Justia Trademark Opinion Summaries
The Ohio State University v. Redbubble, Inc.
Redbubble operates a global online marketplace. Around 600,000 independent artists, not employed by Redbubble, upload images onto Redbubble’s interface. Consumers scroll through those images and order customized items. Once a consumer places an order, Redbubble notifies the artist and arranges the manufacturing and shipping of the product with independent third parties. Redbubble never takes title to any product shown on its website and does not design, manufacture, or handle these products. The shipped packages bear Redbubble's logo. Redbubble handles customer service, including returns. Redbubble markets goods listed on its website as Redbubble products; for instance, it provides instructions on how to care for “Redbubble garments.” Customers often receive goods from Redbubble’s marketplace in Redbubble packaging.Some of Redbubble’s artists uploaded trademark-infringing images that appeared on Redbubble’s website; consumers paid Redbubble to receive products bearing images trademarked by OSU. Redbubble’s user agreement states that trademark holders, and not Redbubble, bear the burden of monitoring and redressing trademark violations. Redbubble did not remove the offending products from its website. OSU sued, alleging trademark infringement, counterfeiting, and unfair competition under the Lanham Act, and Ohio’s right-of-publicity law. The district court granted Redbubble summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Redbubble’s marketplace involves creating Redbubble products and garments that would not have existed but for Redbubble’s enterprise. The district court erred by entering summary judgment under an overly narrow reading of the Lanham Act. View "The Ohio State University v. Redbubble, Inc." on Justia Law
Ritter v. Farrow
In this case disputing the ownership of a pair of red bib overalls with a handkerchief hanging out the back pocket and the ownership of the names "Bibs Resort" and "Bibs" the Supreme Court reversed the summary judgment in favor of Ted and Carolyn Ritter and Bibs Resort Condominium, Inc. (the Association), holding that the circuit court did not apply the well-settled principles surrounding trademarks and trade names.Tony and Arlyce Farrow claimed they assumed ownership of the Bibs Resort marks when they purchased the Ritters' resort management business and that the Ritters subsequently infringed on those marks. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the Ritters and the Association. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, as a matter of law, the Farrows became the exclusive owner of the Bibs Resort marks when they purchased the resort management business from the Ritters. View "Ritter v. Farrow" on Justia Law
LHO Chicago River, L.L.C. v. Rosemoor Suites, LLC
LHO owns a downtown hotel that it rebranded as “Hotel Chicago” in 2014. In 2016, Rosemoor renamed its existing westside hotel as “Hotel Chicago.” LHO sued Rosemoor for trademark infringement and unfair competition under the Lanham Act and for deceptive advertising and common-law trademark violations under Illinois law. The district court denied preliminary injunctive relief, finding that “LHO has failed, at this juncture, to show that it is likely to succeed in proving secondary meaning" and was unlikely to show that “Hotel Chicago” was a protectable trademark. LHO appealed but successfully moved to voluntarily dismiss its claims with prejudice before briefing.Rosemoor requested more than $500,000 in attorney fees, arguing that the case qualified as “exceptional.” The district court denied the request under the Seventh Circuit's “abuse-of-process” standard. The Seventh Circuit held that the district court should have evaluated Rosemoor’s attorney-fee request under the Supreme Court’s “Octane Fitness” holding. On remand, Rosemoor filed a renewed request for more than $630,000 in fees, arguing that the weakness of LHO’s position on the merits, LHO’s motives in bringing suit, and its conduct in discovery, made the case exceptional under Octane Fitness. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of the request. The district court applied the Octane Fitness standard and reasonably exercised its discretion in weighing the evidence before it. View "LHO Chicago River, L.L.C. v. Rosemoor Suites, LLC" on Justia Law
Sulzer Mixpac AG v. A&N Trading Co., Ltd.
The Second Circuit reversed the district court's grant of final judgment for Mixpac on its claims of unfair competition, infringement of common law trademarks, and its claims under the Trademark Act of 1946 (Lanham Act) for trademark counterfeiting, infringement of registered marks, and false designation of origin. Mixpac and defendants are competitors in the U.S. market for mixing tips used by dentists to create impressions of teeth for dental procedures, such as crowns.The court disagreed with the district court's holding that Mixpac's trade dress—its use of yellow, teal, blue, pink, purple, brown, and white on mixing tips—is not functional. Instead, the court held that the use of these colors on mixing tips is functional, as the colors signify diameter and enable users to match a cartridge to the appropriate mixing tip. Accordingly, the court remanded for entry of final judgment in favor of defendants on the unfair competition, trademark infringement, trademark counterfeiting, and false designation of origin claims. The court declined to address defendants' counter claims and to address in the first instance Mixpac's civil contempt claim. View "Sulzer Mixpac AG v. A&N Trading Co., Ltd." on Justia Law
Metal Jeans, Inc. v. Metal Sport, Inc.
Metal Jeans, an apparel brand and owner of the non-stylized "METAL" trademark, filed an infringement claim against Metal Sport, a powerlifting brand with a similar but stylized mark. The district court denied both parties' merits motions because material facts remained in dispute, but granted Metal Sport's separate motion for summary judgment on whether Metal Jeans was barred from pressing its infringement claim by the equitable doctrine of unclean hands. In doing so, the district court rejected Metal Jeans' counter-defense that Metal Sport also acted with unclean hands.In a separate memorandum disposition filed simultaneously with this opinion, the Ninth Circuit concluded that the district court improperly granted summary judgment against Metal Jeans. The panel wrote here to resolve an issue of first impression: the standard of review the panel employs when a district court concludes that a party has acted with unclean hands. The panel held that the appropriate standard of review of a district court's determination to grant summary judgment on the affirmative defense of unclean hands is abuse of discretion. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Metal Jeans, Inc. v. Metal Sport, Inc." on Justia Law
Fleet Feet, Inc. v. Nike, Inc.
Fleet Feet filed suit against NIKE, alleging that NIKE's advertising campaign with the tagline "Sport Changes Everything" infringed on Fleet Feet's trademarks "Change Everything" and "Running Changes Everything." Fleet Feet also sought a preliminary injunction, which the district court granted, enjoining NIKE's use of the tagline and any designation "confusingly similar" to Fleet Feet's marks.While NIKE's appeal was pending, NIKE ended its advertising campaign and disavowed any intent to continue using the tagline. Therefore, the Fourth Circuit dismissed the appeal as moot because NIKE no longer has a legally cognizable interest in the validity of the preliminary injunction. The court explained that, at best, NIKE's argument that the "confusingly similar" language in the preliminary injunction order presents only a potential controversy, which cannot sustain this appeal. In regard to NIKE's contention that the injunction bond is a live issue, the court agreed that the bond keeps the case as a whole from being moot but it does not do the same for the appeal. In this case, if the district court ultimately finds that NIKE's "Sport Changes Everything" campaign infringed on Fleet Feet's marks, the preliminary injunction will have been, at worst, harmless error. If it does not, NIKE may recover on the bond. Either way, the court explained that the district court must be the first to resolve NIKE's challenge on the merits. The court found no good reason to vacate the district court's order and opinion granting a preliminary opinion, remanding for further proceedings as necessary. View "Fleet Feet, Inc. v. Nike, Inc." on Justia Law
RXD Media, LLC v. IP Application Development LLC
This appeal arose out of trademark litigation initiated by RXD against Apple over rights to use the "ipad" mark. After the district court awarded summary judgment in favor of Apple on all claims advanced by RXD and on all counterclaims asserted by Apple, the district court permanently enjoined RXD from any commercial use of the terms "ipad" or "ipod." RXD challenges the district court's infringement rulings.The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, holding that the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of Apple on both its claims and counterclaims, and that the district court did not abuse its discretion in its award of injunctive relief to Apple. The court concluded that Apple had an established, protected mark capable of being infringed by RXD's use of the mark in 2016. The court explained that RXD's use of "ipad" on its ipadtoday.com website was not subject to "first user" protection. The court also concluded that a jury could not have reasonably concluded that RXD’s use of the "ipad" mark was unlikely to cause consumer confusion. Therefore, the district court did not err in awarding summary judgment to Apple on its claim of trademark infringement. Given the clear evidence of RXD's infringement of Apple's use of the "ipad" mark, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in issuing the injunctive relief in favor of Apple.The court rejected RXD's contention that the district court erred in holding that Apple met its burden of establishing a bona fide intent to use the "ipad" mark for cloud storage services. Rather, contrary to RXD's assertion, Apple did not apply to use the "ipad" mark for cloud storage. The court explained that Apple was not required to prove a bona fide intent to use a trademark for services not identified in its application. Accordingly, the district court did not err in concluding that Apple had a bona fide intent to use the mark for the services listed in its application. View "RXD Media, LLC v. IP Application Development LLC" on Justia Law
QuikTrip West, Inc. v. Weigel Stores, Inc.
QuikTrip and Weigel operate gasoline-convenience stores. QuikTrip has sold food and beverages in its stores under the registered mark QT KITCHENS since 2011. In 2014, Weigel began using the stylized mark W KITCHENS. QuikTrip requested that Weigel stop using the mark on the basis that it was confusingly similar to QuikTrip’s QT KITCHENS mark. Weigel modified its mark by changing the plural “KITCHENS” to the singular “KITCHEN,” altering the font, and adding the words “WEIGEL’S” and “NOW OPEN.” QuikTrip objected to Weigel’s continued use of the word “KITCHEN” in its mark. In 2017, Weigel applied to register the mark, W WEIGEL’S KITCHEN NOW OPEN.QuikTrip filed an opposition, 15 U.S.C. 1052(d). The Patent and Trademark Office Board evaluated the likelihood of confusion between the marks, referencing the “DuPont” factors, and found that the parties’ identical-in-part goods and related services, overlapping trade channels, overlapping classes of customers, and similar conditions of purchase pointed to a likelihood of confusion but that the dissimilarity of the marks weighed against a likelihood of confusion. It determined that customers would not focus on the word “KITCHEN” for source indication and that Weigel did not act in bad faith in adopting the mark. The Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of QuikTrip’s opposition. The finding that the marks, in their entireties, differ in appearance, sound, connotation, and commercial impression is supported by substantial evidence. View "QuikTrip West, Inc. v. Weigel Stores, Inc." on Justia Law
Omega SA v. 375 Canal, LLC
Canal appealed from the district court's judgment awarding $1.1 million in statutory damages to Omega for Canal's contributory infringement of Omega's trademarks. The infringement arose from sales of counterfeit Omega watches at Canal's property in Manhattan.The Second Circuit dismissed Canal's appeal of the denial of summary judgment, holding that the interlocutory appeal is not appealable. The court explained that once the case proceeds to a full trial on the merits, the trial record supersedes the record existing at the time of the summary judgment motion, and there is no basis for this court to review issues raised in a denied motion overtaken by trial.The court nonetheless affirmed the judgment on the merits via appeal of the jury instructions, holding that Canal's position is inconsistent with Tiffany (NJ) Inc. v. eBay Inc., 600 F.3d 93 (2d Cir. 2010), which held that a defendant may be liable for contributory trademark infringement if it was willfully blind as to the identity of potential infringers—that is, under circumstances in which the defendant did not know the identity of specific infringers. The court reasoned that this holding precludes Canal's argument that Omega needed to identify a specific infringer to whom Canal continued to lease property. At trial, Omega pursued a theory of willful blindness, and the district court's jury instructions accurately captured Tiffany's requirements. Finally, the court found no reversible error in regard to the district court's evidentiary and damages ruling. View "Omega SA v. 375 Canal, LLC" on Justia Law
Savannah College of Art and Design, Inc. v. Sportswear, Inc.
SCAD filed suit against Sportswear for trademark infringement, unfair competition, false designation of origin, and counterfeiting under the Lanham Act, and for unfair competition and trademark infringement under Georgia common law. The dispute involves Sportswear's use of SCAD's word marks "SCAD" and "SAVANNAH COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN" as well as the college's design mark that includes its mascot, Art the Bee.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment on remand, holding that the district court properly entered summary judgment on two Lanham Act claims and the corresponding permanent injunction enjoining Sportswear from selling products bearing the SCAD marks at issue. The court concluded that its trademark precedents of Boston Prof’l Hockey Ass’n, Inc. v. Dallas Cap & Emblem Mfg., Inc., 510 F.2d 1004 (5th Cir. 1975), Univ. of Ga. Ath. Ass'n v. Laite, 756 F.2d 1535 (11th Cir. 1985), and Savannah College of Art & Design, Inc. v. Sportswear, Inc., 872 F.3d 1256, 1264, 1265 (11th Cir. 2017), require affirmance of the district court's judgment. In this case, the district court correctly found a likelihood of confusion as to Sportswear's use of SCAD's word marks and Bee Design Mark. View "Savannah College of Art and Design, Inc. v. Sportswear, Inc." on Justia Law