Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

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Segway filed a complaint (19 U.S.C. 337) with the International Trade Commission based on infringement of six patents and two trademarks--stylized and non-stylized SEGWAY marks, which cover “motorized, self-propelled, wheeled personal mobility devices, namely, wheelchairs, scooters, utility carts, and chariots.” The complaint alleged that Swagway’s self-balancing hoverboard products, marketed under the names SWAGWAY and SWAGTRON infringed Segway’s marks. Swagway proposed a consent order stipulating that Swagway would not sell or import “SWAGWAY-branded personal transporter products ... all components thereof, packaging and manuals.” Segway opposed the proposal as addressing only a subset of the claims and products at issue. After a hearing, the ALJ found that the accused products did not infringe certain patents and that use of the SWAGWAY designation, but not the SWAGTRON designation, infringed the trademarks. The Commission determined not to review the ALJ’s denial of Swagway’s consent order motion. The Federal Circuit upheld that determination and the trademark infringement determination based on the evidence supporting factors other than likelihood of confusion, including the degree of similarity between the two marks in appearance, the pronunciation of the words, and the strength of the SEGWAY marks. View "Swagway, LLC v. International Trade Commission" on Justia Law

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VersaTop and Georgia Expo are competitors in the “drape and rod” industry. Both produce and sell systems of modular rod and pole structures, for assembly to form sectional spaces such as trade show booths and other drape-separated structures, as well as temporary barricades. VersaTop’s system for coupling structural components is the subject of the 027 patent and is called the “‘ball and crown’ coupler.” VersaTop alleged that since 2011 it has sold these systems with the trademarks PIPE & DRAPE 2.0™ and 2.0™ and that Georgia Expo distributed advertising and brochures that contained these VersaTop trademarks as well as pictures of the VersaTop coupler. The district court held that Georgia Expo did not infringe VersaTop’s patent, copyright, or trademark rights. Only the trademark issue was appealed. The Federal Circuit reversed. The district court incorrectly applied the definition of “use in commerce” and concluded that Georgia Expo’s use of the marks was not in commerce so that there was no infringement. Under the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. 1127, a trademark owner is entitled to summary judgment on a claim of likelihood of confusion where the marks were identical, the goods were related, and the marketing channels overlapped. View "VersaTop Support Systems, LLC v. Georgia Expo, Inc." on Justia Law

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Siny sought to register the mark CASALANA in standard characters for “Knit pile fabric made with wool for use as a textile in the manufacture of outerwear, gloves, apparel, and accessories” based on use in commerce under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1051(a). Siny submitted a specimen consisting of a webpage printout. The examining attorney refused registration because the specimen “appear[ed] to be mere advertising material,” that did not include a means for ordering the goods. Siny submitted the same webpage with additional text stating, “For sales information:” followed by a phone number and email address. The examining attorney found that the text alone was insufficient for consumers to make a purchase, noting the absence of necessary ordering information, such as minimum quantities, cost, payment options, or shipping information. The Trademark Board and Federal Circuit affirmed. For a mark to be in use in commerce on goods, it may be “placed in any manner on the goods or their containers or the displays associated therewith or on the tags or labels affixed thereto.” The Webpage Specimen was not placed on the goods or their containers, tags, or labels and did not cross the line from mere advertising to an acceptable display associated with the goods. While some details must be worked out by telephone, if virtually all important aspects of the transaction must be determined from information extraneous to the webpage, the webpage is not a point of sale. View "In re: Siny Corp." 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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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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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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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

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Real Foods sought registration of two marks: “CORN THINS,” for “crispbread slices predominantly of corn, namely popped corn cakes”; and “RICE THINS,” for “crispbread slices primarily made of rice, namely rice cakes.” Frito-Lay opposed the registrations, arguing that the proposed marks should be refused as either generic or descriptive without having acquired distinctiveness. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board refused registration of the applied-for marks, finding the marks “are merely descriptive and have not acquired distinctiveness,” dismissing Frito-Lay’s “genericness claim. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Substantial evidence supports the finding that the proposed marks are highly descriptive. The terms “corn” and “rice,” both of which are grains, describe the primary ingredient in Real Foods’ respective goods; the term thins describes physical characteristics of the corn and rice cakes. Viewing the marks as composites does not create a different impression. Real Foods “has not demonstrated that its applied-for marks have acquired distinctiveness. Real Foods did not demonstrate that its applied-for marks have acquired distinctiveness. The court remanded in part, finding that the Board erred in its analysis of genericness. View "Real Foods Pty Ltd. v. Frito-Lay North America, Inc." on Justia Law

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DACo, a sports specialty shop, sells souvenirs and apparel associated with Detroit professional sports teams. Since at least 2004, DACo has used the DETROIT ATHLETIC CO. mark in connection with its retail services. In 2015, DACo sought to register the standard character mark DETROIT ATHLETIC CO. on the Principal Register for “[o]n-line retail consignment stores featuring sports team related clothing and apparel; [r]etail apparel stores; [r]etail shops featuring sports team related clothing and apparel; [r]etail sports team related clothing and apparel stores.” In response to a non-final refusal, DACo disclaimed ATHLETIC CO. and amended to seek registration on the Supplemental Register. The examining attorney refused registration under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1052(d), finding that DETROIT ATHLETIC CO. is likely to be confused with DETROIT ATHLETIC CLUB, which is on the Principal Register for “[c]lothing, namely athletic uniforms, coats, golf shirts, gym suits, hats, jackets, sweatpants, sweatshirts, polo shirts, and T-shirts,” and is owned by the Detroit Athletic Club, a private social club organized in 1887. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The Board balanced the DuPont factors; substantial evidence supports its finding that, “because the marks are similar, the goods and services are related, and the channels of trade and consumers overlap, . . . confusion is likely between Applicant’s mark DETROIT ATHLETIC CO. and the mark DETROIT ATHLETIC CLUB.” View "In re: Detroit Athletic Co." on Justia Law