The district court determined that the false advertising claim was a repetition of the trademark claim and that the PARKS mark was too weak to merit protection against Tyson’s use of PARK’S FINEST. The Third Circuit affirmed. The fact that the PARKS mark has existed for a long time and that it enjoyed secondary meaning half a century ago cannot overcome the factors against Parks. There is almost no direct-to-consumer advertising; Parks has a minuscule market share, and there is practically no record of actual confusion. View "Parks LLC v. Tyson Foods Inc" 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