Justia Trademark Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
Great Concepts, LLC v. Chutter, Inc.
Great Concepts applied to register “DANTANNA’S” as a mark for a “steak and seafood restaurant.” Its 764 Registration issued in 2005. Chutter’s predecessor-in-interest, Dan Tana, subsequently petitioned the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to cancel the Registration, based on an alleged likelihood of confusion with Tana’s common law “DAN TANA” mark for restaurant services. The cancellation proceeding was suspended during a trademark infringement civil suit. In 2009, the district court granted Great Concepts summary judgment; the Eleventh Circuit affirmed. In December 2010, the Board dismissed Tana’s cancellation proceeding. Meanwhile, in March 2010, Great Concepts’ then-attorney, Taylor, filed with the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) a combined declaration of use and declaration of incontestability, under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1058, 1065, declaring “there is no proceeding involving said rights pending and not disposed of either in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or in the courts.” At the time, both the PTO cancellation proceeding and the Eleventh Circuit appeal were pending.In 2015, Chutter successfully petitioned the PTO for cancellation of Great Concepts’ “DANTANNA’S” mark based on Taylor’s 2010 false affidavit. The Federal Circuit reversed. The statute limits the Board’s authority to cancel registration of a mark to circumstances in which the “registration was obtained fraudulently,” but does not authorize cancellation of a registration when the incontestability status of that mark is “obtained fraudulently.” View "Great Concepts, LLC v. Chutter, Inc." on Justia Law
Spireon, Inc. v. Flex Lrd.
In 2018, Spireon sought to register the mark FL FLEX, for “[e]lectronic devices for tracking the locations of mobile assets" such as trailers, cargo containers, and transportation equipment, using global positioning systems and cellular communication networks. An Examining Attorney approved the application. Flex opposed the registration, citing priority and the likelihood of confusion with Flex’s marks, FLEX, FLEX (stylized), and FLEX PULSE, registered in 2016-2017, for services including supply chain management services, transportation logistics services, and inventory management, and computers, computer software for use in supply chain management, logistics and operations management, quality control, inventory management, scheduling, and related services.The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board Board sustained Flex’s opposition. The Federal Circuit vacated. The Board erred in analyzing conceptual strength under the first DuPont factor, the similarity of the marks, rather than the sixth DuPont factor. The existence of third-party registrations on similar goods can bear on a mark’s conceptual strength. Third-party registrations containing an element that is common to both the opposer’s and the applicant’s marks can show that that element has “a normally understood and well-recognized descriptive or suggestive meaning.” Flex failed to show that the identical marks for identical goods were not used in the marketplace, but on remand, should be allowed to make such a showing. The Board also erred by comparing FL FLEX to FLEX PLUS rather than the relevant mark. View "Spireon, Inc. v. Flex Lrd." on Justia Law
In Re Charger Ventures LLC
Charger filed an intent-to-use application to register SPARK LIVING on the Principal Register for leasing of real estate; real estate listing; real estate service, namely, rental property management. The examining attorney refused registration under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1052(d), on grounds of a likelihood “to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive with an earlier registered mark.” The earlier registered mark, SPARK, was registered for “[r]eal estate services, namely, rental brokerage, leasing, and management of commercial property, offices and office space.” Charger amended its description of services to only cover residential real estate services, then disclaimed the term “LIVING,” and again amended the description to “specifically” exclude commercial property and office space—the services of the registrant’s mark. The examining attorney maintained the refusal.The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board and Federal Circuit affirmed, as supported by substantial evidence the refusal to register Charger’s mark based on likelihood of confusion. The Board addressed five of the “Dupont factors”: similarity or dissimilarity of the marks, the nature of the goods or services, established, likely-to-continue trade channels, conditions under which and buyers to whom sales are made, and strength of the mark, focusing on the similarity or dissimilarity of the marks as well as the goods or services. View "In Re Charger Ventures LLC" on Justia Law
Bertini v. Apple Inc.
Apple sought to register the mark APPLE MUSIC for the production and distribution of sound recordings and arranging, organizing, conducting, and presenting live musical performances. Apple began using the mark in 2015 when it launched its music streaming service. Bertini, a professional musician, opposed the registration. Bertini has used the mark APPLE JAZZ in connection with festivals and concerts since 1985. In the mid-1990s, Bertini began using APPLE JAZZ to issue and distribute sound recordings. Bertini argued that Apple’s registration would likely cause confusion with Bertini’s common law trademark, 15 U.S.C. 1052(d).The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board dismissed Bertini’s opposition, finding that Bertini’s common law mark APPLE JAZZ is inherently distinctive and that Bertini may claim a 1985 priority date in connection with “[a]rranging, organizing, conducting, and presenting concerts [and] live musical performances.” Apple successfully argued that it was entitled to a 1968 priority date based on trademark rights it purchased from Apple Corps, the Beatles’ record company, in 2007. That registration covers the mark APPLE for “[g]ramophone records featuring music” and “audio compact discs featuring music.” The Board found that Apple was entitled to tack its 2015 use of APPLE MUSIC onto Apple Corps’ 1968 use of APPLE.The Federal Circuit reversed. Apple cannot tack its use of APPLE MUSIC for live musical performances onto Apple Corps’ use of APPLE for gramophone records and its application to register APPLE MUSIC must be denied. View "Bertini v. Apple Inc." on Justia Law
SoClean, Inc. v. Sunset Healthcare Solutions, Inc.
SoClean, a medical-device company that produces sanitizing devices for CPAP machines, owns the 195 registration for the configuration of replacement filters for its sanitizing devices. SoClean sued its former distributor, Sunset, for patent infringement, and trademark infringement based on that registration. On a motion for a preliminary injunction, the district court concluded that SoClean was likely to succeed on the merits and was entitled to a presumption of irreparable harm. Balancing the equities and weighing the public interest, the court concluded that enjoining all sales of Sunset’s filters would “go much further than necessary” to “end any possible statutory violation.” The court crafted a narrow “injunction that prohibits Sunset from engaging in those practices that result in consumer confusion” and enjoined Sunset from marketing its filters “using images of the filter cartridge alone”; “[a]ny image, drawings, or other depictions of Sunset’s filter cartridge used for the purposes of promotion, marketing and/or sales shall prominently display the Sunset brand name in a manner that leaves no reasonable confusion that what is being sold is a Sunset brand filter.”The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the district court afforded too much weight to the presumption of validity and held Sunset to a higher standard of proof than the applicable preponderance-of-the-evidence standard. View "SoClean, Inc. v. Sunset Healthcare Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law
Meenaxi Enterprise, Inc. v. Coca-Cola Co.
Coca-Cola distributes a Thums Up cola and Limca lemon-lime soda in India and other foreign markets. Meenaxi has distributed a Thums Up cola and a Limca lemon-lime soda in the United States since 2008 and registered the THUMS UP and LIMCA marks in the United States in 2012. Coca-Cola brought cancellation proceedings under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1064(3), asserting that Meenaxi was using the marks to misrepresent the source of its goods. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board canceled Meenaxi’s marks.The Federal Circuit reversed. Coca-Cola has not established a statutory cause of action based on lost sales or reputational injury. Coca-Cola does not identify any lost sales in the United States but instead relies on testimony that “THUMS UP-branded and LIMCA-branded products are resold in Indian grocery stores around the world, including in the U.S.” Coca-Cola presented no evidence that it sells the Limca soda in the United States and established only that Thums Up cola is “available for purchase as an individual beverage or as part of a tasting tray” at “World of Coca-Cola” and “Coca-Cola Store” locations in Atlanta and Orlando. View "Meenaxi Enterprise, Inc. v. Coca-Cola Co." on Justia Law
Tiger Lily Ventures Ltd. v. Barclays Capital Inc.
. Until 2008, Lehman Brothers, a large investment bank, owned federal trademark registrations for the standard character mark LEHMAN BROTHERS. Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and sold several of its businesses and other assets to Barclays for $1.5 billion, assigning all of its LEHMAN BROTHERS trademarks and accompanying goodwill. Barclays granted Lehman Brothers a worldwide, non-exclusive license to use the LEHMAN BROTHERS trademarks in connection with continuing businesses and operations. The term of the license was two years for use in connection with investment banking and capital markets businesses and perpetual for use in connection with other operations. Barclays allowed its LEHMAN BROTHERS trademark registrations to expire. In 2013, Tiger Lily, which has no affiliation to Lehman Brothers or Barclays, sought registration of the mark LEHMAN BROTHERS for beer and spirits. A few months later, Barclays applied to register LEHMAN BROTHERS for use in connection with financial services. In 2014, Tiger Lily applied for registration of the LEHMAN BROTHERS mark for bar services and restaurant services. Barclays and Tiger Lily filed Notices of Opposition.The Federal Circuit affirmed the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board in sustaining Barclay’s oppositions against Tiger Lily’s applications and in dismissing Tiger Lily’s opposition to Barclays’ application, noting that Lehman Brothers and Barclays have continued to use the LEHMAN BROTHERS mark since 2008. View "Tiger Lily Ventures Ltd. v. Barclays Capital Inc." on Justia Law
In Re Elster
The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board affirmed an examiner’s refusal to register the trademark “TRUMP TOO SMALL” for use on T-shirts. According to Elster’s registration request, the phrase he sought to trademark invokes a memorable exchange between then-candidate Trump and Senator Marco Rubio from a 2016 presidential primary debate, and aims to “convey that some features” of Trump’s “policies are diminutive.” The Board’s decision was based on the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1052(c), and the Board’s finding that the mark included the surname of a living individual without his consent.The Federal Circuit reversed. Applying section 2(c) to bar registration of Elster’s mark unconstitutionally restricts free speech in violation of the First Amendment. Section 2(c), prohibits registration of a trademark that [c]onsists of or comprises a name, portrait, or signature identifying a particular living individual except by his written consent, or the name, signature, or portrait of a deceased President of the United States during the life of his widow, if any, except by the written consent of the widow.” As applied in this case, section 2(c) involves content-based discrimination that is not justified by either a compelling or substantial government interest. View "In Re Elster" on Justia Law
In Re Vox Populi Registry Ltd.
Vox is the domain registry operator for the ".SUCKS" generic top-level domain (gTLD) for Internet websites. Vox’s 941 trademark application sought registration of the standard character mark .SUCKS in Class 42 (computer and scientific services) for “[d]omain registry operator services related to the gTLD in the mark” and in Class 45 (personal and legal services) for “[d]omain name registration services featuring the gTLD in the mark” plus “registration of domain names for identification of users on a global computer network featuring the gTLD in the mark.” Vox’s 215 application sought to register the stylized form of .SUCKS, which appears as a retro, pixelated font that resembles letters on early LED screens in Class 42. The examining attorney refused both applications finding that, when used in connection with the identified services, “each fails to function as a mark” and “submitted evidence [for the 215 application] does not establish that the mark functions as a source identifier.”The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board and Federal Circuit affirmed with respect to the 215 application. The standard character mark .SUCKS “will not be perceived as a source identifier” and instead “will be perceived merely as one of many gTLDs that are used in domain names.” Stylized lettering or design element in the mark did not create a separate commercial impression and “is not sufficiently distinctive to ‘carry’ the overall mark into registrability.” View "In Re Vox Populi Registry Ltd." on Justia Law
Brooklyn Brewery Corporation v. Brooklyn Brew Shop, LLC
For more than 30 years, Brewery has used the marks BROOKLYN and BROOKLYN BREWERY in connection with the advertising, promotion, and sale of Brewery’s beer and beer-related merchandise. Brewery owns Registration No. 3,186,503 for BROOKLYN BREWERY for beer in Class 32,1 registered in 2006. Brewery petitioned to cancel BBS’s subsequent registration of the mark “BROOKLYN BREW SHOP,” in standard characters, for goods identified as “Beer making kit[s]” in Class 32 and opposed BBS’s application to register a stylized version of the same mark for beer-making kits in Class 32 and sanitizing preparations for household use in Class 5.The Federal Circuit affirmed the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s denial of Brewery’s petition for cancellation. The court dismissed the appeal regarding the Class 5 goods for lack of standing. The court vacated in part; the Board erred by not entering judgment in favor of Brewery on the Class 32 goods deleted from BBS’s application. As to the remaining goods in Class 32 (beer-making kits), the court affirmed the Board’s dismissal of the claim that, under Section 2(d), the mark is likely to cause confusion. The court vacated with respect to the descriptiveness issue under Section 2(e)(1); the Board erred by not reaching Brewery’s claim that the applied-for mark lacked acquired distinctiveness under Section 2(f) as to the beer-making kits. The court affirmed the Board’s refusal to consider geographic descriptiveness.. View "Brooklyn Brewery Corporation v. Brooklyn Brew Shop, LLC" on Justia Law