Articles Posted in Intellectual Property

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Artistry, a jewelry wholesaler, sells its products to retailers across the country. Sterling is the largest specialty jewelry retailer in the country. It operates in all 50 States in roughly 1,300 stores, including Kay Jewelers and Jared. Sterling began marketing a line of jewelry under the name “Artistry Diamond Collection.” Artistry accused Sterling of infringing its trademark. The district court granted Sterling summary judgment, concluding that its mark was not likely to confuse consumers in the distinct market in which it operated. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The word “artistry,” like the word “artisan,” is not an innovation when it comes to craft goods and is not likely to distinguish one product from another. The evidence suggested that at least 23 other jewelry companies used the word in some way, which diminishes the likelihood that a consumer who comes across Artistry, Ltd.’s name would think of Kay’s Artistry Diamond Collection and become confused. The companies use the marks differently: one to brand products and the other to brand a company and the wholesale services it provides. The court also noted the distinct nature of the consumers targeted by each company’s set of products. View "Sterling Jewelers, Inc. v. Artistry Ltd." on Justia Law

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More than 95% of the world’s bourbon comes from Kentucky. One distiller, Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr., was called “the most remarkable man to enter the whiskey industry during the post-Civil War years.” Taylor built the Old Taylor Distillery in 1887 in Woodford County, to resemble a medieval limestone castle. The distillery fell into financial ruin and changed hands several times after the Colonel’s death. Production ceased in 1972. In 2014, Peristyle purchased the Old Taylor distillery, planning to renovate and resume bourbon production there. Peristyle renamed the property “Castle & Key” and intends to do business under that name, including marketing its bourbons and whiskeys. During the renovation period, the company regularly referred to its location at “the Former Old Taylor Distillery” or simply “Old Taylor.” Sazerac, which owns the trademark rights to “Old Taylor” and “Colonel E.H. Taylor” and produces bourbons under both names, sued Peristyle, alleging trademark infringement, unfair competition, and false advertising under the Lanham Act as well as common law trademark infringement, unfair competition, and passing-off violations. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Peristyle, which used the Old Taylor name descriptively and in good faith, qualifying for shelter under the Lanham Act’s fair use defense, 15 U.S.C. 1115(b)(4). View "Sazerac Brands, LLC v. Peristyle, LLC" on Justia Law

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Leapers makes rifle scopes, textured with “knurling,” allowing users to grip the products more easily and to make fine-tuned adjustments. Knurling can be found on many items, including door handles, coin edges, and bottle lids. Leapers asserts that its unique knurling pattern is distinctly “ornamental” and allows consumers to recognize Leapers as the item's source. Leapers had an exclusive manufacturing contract with the Nantong factory in China, which agreed to never disclose information related to the products. Leapers ended that relationship. The factory agreed to stop using technical specifications, product design and packaging design documents related to Leaper and to destroy parts, accessories, and attachments related to Leaper’s products. Factory manager Shi formed a company (Trarms) and began selling rifle scopes and manufacturing rifle scopes for other sellers, including Defendant. Leaper’s sued, alleging trade dress infringement of the knurling design under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 105. Shi refused to testify, asserting the Fifth Amendment. Trarms refused to provide an alternate witness. The court granted Defendant summary judgment, reasoning that Leapers could not prove essential elements: nonfunctionality and secondary meaning, regardless of Shi 's testimony. The Sixth Circuit vacated. A jury could reasonably conclude that the design is purely ornamental and nonfunctional; that it does not represent a technological advancement; and that exclusive use of Leaper’s design would not put competitors at a significant, non-reputation related disadvantage. View "Leapers, Inc. v. SMTS, LLC" on Justia Law

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Tawas, Michigan hosts an annual festival called “Perchville.” Its Chamber of Commerce obtained federal trademark registration for the term “Perchville,” in 2003. Trading Post allegedly was selling merchandise depicting the term “Perchville.” The Chamber filed suit against Agnello, a Trading Post employee, and obtained an ex parte injunctive order prohibiting sales of t-shirts with the mark, which stated: “this order shall be binding upon the parties to this action, their officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys and on those persons in active concert or participation with them who receive actual notice of this order by personal service [or] otherwise.” Agnello appeared at a hearing without an attorney, indicated that he had spoken to Trading Post's partial owner about the lawsuit, but repeatedly stated that he was confused. Agnello consented to a permanent injunction. The judge stated that the order would be binding on anyone acting in concert with Agnello. Trading Post filed suit, challenging the Chamber’s trademark of “Perchville.” The district court found the challenge barred by res judicata because a final determination on the merits occurred in the state court. The Sixth Circuit reversed. There may be circumstances when an employee’s interests are so aligned with his employer as to be in privity for purposes of res judicata, that was not true here. Agnello was an hourly employee given a few days’ notice of an injunction. View "AuSable River Trading Post, LLC v. Dovetail Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law

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Sixth Circuit finds little likelihood of confusion between the trademarks “OrderLink” and “UPS OrderLink.” Progressive, located in Michigan, provides logistical services to online businesses. Under the trademark “OrderLink,” Progressive develops clients’ websites and handles deliveries. Progressive registered the OrderLink trademark in 2004, but alleges that it has used the mark for at least 19 years and spent $2.5 million dollars advertising the mark. UPS also serves small volume shippers who operate businesses on Amazon and eBay. In 2012, UPS developed a new interface to enable those customers to import their orders directly into UPS’s shipping application. UPS initially concluded that the name “orderlink” was not available, but determined that the terms “order” and “link” were commonly used together by other companies. UPS concluded that Progressive’s services differed substantially from tits application UPS and chose the name “UPS OrderLink.” Its USPTO application was rejected based on a likelihood of confusion with Progressive’s mark. Nonetheless, UPS launched UPS OrderLink as a free service, accessible only through UPS’s website. Progressive sent a cease-and-desist letter. UPS changed the name of its service to “Ship Marketplace Orders.” Progressive alleged violations of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1051, the Michigan Consumer Protection Act, and the common law. The district court granted UPS summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The balance of eight factors, particularly the strength of the mark and the similarity of the marks, indicate little likelihood of customer confusion. View "Progressive Distribution Services, Inc. v. United Parcel Service, Inc." on Justia Law

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Kibler, a disc jockey, uses turntables and others’ vocals to produce music containing jazz and funk elements. He released several albums under the name “DJ LOGIC” since 1999, but currently has no record deal. Kibler registered “DJ LOGIC” as a trademark in 2000, allowed the registration to lapse, and re-registered it in 2013. He has also been known as “LOGIC.” Hall has performed under the name “LOGIC” since 2009. In 2012, Kibler’s attorney sent Hall’s management company and booking agent an email ordering them to stop using the name “LOGIC” and to recall any product or advertisement that did, claiming infringement on Kibler’s mark. Hall’s company applied to register “LOGIC” as a trademark. Kibler sued, alleging trademark infringement, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a); breach of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act; unfair competition under Michigan law; and trademark dilution under the Lanham Act. In 2014, defendants delayed Hall’s tour and first album release due to ongoing settlement negotiations that ultimately collapsed. Defendants then released the album, which sold over 170,000 copies. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Kibler did not provide evidence sufficient to find that relevant consumers are likely to confuse the sources of his and Hall’s products or that Hall diluted Kibler’s mark. View "Kibler v. Hall" on Justia Law

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Albert Brumley, author of the gospel song “I’ll Fly Away,” assigned the song’s 1932 copyright to a company. The company subsequently became the property of his son, Robert. Albert died in 1977. Albert’s widow also executed an assignment to Robert. During the term of a copyright, an author may use, assign, sell, or license the copyright, 17 U.S.C. 201(d), but songwriters and their descendants may terminate the songwriter’s assignment of a copyright to another party, Sections 203, 304(c). In 2008, four of Brumley’s six children filed notice to terminate the assignment to their brother, Robert. The copyright was then generating about $300,000 per year. The district court and Sixth Circuit affirmed their right to terminate the assignment, rejecting arguments that the song was a “work made for hire,” which is not eligible for termination, 17 U.S.C. 304(c); and that Albert’s widow relinquished any termination rights. View "Brumley v. Brumley & Sons, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 1969, the Flynt brothers opened “Hustler Club” nightclub, in Cincinnati. Larry later created the Hustler conglomerate, producing sexually explicit magazines. Jimmy opened his retail store, Hustler Cincinnati, in 2000, using the “HUSTLER” trademark (owned by Larry’s corporation) and began paying licensing in 2004. Jimmy and Larry had a falling out. Larry's Hustler fired Jimmy in 2009. Jimmy’s Hustler stopped paying fees, but continued to use the mark. Larry sued. The court enjoined Jimmy from “using in commerce any HUSTLER trademark” and “using any trademark or any variation thereof owned by” Larry or his corporations. Later, Larry complained that Jimmy had opened a new store in Florence, Kentucky, “FLYNT Sexy Gifts.” The court denied the contempt motion because the injunction did not directly prohibit Jimmy’s conduct. but modified the injunction, reasoning that Jimmy’s use of “FLYNT Sexy Gifts” was “likely to cause confusion with the LARRY FLYNT trademark.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed a modification that prohibits Jimmy from “[u]sing the name ‘Flynt’ in connection with the sale, promotion or advertising of adult entertainment products or services unless it is accompanied by the first name ‘Jimmy’ in the same font size, color, and style and on the same background color,” and required Jimmy, when using the name “Flynt” anywhere except on “store signage,” to incorporate “a conspicuous disclaimer stating that the goods or services are not ‘sponsored, endorsed by, or affiliated with Larry Flynt or Hustler, or any business enterprise owned or controlled by Larry Flynt.’” View "LFP IP, LLC v. Hustler Cincinnati, Inc." on Justia Law

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Allied, founded in 1973 by Ramun, competes with Genesis in the field of industrial dismantling and scrap processing, including the design, development, and manufacture of related specialized equipment. From 1992-2001, Ramun’s son Mark worked at Allied. By 1999, Allied developed innovative multi-use demolition machine attachments, called MT. Various sizes and types of jawsets, including a steel beam cutter and a concrete crusher, were available, allowing the MT operator to perform different tasks with just one tool. The jawset could be changed without removing the main pin, saving time and enhancing productivity. Mark had detailed information regarding the design and function of the attachment, which was highly confidential. In 2001 Mark left Allied, taking a laptop containing 15,000 pages of Allied documents, including detailed technical information about the MT. Mark joined Genesis in 2003. Genesis later released its own multiuse tool. Genesis brought trade secret claims, based on similarity to the MT. A jury rendered a verdict in favor of Allied. The court awarded damages but refused to enter an injunction. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of a subsequent suit under the Ohio Uniform Trade Secrets Act, alleging misappropriation after that verdict, citing issue preclusion. View "Allied Erecting & Dismantling Co. Inc. v. Genesis Equip. & Mfg., Inc." on Justia Law

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Varsity manufactures cheerleading and athletic apparel. Its designers sketch concepts: “original combinations, positionings, and arrangements of elements which include V’s (chevrons), lines, curves, stripes, angles, diagonals, inverted V’s, coloring, and shapes,” but do not consider functionality or the ease of actually producing a uniform. Varsity decides whether to implement the completed design concept. Varsity advertises in catalogs and online, inviting customers to choose a design concept before selecting the shape, colors, and braiding for the uniform. Varsity received copyright registration for “two-dimensional artwork” for some designs. Star sells sports and cheerleading uniforms and advertised cheerleading uniforms that looked similar to five of Varsity’s registered designs. Varsity sued, alleging violation of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101. The court entered summary judgment in Star’s favor, concluding that Varsity’s designs were not copyrightable because their graphic elements are not physically or conceptually separable from the utilitarian function of a uniform because the “colors, stripes, chevrons, and similar designs” make the garment “recognizable as a cheerleading uniform.” The court did not address whether Varsity’s designs were unprotectable as unoriginal. The Sixth circuit reversed, finding that the graphic features of Varsity’s designs are more like fabric design than dress design, and are protectable subject matter under the Copyright Act View "Varsity Brands, Inc. v. Star Athletica, LLC" on Justia Law