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Prime Delivery: Amazon Program Now Offers Personal Jurisdiction to Patent Holders

Addressing the issue of personal jurisdiction in the context of a declaratory judgment case involving a program for resolving patent infringement claims, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit concluded that a patent owner has personal jurisdiction in the forum of an alleged infringer when it files a program claim against the alleged infringer. SnapRays, dba SnapPower v. Lighting Defense Group, Case No. 23-1184 (Fed. Cir. May 2, 2024) (Moore, CJ. Lourie, Dyk, JJ.)

The Amazon Patent Evaluation Express (APEX) program helps resolve patent infringement claims against sellers on Amazon. Under APEX, a patent owner submits an APEX Agreement to Amazon that identifies the allegedly infringed patent claim and the Amazon listings with the alleged infringing products. Amazon then sends this APEX Agreement to the seller, who can do one of the following to avoid removal of their accused listings:

  • Opt into APEX and let a third party determine whether their product likely infringes
  • Resolve the claim directly with the patent owner
  • File a lawsuit for declaratory judgment of noninfringement. If the seller does nothing, its listings are automatically removed from Amazon within three weeks of receipt of the APEX Agreement.

Lighting Defense Group (LDG), a Delaware company whose principal place of business is in Arizona, submitted an APEX Agreement alleging that SnapPower’s Amazon products (electrical outlet covers with integrated technology) infringed one of its patents. SnapPower, a Utah company whose principal place of business is in Utah, then filed a declaratory judgment action against LDG in Utah. LDG then filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The district court granted the motion, finding that SnapPower did not demonstrate that LDG purposefully directed activities at SnapPower in Utah and that there was no evidence that LDG reached out to Utah other than through responses to SnapPower’s communications. SnapPower appealed.

The Federal Circuit reversed, finding that LDG was subject to personal jurisdiction under the Court’s three-prong test because (1) LDG purposefully directed its activities at SnapPower in Utah, (2) LDG’s submission of the APEX Agreement was directed to SnapPower in Utah and aimed to affect activities in Utah and (3) it would not be unreasonable to find personal jurisdiction over LDG in Utah.

In assessing the first prong, the Federal Circuit found that LDG knew, via APEX’s terms, that Amazon would notify SnapPower of the APEX Agreement and that the options available to SnapPower included a claim for declaratory judgment. Further, the Court found that the APEX Agreement had more power than cease and desist letters because of the automatic removal of the listings after three weeks, which would affect sales and activities in Utah.

In assessing the second prong, the Federal Circuit found that personal jurisdiction comported with due process because LDG’s actions aimed to affect marketing, sales and other activities in Utah and because the suit arose out of LDG’s activities in the forum.

In assessing the final prong, the Federal Circuit rejected LDG’s argument that allowing personal jurisdiction would “open the [...]

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Stud-y Harder: Domestic Industry Must Be Established for Each Asserted Patent

Addressing a final determination by the US International Trade Commission of no violation of § 337, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed that the complainant had not satisfied the economic prong of the domestic industry requirement because it relied on aggregated evidence of investments across different products protected by different patents. Zircon Corp. v. ITC, Case No. 22-1649 (Fed. Cir. May 8, 2024) (Lourie, Bryson, Stark, JJ.)

In 2020, Zircon filed a complaint seeking a § 337 investigation based on alleged infringement of four patents covering electronic stud finders. The Commission instituted an investigation, naming Stanley Black & Decker as the respondent. Zircon withdrew one patent during the investigation and, in late 2021, the administrative law judge (ALJ) issued an initial determination finding no violation of § 337. The ALJ found some claims of one of the three patents to be valid and infringed but held that Zircon had failed to establish the economic prong of the domestic industry requirement because it had aggregated its investments across all 53 of its practicing products, of which only 14 practiced all three patents. On review, the Commission affirmed the finding of no violation, holding that all claims were either invalid or not infringed. The Commission also affirmed the domestic industry finding, holding that the aggregation prevented it from evaluating the significance of Zircon’s investments with respect to each of the three asserted patents. Zircon appealed.

The Federal Circuit affirmed on the basis that Zircon failed to meet the second prong of the domestic industry requirement. The Court explained that where different groups of products practice different patents, the complainant must separately establish a domestic industry for each group of products. The Court agreed with Zircon that such a showing might not necessarily require breaking out investments on a per-patent basis but concluded that the complainant must ultimately show that the domestic industry requirement is met for each asserted patent. Because the Federal Circuit upheld the finding of no domestic industry, it found it unnecessary to reach the infringement and invalidity rulings.




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Say What? Recitation Entitled to Patentable Weight When Not “Communicative Content”

Addressing when claimed printed matter is entitled to patentable weight, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed the Patent Trial & Appeal Board’s ruling involving the printed matter doctrine, explaining that the claimed subject matter was not communicative content. IOEngine, LLC v. Ingenico Inc., Case No. 21-1227 (Fed. Cir. May 3, 2024) (Lourie, Chen, Stoll, JJ.)

Financial technology company Ingenico filed three petitions for inter partes review (IPR) of certain claims from three patents owned by IOEngine, all of which shared the same title and written description. The patents, titled “Apparatus, Method and System for a Tunneling Client Access Point,” claimed a “portable device” that was “configured to communicate with a terminal.” The challenged claims recited a memory that contained program code “configured in various ways to facilitate communication … with a communications network node.”

The Board issued final written decisions, which found the challenged claims to be unpatentable for obviousness or anticipation. The Board also found several claims to be anticipated after giving no patentable weight to certain claim recitations by application of the printed matter doctrine. The Board found that the terms “encrypted communications” and “program code” claim “only communicative content” (i.e., printed matter) and that these recitations were not entitled to patentable weight.

The Board concluded that the recitation of “encrypted communications” was subject to the printed matter doctrine because “nothing in the claim … requires anything beyond sending and receiving data, even if the data is in an encrypted form.” Similarly, the Board found that the recitation “program code” was subject to the printed matter doctrine because the “recital of ‘downloading’ of program code was limited to downloading (sending or transmitting) the code, which is a communication, and no other function is recited in the claim.”

IOEngine appealed, arguing that the Board erroneously construed the term “interactive user interface,” erred in its application of the printed matter doctrine, and erred in its anticipation and obviousness analysis.

The Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s claim construction, finding IOEngine had forfeited its proposed construction because it did not present it to the Board during the IPR proceeding. Likewise, the Court affirmed the Board’s unpatentability determination of anticipation and obviousness for those claims where the Board did not invoke the printed matter doctrine.

However, the Federal Circuit reversed the Board’s determination that the recitations “encrypted communications” and “program code” were entitled to no weight under the printed matter doctrine.

The Federal Circuit explained that courts use a two-step test to determine whether a recitation should be accorded patentable weight under the printed matter doctrine. First, a court should determine “whether the limitation in question is directed toward printed matter.” Under step one, a limitation should be considered printed matter when the limitation “claims the content of information,” meaning that “the matter [is] claimed for what it communicates.” Only if the first step is met should the court proceed to step two. In the second step, the court considers “whether the printed matter nevertheless should be given patentable [...]

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“Common Sense” Governs Tribal Sovereign Immunity Under Federal Contracting Program

The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded a district court’s ruling, holding that waiver of sovereign immunity for claims related to a federal contracting program means the defendant, a sovereign Indian tribe, can be sued and that the district court failed to consider the valid and enforceable nature of the forum. AQuate II, LLC v. Jessica Tedrick Myers and Kituwah Global Gov’t Group, LLC, Case No. 22-12669 (11th Cir. May 1, 2024) (Grant, Abudu, Hull, JJ.)

AQuate II is a business organized under the authority of the Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town. Kituwah Services is organized under the authority of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Both tribal entities compete for and perform federal contracts under the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Business Development program, which was created to help qualifying small businesses that are owned/controlled by “socially and economically disadvantaged” individuals/groups compete for federal procurement contracts. Jessica Myers, a former AQuate II employee, took a job as the director of administration for Kituwah and allegedly violated her confidentiality commitments by taking copies of contracts, proposals, personnel lists and other secret information. Myers also allegedly contacted her former colleagues at AQuate II to solicit information regarding bids for a federal contract and provided job offers to AQuate II employees contingent upon Kituwah winning the federal contract. AQuate II sued in federal district court, alleging that Myers breached her employment agreements and that she and Kituwah violated both the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 and the Alabama Trade Secrets Act. (18 U.S.C. § 1836; Ala. Code § 8-27-1 et seq.) AQuate II requested a preliminary injunction, and Kituwah and Myers moved to dismiss.

Enrollment in the 8(a) program requires qualifying businesses to agree to “sue and be sued” in US federal courts for “all matters relating to” the Small Business Administration, including its 8(a) program and related participation, loans and contract performance. (13 C.F.R. § 124.109(c)(1).) Kituwah invoked sovereign immunity and claimed it was not subject to suit in federal district court. AQuate II argued that Kituwah had waived its sovereign immunity with respect to claims relating to Kituwah’s participation in the 8(a) program. The district court granted the motion to dismiss, holding that Kituwah had not waived sovereign immunity for the trade secrets claims because AQuate II’s lawsuit did not “relate to” participation in the 8(a) program. The district court dismissed the same claims against Myers, finding that Kituwah was a necessary and indispensable party under Rule 19. Lastly, the district court dismissed the remaining breach of contract claim against Myers under forum non conveniens, concluding that the dispute resolution policy required that the claim be resolved in the Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town court. The district court denied AQuate II’s motion for reconsideration, and AQuate II appealed.

The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded, noting that under 1998 Supreme Court precedent, Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma v. Mfg. Techs., “an Indian tribe is subject to suit only where Congress has authorized the suit, or the tribe has waived its immunity.” [...]

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When Is It Really Over? If Additional Proceedings Are Needed, Judgment Is Not Final

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, factually distinguishing the concept of finality in this case from its earlier decision in Fresenius USA v. Baxter Int’l, vacated and remanded a district court’s amended final judgment with instructions to dismiss the case as moot in view of parallel proceedings that had found all patent claims invalid. Packet Intelligence LLC v. NetScout Systems, Inc., Case No. 22-2064 (Fed. Cir. May 2, 2024) (Lourie, Hughes, Stark, JJ.)

This dispute was originally before the Federal Circuit in 2020 when NetScout appealed a district court’s judgment that it willfully infringed multiple patents and that none of the patent claims were shown to be unpatentable or invalid. NetScout also appealed the district court’s damages award, which included enhancements. In the first appeal, the Federal Circuit reversed the damages award, vacated the enhanced damages and affirmed the remainder of the decision (Packet I). While the case was on remand to the district court, the Patent Trial & Appeal Board issued final written decisions in a series of inter partes reviews (IPRs) that had been initiated by third parties, finding all claims to be unpatentable as obvious. Packet appealed the Board’s decisions to the Federal Circuit. The district court issued an amended decision on May 4, 2022, after the Federal Circuit’s first decision remanding the case and after the Board’s final written decisions in the IPRs.

NetScout appealed again, arguing that if the Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s findings invalidating the patents at issue, then the claims at issue in the litigation would all be unpatentable, which would trigger an immediate issue preclusion that would leave Packet unable to collect on any outstanding monetary damages awarded by the district court. Therefore, the question before the Federal Circuit was whether the decision in Packet I rendered the case sufficiently final such that it would be immune to the Board’s subsequent determination of unpatentability.

The Federal Circuit determined that Packet’s infringement judgment was not final before the Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s unpatentability judgments. The Court discussed its prior decisions on finality, focusing on its 2013 decision in Fresenius in which the Court considered a different concept of finality. In Fresenius, the Court explained that the finality at issue was not the potential res judicata effect on another litigation. Rather, Fresenius was concerned with “whether the judgment in this infringement case is sufficiently final so that it is immune to the effect of the final judgment in the PTO proceedings, as affirmed by this court.” The Federal Circuit stated that in accordance with this concept of finality (also the one at issue in NetScout’s appeal), a litigation is sufficiently final when it is “entirely concluded” so that the cause of action is merged into a final judgment and the final judgment leaves nothing for the court to do but execute the judgment.

Applying this standard to the facts of the case at issue, the Federal Circuit found that Packet’s cause of action remained pending and [...]

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Foreign Sales to Foreign Customers Are Not Actionable Under the Lanham Act

Issuing a revised opinion following the Supreme Court’s 2023 decision in Abitron Austria GmbH v. Hetronic Int’l, Inc., the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit determined that none of the defendant’s purely foreign sales to foreign customers can premise liability for the plaintiff’s Lanham Act claims and that any permanent injunction issued against the defendant cannot extend beyond qualifying domestic conduct. Hetronic International, Inc. v. Hetronic Germany GmbH; Hydronic-Steuersysteme GmbH; ABI Holding GmbH; Abitron Germany GmbH; Abitron Austria GmbH; Albert Fuchs, Case Nos. 20-6057; -6100 (10th Cir. Apr. 23, 2024) (Murphy, McHugh, Phillips, JJ.)

Hetronic is a US company that manufactures radio remote controls for heavy-duty construction equipment. Hetronic sued its foreign distributors and licensees (collectively, Abitron) in the US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma for trademark infringement when, following termination of the Hetronic distribution and license agreements, Abitron reverse-engineered Hetronic’s products and began manufacturing and selling their own copycat products bearing Hetronic’s trade dress (a “distinctive black-and-yellow color scheme”). Abitron’s sales of the copycat products took place primarily in Europe. In the first rounds of this dispute, the district court rejected Abitron’s argument that Hetronic sought an impermissible extraterritorial application of the Lanham Act, and a jury awarded Hetronic $96 million in damages related to Abitron’s global use of Hetronic’s marks. Abitron was also permanently enjoined from using the marks anywhere in the world. Abitron appealed to the Tenth Circuit.

As a matter of first impression, the Tenth Circuit fashioned its own test to determine the extraterritoriality of the Lanham Act, upholding the district court’s ruling but narrowing the injunction to only the countries where Hetronic marketed or sold its products. Abitron appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve a circuit split over the Lanham Act’s extraterritorial reach. Specifically, the Supreme Court was asked to decide whether the Lanham Act applies to “purely foreign sales that never reached the United States or confused U.S. customers” and considered its long-standing presumption against extraterritoriality, with the first step of its analysis consisting of asking whether Congress has “affirmatively and unmistakably instructed” that a particular statute “should apply to foreign conduct.” As the second step, the Supreme Court determined whether a claim seeks a permissible domestic or impermissible foreign application of a statute.

The Supreme Court held that Sections 32(1)(a) and 43(a)(1)(A) of the Lanham Act are not extraterritorial and that the infringing conduct – being “use in commerce” of a trademark – determines the dividing line between foreign and domestic application of the Lanham Act. The Supreme Court vacated the Tenth Circuit’s findings and remanded for further proceedings, instructing the Tenth Circuit to reevaluate which of Abitron’s allegedly infringing activities count as use in commerce under the Supreme Court’s exterritoriality frameworks and to determine on which side of the dividing line Abitron’s conduct falls.

With the Supreme Court having already determined step one, on remand, the Tenth Circuit started with step two of the extraterritoriality analysis and found [...]

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Standing Ovation…Denied!

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed a district court’s decision in a patent dispute for a lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the plaintiff lacked constitutional and statutory standing. Intellectual Tech LLC v. Zebra Technologies Corporation, Case No. 22-2207 (Fed. Cir. May 1, 2024) (Prost, Taranto, Hughes, JJ.)

In 2011, OnAsset granted Main Street Capital a security interest in a patent owned by OnAsset. In 2013, Main Street notified OnAsset that it was in default and, in 2017, OnAsset and Main Street entered into a forbearance agreement. Around the same time, Intellectual Tech was formed as a subsidiary of OnAsset and was assigned the patent in which Main Street had security interest. Intellectual Tech entered into its own patent security interest agreement with Main Street. Later, like OnAssett, Intellectual Tech defaulted.

Intellectual Tech sued Zebra Technologies for patent infringement, asserting the patent that was the subject to the security interest. Zebra moved to dismiss for lack of standing since Intellectual Tech had defaulted with respect to the Main Street security interest agreement. The district court denied Zebra’s motion, affirming Intellectual Tech’s ownership over the patent and its right to enforce it against Zebra. Zebra argued that Main Street gained exclusive rights over the patent when OnAsset defaulted back in 2013. The district court disagreed but nevertheless granted Zebra’s motion regarding constitutional standing, concluding that Main Street still had a right to grant a license to the patent to Zebra. Despite Intellectual Tech’s efforts to cure the standing defect by joining Main Street to the lawsuit, the district court deemed it incurable and dismissed Intellectual Tech’s claims without prejudice. Intellectual Tech appealed.

The Federal Circuit reversed, determining that Intellectual Tech had an exclusionary right in the patent when it filed a complaint against Zebra. Zebra contended that Main Street’s authority to license the patent, as per the forbearance agreement, stripped Intellectual Tech of all exclusionary rights. Zebra presented two licensing-related arguments: Main Street’s exclusive licensing ability upon default nullified Intellectual Tech’s exclusionary rights, and even if both Main Street and Intellectual Tech could license upon default, Main Street’s nonexclusive capability still deprived Intellectual Tech of its rights.

The Federal Circuit disagreed, finding that the forbearance agreement did not suggest that, without further action from Main Street, the mere activation of Main Street’s options automatically divested Intellectual Tech of its rights. By rejecting this exclusive-rights contention, the Court did not evaluate whether Intellectual Tech would maintain constitutional standing under the interpretation.

The Federal Circuit distinguished exclusive and nonexclusive licensing contexts in explaining why the jurisprudence cited by Zebra (the Federal Circuit’s 2010 decision in WiAV Sols. LLC v. Motorola, Inc.) did not control. According to the Court, this differentiation underscored the importance of distinguishing between patent owners and licensees, as ownership typically entails baseline exclusionary rights, contrasting with a licensee’s limited freedom from suit.

Moreover, the Federal Circuit’s analysis also underscored the necessity to assess patent agreements thoroughly, particularly regarding assignment clauses. Zebra argued that Main Street’s option [...]

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It May Be a Hairy Situation, but Detailed Declaration Sufficient Evidence of Prior Use

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the Patent Trial & Appeal Board’s refusal to register a mark, finding that an unchallenged, detailed declaration by the opposing company’s director sufficed as substantial evidence of prior use. Jalmar Araujo v. Framboise Holdings, Inc., Case No. 23-1142 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 30, 2024) (Lourie, Linn, Stoll, JJ.)

On December 3, 2019, Jalmar Araujo filed an application to register #TODECACHO as a standard character mark for hair combs. Framboise Holdings filed an opposition on the grounds that Araujo’s mark would likely cause confusion with its #TODECACHO design mark (below).

Framboise Holdings alleged that it owned the mark based on its prior use of it in connection with various hair products since March 24, 2017. Framboise also filed its own application for registration of its design mark on April 14, 2020, claiming the same date of first use.

On October 18, 2021, the final day on which Framboise could submit its case in chief to the Board, it moved for a seven-day extension. Four days after filing the motion, it served Araujo with the declaration of Framboise Director Adrian Extrakt. Although it was the testimony of a single interested party, the Board found Extrakt’s declaration alone to be convincing evidence of prior use. His declaration provided a list of products and dates of first use, as well as examples of the mark displayed on products in stores. After the Board sustained the opposition, Araujo appealed.

Araujo argued that the Board abused its discretion in granting Framboise an extension of the trial period, and that the Board’s finding that Framboise established prior use of the #TODECACHO design mark was not supported by substantial evidence. The Federal Circuit disagreed.

The Federal Circuit concluded that the Board had not abused its discretion in granting Framboise an extension because it identified and applied the correct good cause standard and “reasonably found good cause to grant the extension.” The Court also found that the Board was correct in finding that Extrakt’s declaration alone was sufficient evidence to support a priority date of March 24, 2017, based on evidence of the design mark’s use in connection with various hair products. The Court noted that the declaration did not simply consist of “naked general assertions of prior use,” but contained evidence. Araujo neither deposed Extrakt nor offered any evidence to dispute his claims. Hence, Extrakt’s declaration sufficed to meet the applicable preponderance of the evidence standard.

Practice Note: Oral or written testimony, even when offered by an interested party, can establish priority of use in a trademark proceeding if it is sufficiently detailed, is supported by exhibits and is convincing.




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A Lesson in Laches: You Waited Too Long to Start Your Kar

After the district court, on remand, held that laches did not bar relief, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit again determined that the district court abused its discretion by not properly applying the presumption in favor of laches and issued an order to vacate and remand with instructions to dismiss a charity’s trademark infringement claims with prejudice. Kars 4 Kids Inc. v. America Can!, Case Nos. 23-1273; -1281 (3rd Cir. Apr. 17, 2024) (Bibas, Porter, Fisher, JJ.)

Kars 4 Kids and America Can! Cars for Kids are charities that sell donated vehicles to fund children’s education programs and have been engaged in a trademark dispute since 2003. Both parties have alleged federal and state trademark infringement, unfair competition and trademark dilution over their respective KARS 4 KIDS and CARS FOR KIDS trademarks. The parties were last before the Third Circuit in 2021, when the Court held that America Can was first to use its CARS FOR KIDS trademark in Texas, and Kars 4 Kids waived any challenge to the validity of America Can’s marks. In that 2021 decision, the Third Circuit also vacated the district court judgment in part and remanded the case for the district court to reexamine its laches and disgorgement conclusions, which had been decided in favor of America Can.

The Lanham Act does not contain a statute of limitations. Instead, it subjects all claims to the principles of equity. To determine whether laches bars a claim, a court considers two elements: whether the plaintiff inexcusably delayed in bringing suit, and whether the defendant was prejudiced as a result of the delay. With respect to the burden of proof for the laches claim at issue, America Can and Kars 4 Kids agreed that their Lanham Act claims were properly analogous to New Jersey’s six-year fraud statute. Therefore, because America Can first discovered the Kars 4 Kids trademark in Texas in 2003 and did not bring counterclaims until 2015, America Can was subject to a presumption that its claims were barred by laches unless it was able to prove both that its delay in filing suit was excusable and that it did not prejudice Kars 4 Kids.

On the issue of delay, the Third Circuit found that the district court erred because it did not find that America Can met its burden of establishing that its delay in bringing suit was excusable and that a reasonable person in its shoes would have waited to file suit. Instead, the district court improperly placed the burden on Kars 4 Kids to establish whether its advertisements in Texas were viewed by a sufficient number of Texans so as to put America Can on notice. As the Third Circuit explained, this was error. The district court should have held America Can to the burden of persuasion to show that it was not sufficiently aware of Kars 4 Kids’s use of its mark in Texas and to show what it did to identify and stop any potentially [...]

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Hot Mess? Second Circuit Douses Injunction Based on Weak Mark

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed a district court’s grant of preliminary injunction for abuse of discretion based on an erroneous evaluation of the strength of the “inherently descriptive” marks at issue. City of New York v. Henriquez, Case No. 23-325 (2d Cir. Apr. 16, 2024) (Livingston, CJ; Walker, Carney, JJ.)

Juan Henriquez is a first responder with the Fire Department of New York (FDNY). Henriquez began organizing what he called “medical special operations conferences” (MSOCs) around the United States. In New York, he partnered with the FDNY. Six years into organizing with the FDNY, the relationship soured. Henriquez then applied to register “Medical Special Operations Conference” as a trademark. The US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) rejected his application on the basis that the mark was merely descriptive. Henriquez amended his application under § 2(f) of the Lanham Act, which allows registration of descriptive marks that have been used on a “substantially exclusive and continuous basis” for at least five years. The PTO agreed to register his mark.

The FDNY and the City of New York brought suit, seeking to cancel Henriquez’s trademark. Henriquez counterclaimed for trademark infringement of his registered “Medical Special Operations Conference” mark and the related unregistered mark “MSOC”. The district court granted Henriquez a preliminary injunction and barred the FDNY from using “medical,” “special” and “operations” in its branding. The FDNY appealed.

The FDNY raised two issues on appeal: did the district court abuse its discretion by enjoining the FDNY’s use of the marks, and alternatively, did the district court grant an “overbroad” injunction?

The Second Circuit agreed with the FDNY on the first injunction issue and therefore did not reach the second.

The Second Circuit requires analysis of the eight “likelihood of confusion” factors under Polaroid when considering a preliminary injunction. While no one factor is dispositive, the strength of a mark “is especially important,” and therefore the Court is “reluctant to affirm any preliminary injunction founded upon an erroneous strength analysis.”

The Second Circuit found three “missteps” that led the district court to commit legal error by improperly categorizing Henriquez’s two marks as “at least strongly suggestive,” when in fact the marks were inherently descriptive.

First, the Second Circuit explained that the district court did not properly consider Henriquez’s past concessions about his marks. Henriquez registered his mark under § 2(f) of the Lanham Act – conceding descriptiveness. Henriquez also argued to the district court that both of his marks were valid based on secondary meaning, which is only necessary for descriptive marks. Because “[w]hat parties say about their marks matters,” the district court was wrong to ignore admissions of descriptiveness.

Second, the Second Circuit found that the district court did not properly consider the PTO’s characterization of the marks as descriptive. Courts should “accord great weight to the PTO’s conclusions” and only decline to follow those conclusions “for compelling reasons.” The Court noted that the PTO initially rejected Henriquez’s application and only granted registration under § 2(f), which [...]

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