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Supreme Court: “Booking.com” Can Be Registered as Trademark

By an 8-1 vote, the Supreme Court rejected a per se rule by the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) that a generic word followed by “.com” is necessarily generic and therefore ineligible for trademark protection. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office et al. v. Booking.com BV, Case No. 19-46 (Supr. Ct. June 30, 2020) (Ginsberg, Justice) (Sotomayor, Justice, concurring) (Breyer, Justice, dissenting). In so doing, the Supreme Court found that the proper test for whether “booking.com” is eligible for trademark protection for travel booking services is whether the public perceives “booking.com” as identifying a single source. Trademarks identify and distinguish the goods and services of a single party, and the Lanham Act establishes a system of trademark registration. Among other requirements for registration, a trademark must be distinctive, as judged along a spectrum of trademark distinctiveness. Distinctive trademarks, in order of most to least strength, include...

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Knock It Off, Knockoffs? Ninth Circuit Affirms Trade Dress Rights but Not Fame

Taking on issues of functionality and fame relating to trade dress rights, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s judgment after a jury trial on claims of infringement and dilution of trade dress rights in furniture. The Ninth Circuit distinguished utilitarian functionality from aesthetic functionality, and reaffirmed the high burden on the proponent of dilution to establish that the mark has become a “household name.” Blumenthal Distributing, Inc. DBA Office Star v. Herman Miller, Inc., Case Nos. 18-56471, -56493 (9th Cir. June 25, 2020) (Korman, J.). In 2013, Herman Miller accused Office Star Products (OSP) of selling unauthorized replicas of its Eames lounge chair and Aeron ergonomic office chair, and filed suit against the company for infringement and dilution of its claimed registered and unregistered trade dress rights in the chairs. A jury found that both the registered and unregistered...

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GOOGLES Wins Right to Sue Google

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated and remanded a district court’s dismissal of a trademark dispute for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, noting that the dispute arose under contractual standing, which is not a jurisdictional issue. SM Kids, LLC v. Google LLC, Alphabet Inc., Case No. 19-cv-2547 (2d Cir. June 25, 2020) (Parker, J.). In 1997, Googles Children’s Workshop registered the trademark GOOGLES and the internet domain name www.googles.com. The website launched in 1998 and focused on children’s education and entertainment. That same year, Google adopted its name, and in 2004 it registered the GOOGLE mark. In 2005, the founder of Googles Children’s Workshop sued Google for trademark infringement. In 2007, the Googles Children’s Workshop founder assigned all rights in the mark GOOGLES to Stelor Productions. In 2008, Stelor and Google settled the trademark infringement dispute, with Google agreeing to not intentionally make material...

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More Than a Feeling: No Fees for Frivolous Claim Where “Perceived Wrongs Were Deeply Felt”

Addressing the appropriateness of the district court’s decision to deny attorneys’ fees relating to a copyright claim it labeled “frivolous,” the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial, despite the strong presumption in favor of awarding fees. Timothy B. O’Brien LLC v. Knott, Case No. 19-2138 (7th Cir. June 17, 2020) (Flaum, J). Apple Wellness owns and operates a small chain of vitamin stores in the Madison, Wisconsin, area. David Knott was hired as an employee of Apple Wellness in 2013 and was fired in 2017. Upon his termination, Knott founded a competing vitamin shop, Embrace Wellness, which allegedly shared several design features and a similar layout, and stocked similar products to those of Apple Wellness’s stores. Apple Wellness sued Knott and Embrace Wellness, alleging trademark, trade dress and copyright infringement. Apple Wellness moved for a preliminary injunction on only the trademark and trade dress claims, which was...

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Amazon Seller Hit with Sanctions in Lanham Act Appeal

A unanimous panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit awarded sanctions under Federal Rule of Appeals 38 against Amazon seller Ellishbooks for its frivolous appeal from a default judgment. Quincy Bioscience, LLC v. Ellishbooks, et al., Case No. 19-1799 (7th Cir. June 5, 2020) (Wood, J.). Quincy Bioscience develops, markets and sells the dietary supplement Prevagen® for the support of cognitive function. Ellishbooks sold various products on Amazon, including dietary supplements identified as Prevagen®. However, Ellishbooks was not authorized to sell Prevagen® products. Quincy brought an action against Ellishbooks alleging violations of the Lanham Act and violations of Illinois statutory and common law, and seeking preliminary and permanent injunctive relief to prevent Ellishbooks from using the Prevagen® mark and falsely representing that it was associated with Quincy. Ellishbooks did not respond to the complaint, and the court entered default...

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Announcement: USPTO COVID-19 Prioritized Examination Program

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has announced a new prioritized examination program to expedite the examination of applications for marks used to identify qualifying COVID-19 medical products and services. Applications that qualify for the program will immediately be assigned to an examining attorney for review, which expedites examination by approximately two months. The USPTO will not charge additional fees for applications that qualify for the program because it considers the COVID-19 outbreak to be an “extraordinary situation” for trademark applicants. To qualify for prioritized examination, the trademark or service mark application must cover a product that is subject to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for use in the prevention and/or treatment of COVID-19, or a medical service (including medical research) for the prevention and/or treatment of COVID-19. The USPTO started accepting petitions to advance...

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Munchkin Is Luv-n This Win

Reversing an award of attorney’s fees, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that a district court abused its discretion in making an exceptional-case determination where patent and trademark infringement claims were reasonable. Munchkin, Inc. v. Luv N-Care, LTD., Admar International, Inc., Case No. 19-1454 (Fed. Cir. June 8, 2020) (Chen, J.). Munchkin sued LNC for trademark infringement, unfair competition, trade dress infringement and patent infringement based on LNC’s no-spill drinking cups. LNC filed a petition for inter partes review (IPR) with the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). While the IPR was pending, Munchkin voluntarily dismissed all of its non-patent claims with prejudice. The PTAB subsequently found Munchkin’s patent was unpatentable. After the PTAB’s finding, Munchkin dismissed its patent infringement claim. LNC filed a motion for attorney’s fees under 35 U.S.C. § 285 and 15 U.S.C. § 1117(a), arguing that the trademark and...

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Trademark Claim for Profit Damages Means No Jury Trial

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a denial of a jury trial demand in a trademark infringement lawsuit where only a claim of disgorgement of profits was at issue. JL Beverage Company, LLC v. Jim Beam Brands Co., Beam Inc., Case No. 18-16597 (9th Cir. May 27, 2020) (Wallace, J.) (Friedland, J., concurring). JL sued Jim Beam for trademark infringement. JL manufactured and sold vodka in bottles featuring stylized depictions of lips. Jim Beam also sells vodka in bottles featuring stylized depictions of lips. JL alleged that consumers would confuse its “Johnny Love Vodka” lip mark with Jim Beam’s Pucker line of flavored vodka products. After JL failed to provide a computation of actual damages during discovery, Jim Beam sought to limit the damages JL could seek at trial. The district court found that JL’s failure prevented Jim Beam from preparing a responsive case and granted Jim Beam’s motion to exclude JL’s claims for actual damages. Jim Beam...

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Double Meaning Can Make Mark Distinctive

The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed a district court’s grant of summary judgment invalidating a service mark for lacking distinctiveness, finding that a reasonable jury could understand the mark to entail a double meaning and therefore making it sufficiently distinctive to receive trademark protection. Engineered Tax Servs., Inc. v. Scarpello Consulting, Inc., Case No. 18-13690 (11th Cir. May 14, 2020) (Newsom, J.). Engineered Tax Services (ETS) and Scarpello Consulting each provide specialized tax services performed by engineers. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) registered a mark for ETS, Engineered Tax Services, without requiring ETS to present evidence of “secondary meaning,” which would have been required for a registration based on “acquired distinctiveness.” ETS sued Scarpello for trademark infringement under the Lanham Act after discovering Scarpello was using the Engineered Tax Services mark in an internet...

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Light Beer Sweetener – Not So Sticky After All

The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that a brewing company’s statements that a competitor’s beers were made with corn syrup were not false and misleading under the Lanham Act because the competitor listed corn syrup as an ingredient in its beers. Molson Coors Beverage Co. USA LLC v. Anheuser-Busch Cos., LLC, Case Nos. 19-2200, -2713, -2782, -3097, -3116 (7th Cir. May 1, 2020) (Easterbrook, J.). In 2019, Anheuser-Busch launched an ad campaign stating that Bud Light is made with rice while Miller Lite and Coors Light are made with corn syrup. Molson Coors did not take kindly to these ads because they implied that its beers contain corn syrup in the finished product, which they do not. Molson Coors filed a lawsuit under § 43(a) of the Lanham Act and launched its own ad campaign stating that Miller Lite and Coors Light taste better than Bud Light because they are made from corn syrup and not rice, adding that its beers do not contain high...

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