Search results: "patent" (page 2 of 3)

UDRP loser did not commit fraud on USPTO by saying it was exclusive user of mark

Salu, Inc. v. Original Skin Store, Slip Copy, 2010 WL 1444617 (E.D.Cal. April 12, 2010)

This is kind of a wonky trademark/domain name case. So if that’s not in your wheelhouse, don’t strain yourself.

Plaintiff sued defendant for infringement of plaintiff’s registered trademark. Defendant moved for summary judgment, claiming that the asserted trademark registration was obtained by fraud on the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Specifically, defendant argued that plaintiff misrepresented when it told the USPTO that its SKINSTORE mark had “acquired distinctiveness” (i.e., was not merely descriptive of the goods and servcies) by means of “substantially exclusive” use in commerce.

The court denied the motion for summary judgment.

Defendant had argued that plaintiff committed fraud by saying its use was exclusive. It pointed to a case under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) that the plaintiff had brought against the user of the domain name eskinstore.com. The WIPO panel in that case refused to find a clear case of cybersquatting.

In this case, defendant argued that plaintiff’s earlier unsuccessful UDRP challenge to a similar mark showed there were third parties using the mark and therefore the claim of exclusivity was fraudulent.

The court rejected this argument, noting that the plaintiff had undertaken significant efforts to protect its exclusive rights in the trademark. (It had sent out an astounding 300 cease and desist letters in the past couple of years alone!)

Moreover, and more importantly, the court noted that the WIPO panel hearing the UDRP complaint specifically declined to determine cybersquatting had occurred, finding it to be a question of infringement better addressed by the United States courts.

A look at some keyword cases and a PPC class action suit

Court orders use of “negative keywords”

Orion Bancorp, Inc. v. Orion Residential Finance, LLC, No. 07-1753, 2008 WL 816794 (M.D. Fla., March 25, 2008)

Plaintiff Orion Bancorp, Inc. is a bank operating under the ORION name and registered trademark since 2002. Defendant Orion Residential Finance, LLC provides financial and real estate related services, and used the term “Orion” in interstate advertising and in the domain name “orionresidentialfinance.com” without Orion Bancorp’s authorization or consent.

The court entered an agreed permanent injunction, ordering Orion Residential Finance to refrain from any and all use of the term “Orion”. The defendant was prohibited from purchasing the word “Orion” as a keyword to trigger sponsored advertising. Moreover, it was required to activate “Orion” as a “negative keyword” (specifically preventing Orion Residential Finance’s ads from appearing when one searches using the terms “Orion”).

N.D. Cal.: Competitor’s trademark as keyword causes initial interest confusion

Storus Corp. v. Aroa Marketing Inc., 2008 WL 449835 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 15, 2008).

Plaintiff Storus Corporation (“Storus”) sued Defendants Aroa Marketing, Inc. (“Aroa”) and Skymall, Inc. (“Skymall”) for trademark infringement based on the defendants’ use of Storus’ mark “Smart Money Clip” to trigger sponsored listings. Storus sells its patented Smart Money Clip, and Aroa sold competing products under its Steinhausen mark which were marketed as the “Smart Money Clip”. Aroa tried unsuccessfully to argue that Storus’ mark was a descriptive term not entitled to protection (but offered no evidence of lack of secondary meaning, i.e., it did not prove consumers do not think of Storus when they see the Smart Money Clip mark).

The Court found that Aroa’s use of Storus’ mark in the sponsored ad caused initial interest confusion. In 11 months, the ad was displayed 36,164 times in response to a search for “smart money clip,” resulting in 1,374 clicks on Aroa’s ad. The court found that the marks were identical, were used on the same type of product, and were marketed via the Internet. (Even though Aroa’s mark appeared in the ad, Storus’ mark appeared first, was larger, and was underlined).

11th Circuit: Competitor’s Trademark as Keyword Likely to Cause Confusion

North American Medical Corp. v. Axiom Worldwide, Inc., 2008 WL 918411 (11th Cir. April 7, 2008)

Eric Goldman has a thorough report on his Technology & Marketing Law Blog of a case where the defendant’s use of the plaintiff’s ACCU-SPINA and IDD THERAPY trademarks in metatags constituted use in commerce, and thus trademark infringement where a Google search listed the defendant as the second most relevant organic search result (below the plaintiff). In a footnote, the court did hint that if the defendant’s website included an explicit comparative advertisement, things might have come out differently.

Possible Class Action Suit against Google and PPC Groups

Finally, Sarah Bird reports on SEOmoz.org that a class action trademark and ACPA lawsuit against Google and other domain parking agencies will move ahead. (Goolge’s adsense program contributes to the pay-per-click links on “parked”, i.e., recently acquired, or tasted domain names). The Plaintiff’s are seeking to hold them liable for these PPC links which may offer competing goods. Though for Google’s part, it notes on its FAQ that it is not responsible for the domain names on which its adsense ads appear, it seems disingenuous to suggest that their algorithms are not behind the PPC links that appear. Google’s method for trademark owners to object to sponsored links places the burden for policing this practice on mark owners.

Apple vs. the Big Apple charity over apple-shaped logos

Apple, Inc. is seeing red over New York City’s attempts to register a trademark for green-friendly services, and the dispute challenges one of Apple’s trademark registrations for its ubiquitous logo.

Apple comparison

Apple has filed an Opposition (No. 91/181,984) with the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board against NYC & Company, Inc.’s attempts to register the “Infinite Loop Apple” design mark (shown above at left). Apple asserts that use of NYC’s mark would likely cause confusion with Apple’s famous logo (shown at right) especially given the presence of Apple’s flagship Manhattan retail location.

NYC’s application states the mark is to be used for, among other things, promoting “education on environmentally friendly policies and practices of the City of New York” (See Application Nos. 77/179,942 and 77/179,968). Apple claims that confusion would be likely because of the similarities in appearance and commercial impression between the marks, and because certain of the goods and services recited by NYC are identical or highly related to goods and services offered under the Apple mark.

NYC answered the Notice of Opposition and filed a Counterclaim seeking to cancel Apple’s registration for the logo as used in connection with “mugs, dishes, drinking glasses, and wine glasses.” NYC claims that Apple procured the registration through fraud, because it knowingly misrepresented that it was using the mark in connection with those goods on its Declaration of Use and Renewal Application under sections 8 & 9 of the Trademark Act, when it fact no such use was being made. If the Board finds such fraud, Apple faces cancellation of its entire registration for those goods. Fraud has been a recurring issue before the TTAB of late, as evidenced by this recent post from John Welch’s TTABlog.

Apple, of course, denies the allegations of fraud. In any event, if the cancellation is successful, Apple’s most important marks (i.e., for computer hardware) would remain intact.

Time will tell whether Apple’s efforts to protect its mark will bear fruit. The company probably feels even more incentive to keep others from trading on its reputation and goodwill after hearing about this recent study, which found that people who see the Apple logo may feel more creative.

Blackberry and Twitter in a trademark tussle?

In April 2007, Twitter, Inc. filed application no. 77166246 to register the trademark TWITTER with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. (Twitter is the ever-more-popular tool that enables “friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?” It’s fun. You should try it if you’re not using it already. And you can start by following me.)

Anyway, in February the application reached the point where it was published for opposition. That means that any other trademark owner out there who feels it would be damaged by the TWITTER mark being registered can oppose the application in the Trademark Office.

On March 14, 2008, Research in Motion (of Blackberry fame) stepped up and requested an extention of time to oppose the TWITTER application. I ran a quick search for registered marks owned by Research in Motion (you can do that yourself here), but didn’t see anything close to “Twitter”. Can anyone think of an unregistered mark that RIM owns that is similar to TWITTER? Or any other reason why RIM would want to oppose this application? Comments are open, as they have been for some time.

Court rejects constitutional challenges to obscenity statutes in prosecution of adult website owner

U.S. v. Little, No. 07-170, 2008 WL 151875 (M.D. Fla. January 16, 2008)

The operator of the Max Hardcore website was indicted under 18 U.S.C. §§1462 and 1465 for distributing allegedly obscene video files which agents downloaded in Tampa, Florida. Max Hardcore moved to dismiss the indictment, raising a number of constitutional challenges to the prosecution. The court rejected each of the defendant’s arguments and denied the motion.

Statutes not facially unconstitutional

The court declined to accept the defendant’s argument that because of the evolving nature of substantive due process law, prior Supreme Court decisions upholding the federal obscenity statutes were no longer valid. It also refused the defendant’s argument that the constitutional right to privately posses obscene materials should translate into a corresponding right to distribute such material.

Statutes not unconstitutional as applied

The defendant also launched a couple of challenges to the application of the Miller test, set forth in the Supreme Court’s decision of Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15, 93 S.Ct. 2607 (1973). Under the Miller test, the finder of fact determines whether material is obscene by applying the following test: (a) Whether “the average person, applying contemporary community standards’” would find that the work taken as a whole, appeals to prurient interest; (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

Max Hardcore’s challenge to the Miller test dealt with the requirement that the works at issue be “taken as a whole.” The defendants argued that because of the interconnected nature of the Web, it would be impossible to know what the term “taken as a whole” means, and it would similarly be impossible to determine the community standards against which the works should be evaluated. At the very least, the defendant argued, the entire Max Hardcore site should be considered the work “taken as a whole,” and not just the individual video files.

With little analysis, the court sided with the government, holding that the individual files – and not the whole website – should be the works “taken as a whole.” And the court concluded that the absence of a universal community standard was okay. Citing to U.S. v. Bagnell, 679 F.2d 826 (11th Cir. 1982), it held that “[i]t is constitutionally permissible to subject defendants in obscenity prosecutions to varying community standards of the various judicial districts into which they transmit obscene material.”

Looking for a suit coat that coordinates with pajama pants

Below is an excerpt from a recent decision in the case of Ideal Instruments, Inc. v. Rivard Instruments, Inc., a patent case from the Northern District of Iowa. [— F.Supp.2d —-, 2007 WL 2296407 (N.D. Iowa, August 10, 2007)] In the future we’ll think it quaint that this deserved special mention in the court’s written opinion. But I’m sure clients will appreciate the cost savings. And imagine trying a federal case while telecommuting!

The court held the Markman hearing in this case on August 3, 2007. The Markman hearing in this case was the first instance in which this court has conducted a hearing using teleconferencing and “webcasts” of the parties’ presentations over the internet. The court and the parties found that this procedure was also extremely effective in both presenting the parties’ arguments and saving the parties substantial sums in attorney fees and travel costs.

***

Owing to the last minute notice by the plaintiff of a desire to present materials using PowerPoint via a webcast and some technical difficulties with working out the procedure to surrender “moderator” rights from one party to the other, the parties actually presented separate, simultaneous webcasts, one for the plaintiff’s presentation and one for the defendants’ presentation, instead of a single webcast. In fact, the parties used different webcast hosts in this case: one used Netspoke and the other used Webex. The court and the parties each logged in to both webcasts at the beginning of the conference call, then switched between them as the parties made their arguments. Although not as elegant a procedure as a single webcast would likely have been, the simultaneous webcasts procedure was very effective, eliminated the technical difficulties in the short time available, and proved quite workable. One “glitch” that occurred when the plaintiff “timed out” of the defendants’ webcast was quickly remedied by the plaintiff logging back in. The parties had also taken the precaution of providing the court and each other with copies of their presentation slides by e-mail prior to the hearing, so that even when the plaintiff temporarily lost the defendant’s webcast, the plaintiff was able to follow the defendant’s presentation by using the copy that the plaintiff had received. The court heartily recommends requiring such a backup procedure when using technology, whether new or tested and true, even though “Murphy’s Law” has not yet been codified into the United States Code.

No stay of action in PODFITNESS trademark case

Apple Computer, Inc. v. Podfitness, Inc., No. 06-5805, 2007 WL 1378020 (N.D. Cal. May 10, 2007)

Podfitness.com provides a service whereby users can download workout routines onto their iPods. When Podfitness filed trademark applications for PODFITNESS, PODFITNESS.COM, PODPOCKET, and PODWORKOUT with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Apple filed notices of opposition with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”), seeking to prevent the marks from registering. Apple also filed a federal lawsuit against Podfitness, alleging that the company’s “entire marketing strategy appears to consist of hitching its wagon to Apple’s star.”

Defendant Podfitness moved to stay the proceedings pending the outcome of the oppositions before the TTAB. The court denied the motion to stay.

Podfitness provided two arguments why a stay would be appropriate. First, it argued that since the question of likelihood of confusion would be central to all of Apple’s claims, the court should wait to see how the TTAB rules on that point. Second, Podfitness claimed that Apple has initiated numerous other oppositions before the TTAB seeking to preclude others from registering trademarks containing word combinations which include the term “POD,” and therefore a stay would further the interests of judicial economy because the TTAB’s decision would comprehensively adjudicate Apple’s right to preclude others from using POD-formative marks.

In denying the motion for a stay, the court looked to the doctrine of “primary jurisdiction.” Under this doctrine, a court should stay proceedings which are properly within the jurisdiction of, and are in fact presently under consideration by, an agency with extensive regulatory powers over the subject matter and the parties involved.

Podfitness argued that a stay of the action pending the TTAB’s decision would promote a uniform and efficient adjudication of the parties’ rights, while, at the same time, avoiding the potential for inconsistent judicial determinations concerning Apple’s rights to preclude others from using POD-formative marks. Apple countered that since the TTAB’s decision would only determine the registrability of Podfitness’s marks, the Court would still have to adjudicate its claims for trademark infringement, dilution, false advertising and unfair competition regardless of the substance of the TTAB’s determinations. Accordingly, Apple argued, a stay would only serve to delay the resolution of the issues, perhaps for years.

The court agreed with Apple’s arguments, observing that the TTAB would be incapable of resolving all of the issues between the parties. Granting a stay would only serve to postpone resolution of the issues, forcing the court to eventually adjudicate what would inevitably be stale factual claims. And in the interim, Podfitness would be able to continue its allegedly infringing activity unfettered.

So the benefit of prompt adjudication won out.

Blog Law & Blogging for Lawyers Seminar

I am quite honored to have been asked to speak at next week’s Blog Law & Blogging for Lawyers Seminar at the Pan Pacific Hotel in San Francisco. I will be speaking at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 20, 2006 on defamation liability for bloggers and blog commenters. How humbling it will be to share the stage with Professor Raymond Nimmer, who will discuss intellectual property ownership issues relating to blogging.

The two-day seminar will feature appearences from a number of true law-and-technology luminaries, among them Kurt Opsahl, Lauren Gelman, Mia Garlick, and Denise Howell. My friend Dennis Crouch of the Patently-O blog is a co-chair of the seminar, and I thank him for the opportunity to be a part of this very interesting event.

If you’re a reader of InternetCases.com and you plan on being there, be sure to say hello.

Harriet Miers on the law and technology

I’ll leave it to the likes of Chuck Schumer, Ted Kennedy and Russ Feingold to complain incessantly over the next few weeks about not knowing enough about Harriet Miers, President Bush’s most recent nominee to the Supreme Court.

A look over the cases in which Miers has been involved as an attorney is scant on the topic of the law as it relates to technology. However, a quick search reveals that Miers and her Dallas firm Locke Liddel & Sapp have represented such heavyweights as Microsoft and RealNetworks. Notable decisions in cases where Miers was among the counsel of record include:

Microsoft Corp. v. Manning, 914 S.W.2d 602 (Tex.App. 1995) – Microsoft lost an appeal of the lower court’s grant of class certification in an action alleging breach of warranty, unjust enrichment, violations of the Magnuson-Moss Act, and violations of the Washington Consumer Protection Act. The underlying action dealt with issues surrounding disk compression technology embodied in Microsoft’s 1993 release of MS-DOS 6.0.

Shaw v. Broadcast.com, Inc. 2005 WL 2095770 (N.D. Tex., August 30, 2005) – Defendants Broadcast.com, Inc., Realnetworks, Inc. and Microsoft (represented by, among others, Miers) were awarded summary judgment in a patent infringement lawsuit brought by owners of a patent dealing with efficient transmission of streaming media.

Trademark on Supplemental Register no help in domain name proceeding

A WIPO administrative panel recently denied a request to transfer the domain name oilchanger.com, finding that the complainant had failed to prove the essential element of enforceable trademark rights in the domain name.

Oil Changer, Inc., operator of numerous oil changing facilities in California, claimed that its registration of the marks OIL CHANGER and OIL CHANGERS on the Supplemental Register with the United States Patent and Trademark Office served as prima facie evidence of its ownership and the validity of the marks. However, the panel refused to recognize any such presumption for marks on the Supplemental Register.

The panel determined that registration on the Supplemental Register was an admission that the marks were not inherently distinctive at the time the applications for them were filed. Further, the panel determined that registration on the Supplemental Register was evidence that there were no common law rights at the time of the applications. Finally, there was insufficient evidence in the record to show that the complainant’s marks had acquired secondary meaning.

Oil Changer, Inc. v. Name Admin., Inc., Case No. D2005-0530 (July 28, 2005).

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