Jones Day has sued a website that highlights lawyers—even posting their photos and linking to firm biographies—and other professionals who buy and sell their homes in Chicago, Las Vegas, St. Louis and South Florida.
Public Citizen comment here.
Plaintiff uses the mark UTAH LIGHTHOUSE in connection with goods and services that critque Mormonism. There has been extensive history between plaintiff and the LDS faith. Defendant FAIR responds to such critiques, and created a parody website that was similar in appearance to that of Plaintiff. Defendant used domain names such as UTAHLIGHTOUSE.COM to direct to the parody site (the names listed in this summary of the case on the Citizen Media Law Project’s site all appear to point to plaintiff’s site as this time).
There are complex and controversial issues here involving the intersection between trademark use and parody, and what constitutes commerical use of a trademark in a primarily religious/political speech context, similar to the issues raised by cases such as PETA v Doughney and JEWS FOR JESUS v Brodsky
Which issues I will not address in this post today.
I instead want to talk about the strange way the issue of whether plaintiff had a protectable mark was handled. Plaintiff received a registration 3119677 for UTAH LIGHTHOUSE after filing its complaint. Sections 7(b) and 33(a) of the Lanham Act discuss the evidentiary presumptions that a registered mark receives, including the validity of the mark as a protectable mark. See also McCarthy Section 32.134 and 32.138 for a general discussion of the presumptions that flow from a trademark registration.
In addressing the requirement as to whether it owned a protectable mark, plaintiff appears to have only cited its registration and relied upon the presumption. The District Court held that because the mark was not registered at the time the suit was filed, plaintiff was not entitled to that presumption (pg. 8) and then found that plaintiff had not shown secondary meaning (and then proceeds on a tangent about the absence of secondary meaning).
On appeal, plaintiff argues that even without the presumption, UTAH LIGHTHOUSE was inherently registrable.
The 10th Circuit choose not to entertain this argument as it had been raised only on appeal for the first time.
Oddly, it also finds that plaintiff failed to produce sufficient evidence that UTAH LIGHTHOUSE was protectable. If the registration was in the record, then, because it was issued under Section 2(a) and not 2(f), it would seem to be at a minimum evidence of the PTO’s expert opinion that UTAH LIGHTHOUSE was inherently registrable as of March 21, 2005, the application’s filing date (prior to the date that the suit began). With a minimum of evidence of trademark use (such as plaintiff’s website), it is hard to see how defendant could establish that the mark wasn’t protectable.
It could be that plaintiff’s travails could have been avoided by plaintiff merely arguing in effect ‘we are entitled to a presumption because of our registration but in any event, the mark is inherently registrable . . .’, and that the court is penalizing the lawyering (unfettered by knowledge, I speculate freely).
As I stated above, I’m not speaking to the questions as to whether defendant’s actions rose to commercial use, and whether it had good parody or other defenses. Based on one reading of the circuit court opinion, and none of the underlying documents, the holding that UTAH LIGHTHOUSE was not a protectable mark seems problematic at best.
“Ask A Lawyer” column about an artist who created pictures of Ford cars, and received a protest from Ford. Comments enabled.
“to collect, exhibit, preserve and interpret the art and archives of Frederic Sackrder Remington, the renowned American artist. The Frederic Remington Ar Museum houses a comprehensive collection of original Frederic Remington bronze sculptures, paintings, and sketches as well as a broad array of the artist’s personal effects and correspondence. “
The Frederic Remington Trust 1861 is alleged to be a foreign trust located in Mexico. It obtained U.S. registrations for FREDERIC REMINGTON for various goods. It enforces those trademark rights against what the Museum alleges would be otherwise lawful sales of Remington sculpture replicas. It also holds itself out as the Frederic Remington Art Museum Foundation on its website. The Museum has now sued the Trust.
Frederic Remington Art Museum and Frederic Remington Art Museum Foundation v. Gregory Dean Shideler, Frederic Remington Trust 1861, LLC, Myong Hwa Lim and Sang H. Yoo, Case Number: 7:2008cv00109 (ND NY January 29, 2008) (Complaint upon request).
An interesting TTAB decision on the use of an artist’s name as a generic term that one may fairly use to describe the work of that artist, as opposed to its use as a trademark is Michael Sachs v. Cordon Art, BV, opp 95655 (TTAB July 2000).
Nights at Vegas is a property management company that will rent out condos on behalf of their owners. Among the condos it promotes are those in Trump properties in Vegas. Trump (which also markets condos on behalf of owners) sent a demand letter, alleging that NAV had misused the TRUMP trademark (and made false statements in connection with marketing the condos). NAV has sued, requesting a declaratory judgment that its use of the TRUMP mark in non-infringing, and alleging that Trump has engaged in monopolistic practices in the marketing of these condos.
Nights at Vegas v Trump et. al., 2:2008cv00122 (D Nevada Jan 26, 2008) (complaint upon request).
LogoDesign Works: “Sony BMG and MTV Online Guilty for Using Fake Louis Vuitton Logo” (LV Logo used on dashboard of car in Britney SPears music video).
Avis Contests Law Blogger's Use of AVIS Logo In Law Blog Article Discussing Matter That Concerns Avis
In September, the New York Personal Injury Blog reported on a court decision in which a federal judge held that a 2005 federal law that abolished vicarious liability for car renting and leasing companies. It illustrated the article with the logos of Hertz and Avis.
Eric Turkewitz, author of the blog, now reports that Fred Grumman, Associate General Counsel of Avis, posted the following comment on the blog:
Mr. Turkewitz: This particular piece has just been brought to my attention.
We have the greatest respect for your right to express your opinions on your blog, but that does not include the right to use Avis’ trademark as you have done in this particular piece.
Understandably, trademark law is not within your area of expertise. Therefore, we trust that this was done out of ignorance and not based on an intent to misuse our mark to the benefit of your personal injury practice.
We ask that you remove it immediately and refrain from any similar use in the future.
Thank you for you prompt attention to this request.
Associate General Counsel
Avis Budget Group, Inc.