Justia Trademark Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Blumenthal Distributing, Inc. v. Herman Miller, Inc.
HM filed suit alleging infringement of HM's rights in the EAMES and AERON trade dresses under the Lanham Act. The jury found in favor of HM as to the Eames chairs and awarded infringement and dilution damages. As to the Aeron chair, the jury found in favor of OSP. The Ninth Circuit held that for a product's design to be protected under trademark law, the design must be nonfunctional. The panel affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of HM on its causes of action for the infringement of its registered and unregistered EAMES trade dresses and rejected OSP's argument that the utilitarian functionality of the Eames chairs' component parts renders their overall appearances functional as a matter of law; reversed the judgment in favor of OSP regarding the Aeron chair because the functionality jury instruction does not accurately track the panel's functionality caselaw; reversed the judgment in favor of HM on its cause of action for dilution because there was legally insufficient evidence to find that the claimed EAMES trade dresses were famous under 15 U.S.C. 1125(c)(2)(A); and remanded for a new trial. View "Blumenthal Distributing, Inc. v. Herman Miller, Inc." on Justia Law
VIP Products LLC v. Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc.
VIP filed suit seeking a declaration that its "Bad Spaniels Silly Squeaker" toy did not infringe JDPI's trademark rights or, in the alternative, that Jack Daniel's trade dress and bottle design were not entitled to trademark protection. JDPI counterclaimed and alleged claims of trademark infringement and dilution. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to JDPI on the issues of aesthetic functionality and distinctiveness. The court held that the district court correctly found that Jack Daniel's trade dress and bottle design are distinctive and aesthetically nonfunctional, and thus entitled to trademark protection; VIP also failed to rebut the presumption of nonfunctionality and distinctiveness of the Jack Daniel's bottle design; the district court correctly rejected VIP's nominative fair use defense; and the district court correctly rejected VIP's request for cancellation of the registered mark and rejected VIP's nominative fair use defense. However, the panel held that the dog toy is an expressive work entitled to First Amendment protection. In this case, the district court erred in finding trademark infringement without first requiring JDPI to satisfy at least one of the two Rogers prongs. Therefore, the panel reversed the district court's judgment as to the dilution claim, vacated the judgment on the trademark infringement claim, and remanded for further proceedings. View "VIP Products LLC v. Jack Daniel's Properties, Inc." on Justia Law
V.V.V. & Sons Edible Oils v. Meenakshi Overseas
VVV appealed the district court's dismiss of its trademark claims based on three marks and the denial of leave to amend its complaint. The Ninth Circuit assumed, without deciding, that the district court correctly applied the elements of claim preclusion to this case, but found that an exception to claim preclusion applied. The panel explained that an interparty proceeding before the TTAB is a limited proceeding involving registration of a trademark, and the TTAB has no authority to determine the right to use, or the broader questions of infringement, unfair competition, damages or injunctive relief. In this case, TTAB had no power to decide VVV's claims of infringement, dilution, and unfair competition or to grant either injunctive relief or damages. Therefore, the panel held that it would be unfair to preclude VVV from litigating these claims and seeking relief when barriers existed that prevented it from doing so in the first action. The panel reversed and remanded for the district court to consider, in the first instance, whether issue preclusion applied. The panel also reversed the denial of leave to amend the complaint, and affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's claims as to the second and third marks. View "V.V.V. & Sons Edible Oils v. Meenakshi Overseas" on Justia Law
Applied Underwriters, Inc. v. Lichtenegger
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a Lanham Act action brought by Applied Underwriters, alleging claims for trademark infringement and unfair competition. Although the district court abused its discretion when it sanctioned Applied Underwriters and dismissed the case pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) absent an order requiring Applied Underwriters to file an amended complaint, the panel nevertheless affirmed the district court's earlier Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal because the use of Applied Underwriters' trademarks by defendants constituted nominative fair use. In this case, Applied Underwriters' service was not readily identifiable without use of the trademarks; defendants used only so much of the marks as was reasonably necessary; and use of the marks did not suggest sponsorship or endorsement. View "Applied Underwriters, Inc. v. Lichtenegger" on Justia Law
Gordon v. Drape Creative, Inc.
The Ninth Circuit filed an order granting defendants' petition for panel rehearing, withdrawing the panel’s opinion, and ordering the filing of a superseding opinion. The panel also filed a superseding opinion reversing the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants in a trademark infringement suit over the "Honey Badger" catchphrases under the Lanham Act. The panel held that, under the test in Rogers v. Grimaldi, 875 F.2d 994 (2d Cir. 1989), the Lanham Act applies to expressive works only where the public interest in avoiding consumer confusion outweighs the public interest in free expression. In this case, defendants have not used plaintiff's mark in the creation of a song, photograph, video game, or television show, but have largely just pasted plaintiff's mark into their greeting cards. The panel held that a jury could determine that this use of plaintiff's mark was explicitly misleading as to the source or content of the cards. Therefore, the panel reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Gordon v. Drape Creative, Inc." on Justia Law
Gordon v. Drape Creative, Inc.
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants in a trademark infringement action over the "Honey Badger" catchphrases under the Lanham Act. The panel applied the test in Rogers v. Grimaldi, 875 F.2d 994 (2d Cir. 1989), to balance the competing interests at stake when a trademark owner claims that an expressive work infringes on its trademark rights. The panel held that the Rogers test was not an automatic safe harbor for any minimally expressive work that copies someone else's mark. In this case, a jury could determine that defendants did not add any value protected by the First Amendment but merely appropriated the goodwill associated with plaintiff's mark. Defendants have not used another’s mark in the creation of a song, photograph, video game, or television show, but have largely just pasted plaintiff's mark into their greeting cards. Therefore, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Gordon v. Drape Creative, Inc." on Justia Law
OTR Wheel Engineering, Inc. v. West Worldwide Services, Inc.
OTR filed suit against Defendant West, asserting various claims under the Lanham Act and state law. Primarily at issue on appeal was whether West could be found liable for reverse passing off under the Lanham Act. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the judgment, holding that West was liable for reverse passing off because he did not simply copy OTR's intellectual property but passed off genuine OTR products as his own. In this case, West asked one of OTR's suppliers to provide him with sample tires from OTR's molds; he asked the supplier to remove OTR's identifying information from the tires; and he wanted to use the tires to obtain business from one of OTR's customers. The panel affirmed the district court's conclusion that West did not establish that OTR committed fraud on the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and held that fraud on the PTO must be established by clear and convincing evidence. The panel also affirmed the denial of a new trial on the issue of trade dress validity and the district court's rejection of a proposed jury instruction. The panel addressed additional issues in a concurrently filed memorandum disposition. View "OTR Wheel Engineering, Inc. v. West Worldwide Services, Inc." on Justia Law
Pinkette Cothing, Inc. v. Cosmetic Warriors Limited
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of Pinkette, which sells LUSH-branded women's fashions, in a trademark infringement action brought by CWL, which sells LUSH-branded cosmetics and related goods. The panel distinguished between Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 1962 (2014), and SCA Hygiene Products v. First Quality Baby Products, LLC, 137 S. Ct. 954 (2017), holding that the principle at work in these cases—a concern over laches overriding a statute of limitations—did not apply here, where the Lanham Act has no statute of limitations and expressly makes laches a defense to cancellation. In this case, the district court applied the correct standard when it applied the factors set forth in E-Sys., Inc. v. Monitek, Inc., 720 F.2d 604 (9th Cir. 1983), to CWL's claim for injunctive relief. After analyzing the E-Systems factors, the panel held that they validate the strong presumption in favor of laches created by CWL's delaying past the expiration of the most analogous state statute of limitations. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in applying laches to bar CWL's cancellation and infringement claims. The panel held that CWL's remaining arguments were without merit. View "Pinkette Cothing, Inc. v. Cosmetic Warriors Limited" on Justia Law
Moldex-Metric, Inc. v. McKeon Products, Inc.
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for McKeon in a trademark infringement action alleging that McKeon's green ear plugs infringed Moldex's green earplugs. The panel held that the existence or nonexistence of alternative designs was probative of functionality or nonfunctionality, and thus evidence of alternative colors must be considered in deciding the functionality of Moldex's mark. The panel held that there was a material dispute of material facts as to whether Moldex's bright green color earplugs was functional. Therefore, the panel remanded for the district court to consider McKeon's arguments both that Moldex's green color lacked secondary meaning and that there was no likelihood of confusion, and then if necessary go to trial. View "Moldex-Metric, Inc. v. McKeon Products, Inc." on Justia Law
adidas America, Inc. v. Skechers USA, Inc.
Skechers challenged the district court's issuance of a preliminary injunction prohibiting it from selling shoes that allegedly infringe and dilute adidas America, Inc.’s Stan Smith trade dress and Three-Stripe trademark. The panel affirmed in part, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in issuing the preliminary injunction as to adidas's claim that Skechers's Onix shoe infringes on adidas's unregistered trade dress of its Stan Smith shoe. However, the panel reversed in part, holding that the district court erred in issuing a preliminary injunction as to adidas's claim that Skechers's Cross Court shoe infringes and dilutes its Three-Stripe mark. View "adidas America, Inc. v. Skechers USA, Inc." on Justia Law