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Trademark Infringement

Located in Portland, Oregon, Baumgartner Patent Law provides trademark infringement attorney services worldwide

Trademark infringement is a violation of the exclusive rights attaching to a trademark without the authorization of the trademark owner or any licensees (provided that such authorization was within the scope of the license). Infringement may occur when one party, the "infringer", uses a trademark which is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark owned by another party, in relation to products or services which are identical or similar to the products or services which the registration covers.

If a party owns the rights to a particular trademark, that party can sue subsequent parties for trademark infringement. The standard is "likelihood of confusion." To be more specific, the use of a trademark in connection with the sale of a good constitutes infringement if it is likely to cause consumer confusion as to the source of those goods or as to the sponsorship or approval of such goods. In deciding whether consumers are likely to be confused, your trademark infringement attorney and the courts will typically look to a number of factors, including:

  1. the similarity in the overall impression created by the two marks (including the marks' look, phonetic similarities, and underlying meanings);
  2. the similarities of the goods and services involved (including an examination of the marketing channels for the goods);
  3. the strength of the plaintiff's mark;
  4. any evidence of actual confusion by consumers;
  5. the intent of the defendant in adopting its mark;
  6. the physical proximity of the goods in the retail marketplace;
  7. the degree of care likely to be exercised by the consumer; and
  8. the likelihood of expansion of the product lines.

The first five of these factors are examined in every trademark infringement action. The last three factors are the most common additional factors that are considered by a court.

In general the following case addresses many of these factors: Polaroid Corp. v. Polarad Elect. Corp., 287 F.2d 492 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 368 U.S. 820 (1961).

So, for example, the use of an identical mark on the same product would clearly constitute trademark infringement. If I manufacture and sell computers using the mark "Apple," my use of that mark will likely cause confusion among consumers, since they may be misled into thinking that the computers are made by Apple Computer, Inc. Using a very similar mark on the same product may also give rise to a claim of trademark infringement, if the marks are close enough in sound, appearance, or meaning so as to cause confusion. So, for example, "Applet" computers may be off-limits; perhaps also "Apricot." On the other end of the spectrum, using the same term on a completely unrelated product will not likely give rise to an infringement claim. Thus, Apple Computer and Apple Records can peacefully co-exist, since consumers are not likely to think that the computers are being made by the record company, or vice versa.

Between the two ends of the spectrum lie many close cases, in which the courts will apply the factors listed above. So, for example, where the marks are similar and the products are also similar, it will be difficult to determine whether consumer confusion is likely. In one case, the owners of the mark "Slickcraft" used the mark in connection with the sale of boats used for general family recreation. They brought an infringement action against a company that used the mark "Sleekcraft" in connection with the sale of high-speed performance boats. Because the two types of boats served substantially different markets, the court concluded that the products were related but not identical. However, after examining many of the factors listed above, the court concluded that the use of Sleekcraft was likely to cause confusion among consumers. AMF Inc. v. Sleekcraft Boats, 599 F.2d 341 (9th Cir. 1979).

The party accused of trademark infringement may be able to defeat infringement proceedings if it can establish a valid exception (e.g. comparative advertising) or defense (e.g. laches) to infringement, or attack and cancel the underlying registration (eg. for non-use) upon which the proceedings are based.

Remedies available for trademark infringement:

The most common form of relief granted to a successful plaintiff in a trademark infringement lawsuit is an injunction against further infringement. If the infringed mark was federally registered, trademark infringement attorney's fees would also be available to a successful plaintiff. Monetary damages are also available under the Lanham Act, but in practice are rarely awarded in trademark lawsuits.

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Baumgartner Patent Law is located in Portland, Oregon.


The materials provided within this website are for general information, educational, and promotional purposes only. The law constantly evolves and there is no guarantee that the relevant changes have been noted herein. They are not intended as, and should not be taken as, legal advice. Individuals and entities having legal questions should consult with an attorney to fully address their legal matters based on an analysis of the particular facts. The attorney members of the firm are licensed to practice law in the state of California, and otherwise as noted. Please call us to obtain legal advice 877-734-8669.
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