Justia Trademark Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Internet Law
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A generic name—the name of a class of products or services—is ineligible for federal trademark registration. Booking.com, a travel-reservation website, sought federal registration of marks including the term “Booking.com.” Concluding that “Booking.com” was a generic name for online hotel-reservation services, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) refused registration. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the District Court decision that “Booking.com”—unlike the term “booking” standing alone—is not generic.The Supreme Court affirmed. A term styled “generic.com” is a generic name for a class of goods or services only if the term has that meaning to consumers. Whether a compound term is generic turns on whether that term, taken as a whole, signifies to consumers a class of goods or services. Consumers do not perceive the term “Booking.com” that way. Only one entity can occupy a particular Internet domain name at a time, so a “generic.com” term could convey to consumers an association with a particular website. An unyielding legal rule disregarding consumer perception would be incompatible with a bedrock principle of the Lanham Act. The PTO’s policy concerns do not support a categorical rule against the registration of “generic.com” terms. Several doctrines ensure that registration of “Booking.com” would not yield its holder a monopoly on the term “booking.” View "Patent and Trademark Office v. Booking.com B.V." on Justia Law

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SM Kids filed suit against Google and related entities, seeking to enforce a 2008 agreement settling a trademark dispute over the Googles trademark. The agreement prohibited Google from intentionally making material modifications to its then-current offering of products and services in a manner that is likely to create confusion in connection with Googles. The district court concluded that the trademark assignment was invalid, and dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.The Second Circuit vacated the district court's judgment and held that the validity of the trademark was not a jurisdictional matter related to Article III standing but was instead a merits question properly addressed on a motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a motion for summary judgment, or at trial. In this case, the district court erroneously resolved Google's motion as a fact-based motion under Rule 12(b)(1) and considered evidence beyond the complaint, as well as placed on SM Kids the burden of proving subject-matter jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "SM Kids, LLC v. Google LLC" on Justia Law

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Curry, the founder of “Get Diesel Nutrition,” has paid for advertising for his products, including "Diesel Test," in national fitness magazines since 2002. In 2016, the defendants began selling a sports nutritional supplement, "Diesel Test Red Series." Like Curry’s product, the defendants’ product comes in red and white packaging with right-slanted all-caps typeface bearing the words “Diesel Test.” Curry alleges that he received messages indicating that customers were confused. The defendants concocted a fake ESPN webpage touting their product and conducted all their marketing online. In about seven months, they received more than $1.6 million in gross sales. At least 767 sales were to consumers in Illinois. After Curry demanded that the defendants cease and desist, both parties filed trademark applications for "Diesel Test." The Patent Office suspended both applications. Curry filed suit, alleging violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act, violations of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125, violation of the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, filing a fraudulent trademark application, and violation of common law trademark protections. The district court dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction.The Seventh Circuit reversed. Revolution’s activity can be characterized as purposefully directed at Illinois, the forum state, and related to Curry's claims. Physical presence is not necessary for a defendant to have sufficient minimum contacts with a forum state. Illinois has a strong interest in providing a forum for its residents to seek redress for harms suffered within the state by an out-of-state actor. View "Curry v. Revolution Laboratories, LLC" 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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A claim of genericness or "genericide," where the public appropriates a trademark and uses it as a generic name for particular types of goods or services irrespective of its source, must be made with regard to a particular type of good or service.Plaintiffs petitioned for cancellation of the GOOGLE trademark under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1064(3), based on the ground that it is generic. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Google, Inc., holding that plaintiffs failed to recognize that a claim of genericide must always relate to a particular type of good or service, and that plaintiffs erroneously assumed that verb use automatically constitutes generic use; the district court correctly framed its inquiry as whether the primary significance of the word "google" to the relevant public was as a generic name for internet search engines or as a mark identifying the Google search engine in particular; the assumption that a majority of the public uses the verb "google" in a generic and indiscriminate sense, on its own, could not support a jury finding of genericide under the primary significance test; and plaintiffs have failed to present sufficient evidence in this case to support a jury finding that the relevant public primarily understands the word "google" as a generic name for internet search engines and not as a mark identifying the Google search engine in particular. View "Elliott v. Google, Inc." on Justia Law

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Verisign filed suit against XYZ and its CEO Daniel Negari, alleging that defendants' statements regarding the scarcity of desirable .com domain names violated the Lanham Act's, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a)(1)(B), false advertising provisions. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of XYZ. The court agreed with the district court that Verisign failed to establish the elements of a Lanham Act claim. In regard to XYZ's self-promoting statements, the court held that Verisign failed to produce the required evidence that it suffered an actual injury as a direct result of XYZ’s conduct. Nor can Verisign establish that XYZ’s statements about the availability of suitable .com domain names were false or misleading statements of fact. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "VeriSign v. XYZ.com" on Justia Law

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In 2004, the Patent and Trademark Office issued JobDiva’s 917 registration for the service mark JOBDIVA for “personnel placement and recruitment” services. In 2005, it issued JobDiva’s 235 registration for a service mark for “personnel placement and recruitment services; computer services, namely, providing databases featuring recruitment and employment, employment advertising, career information and resources, resume creation, resume transmittals and communication of responses thereto via a global computer network.” JobDiva’s software provides a database of employment applications and employs automated “harvesters” to find potential job candidates. It analyzes resumes and helps hiring managers directly communicate with job candidates; it also recommends openings to job candidates and provides automated resume feedback. JobDiva’s software-as-a-service is delivered over the Internet without downloading software. Users pay for the computing as a service rather than owning the machines and software. The Board cancelled JobDiva’s marks in a proceeding that JobDiva initiated, challenging a registration owned by Jobvite. The Board granted Jobvite’s counterclaim stating, “[a] mark shall be deemed to be ‘abandoned’ . . . [w]hen its use has been discontinued with intent not to resume such use,” 15 U.S.C. 1125, and that JobDiva provided software, not “personnel placement and recruitment” services. The Federal Circuit vacated. The question is whether JobDiva, through its software, performed personnel placement and recruitment services and whether consumers would associate JobDiva’s registered marks with personnel placement and recruitment services, regardless of whether the steps of the service were performed by software. View "In re: JobDiva, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed the district court's grant of an injunction requiring defendant to transfer to defendant four domain names he had registered in his own name and grant of plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on defendant's counterclaims. The court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to entertain defendant's appeal under 28 U.S.C. 1291, because there are still pending claims brought against defendant under sections 43(a) and (c) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a) and (c), and state law. The court concluded, however, that it has jurisdiction to review the district court's injunction under 28 U.S.C. 1292(a)(1). The court held that the re-registration of bydesignfurniture.com constituted a registration under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), 15 U.S.C. 1125, and that plaintiff is likely to succeed on the merits of its ACPA claim. Accordingly, the court concluded that the issuance of the preliminary injunction did not constitute an abuse of discretion and affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "JYSK Bed'N Linen v. Dutta-Roy" on Justia Law

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The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) creates and assigns top level domains (TLDs), such as “.com” and “.net.” Plaintiff, a registry specializing in “expressive” TLDs, filed suit alleging that the 2012 Application Round for the creation of new TLDs violated federal and California law. The district court dismissed the complaint. The court rejected plaintiff's claims for conspiracy in restraint of trade or commerce under section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 1, because plaintiff failed to allege an anticompetitive agreement; the court rejected plaintiff's claim under Section 2 of the Sherman Act, because ICANN’s authority was lawfully obtained through a contract with the DOC and did not unlawfully acquire or maintain its monopoly; the trademark and unfair competition claims were not ripe for adjudication because plaintiff has not alleged that ICANN has delegated or intends to delegate any of the TLDs that plaintiff uses; and the complaint failed to allege a claim for tortious interference or unfair business practice. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "name.space, Inc. V. ICANN" on Justia Law

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MTM filed suit against online retailer Amazon under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1051 et seq., alleging that Amazon had infringed MTM's trademark. MTM argues that initial interest confusion might occur because Amazon lists the search term used – here the trademarked phrase “mtm special ops” – three times at the top of its search page. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Amazon. The court considered five non-exhaustive Sleekcraft factors to determine whether a trademark gives rise to a likelihood of confusion: the strength of the mark, relatedness/proximity of the goods, evidence of actual confusion, defendant’s intent, and the degree of care exercised by purchasers. The court concluded that there are genuine issues of material fact as to whether there is a likelihood of confusion under the initial interest confusion theory. Finally, the court held that the customer-generated use of a trademark in the retail search context is a use in commerce. In this case, Amazon's purpose is not less commercial just because it is selling wares, not advertising space. Therefore, the court declined to affirm the district court on the alternative ground that Amazon’s use is not a use in commerce. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Multi Time Machine v. Amazon.com" on Justia Law