trademark infringement

We previously discussed the United States Supreme Court’s June 2023 Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc. v. VIP Products, LLC decision, which altered the way the “Rogers test,” a doctrine designed to protect First Amendment interests in the trademark context, should be applied. A recent decision out of the Ninth Circuit, Punchbowl, Inc. vs. AJ Press LLC (Punchbowl II), applies the Rogers test for the first time following Jack Daniel’s.

In April, we discussed oral arguments at the Supreme Court for Abitron Austria GmbH et al. v. Hetronic International, Inc., a case in which the Supreme Court considered the extraterritorial reach of the Lanham Act (“Act”) for the first time since 1952. Last month, the Court ruled that the Lanham Act only reaches claims of infringement where the infringing use in commerce is domestic.

On June 8, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc. v. VIP Products, LLC and provided some clarity as to the applicability of the “Rogers test,” a doctrine that grapples with the interplay of trademark law and the First Amendment. The case involved a trademark dispute between Jack Daniel’s Properties, the maker of the famous whiskey, and VIP, a dog toy company that makes and sells a product called “Bad Spaniels.” The Bad Spaniels squeaky toy is in the shape of a whiskey bottle and has a black label with white font similar to Jack Daniel’s; in place of “Old No. 7 Brand Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey,” the toy reads, “The Old No. 2 On Your Tennessee Carpet.” After VIP initially filed suit against Jack Daniel’s seeking declaratory judgment that the product did not infringe on Jack Daniel’s trademarks, Jack Daniel’s brought counterclaims under the Lanham Act for trademark infringement and trademark dilution.

Competition between Amazon’s third-party merchants is notoriously fierce. The online retail giant often finds itself playing the role of referee, banning what it considers unfair business practices (such as offering free products in exchange for perfect reviews, or targeting competitors with so-called “review bombing”). Last month, in the latest round of this push and pull, the online retail giant blew the whistle on several merchants who Amazon claims crossed a red line and may now have to face litigation in federal court.

Last month, the Supreme Court heard oral argument on Abitron Austria GmbH et al. v. Hetronic International, Inc. and considered, for the first time since 1952, the extraterritorial reach of the Lanham Act. This case presents the opportunity for the Court to establish a uniform test for the Lanham Act’s extraterritorial reach when seeking remedies in U.S. courts and to provide clarity for U.S. companies looking to protect their marks and reputation around the world.

What began as a trademark infringement dispute concerning electronic cigarettes has evolved into a never-ending series of discovery issues, and lessons about the limits of Federal Rule of Evidence 502 and privilege waivers. DR Distributors, LLC filed its initial complaint against 21 Century Smoking, Inc and its owner, Brent Duke, in September 2012 alleging trademark violations. The defendants filed their counterclaim also alleging trademark violations about a month later. Though fact discovery was supposed to have ended in 2015, the parties continued to assert problems with discovery seven years later. The latest issue presented before the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Illinois in this case was whether the defendants waived the marital communications privilege by disclosing certain communications during discovery. In its decision finding that the privilege had been waived, the Court described the limited application of Rule 502 and warned against the dangers of arguing that a disclosure was “inadvertent” without providing any explanation of how the privilege review was performed.

Kim Kardashian has been hit with a lawsuit by New York-based Beauty Concepts LLC over Kardashian’s recently launched skincare line, “SKKN by Kim.”  Beauty Concepts filed a complaint in the Eastern District of New York against Kardashian, her business entity Kimsaprincess Inc., and beauty company Coty Inc. on Tuesday, alleging that SKKN by Kim uses branding “highly confusingly similar” to Beauty Concepts’ own skincare line, “SKKN+”.  The complaint further alleges that Beauty Concepts has priority of use over the letters “skkn” due to the company’s consistent use of the mark “SKKN+” since at least August 2018.

Salvation. The name of two intricate Belgian-style ales, created by us, Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing and Adam Avery of Avery Brewing. After becoming friends a few years ago, we realized we both had a Salvation in our lineups. Was it going to be a problem? Should one of us relinquish the name rights? “Hell, no!” we said. In fact, it was quickly decided that we should blend the brews to catch the best qualities of each and create an even more complex and rich libation. In April 2004, in a top secret meeting at Russian River Brewing, we came up with the perfect blend of the two Salvations.

That, according to Avery Brewing Co., is how Collaboration Not Litigation Ale came into existence.

But the beer industry is not always so adept at avoiding the courtroom when it comes to trademark disputes.  Particularly with the explosion of the craft brewing industry in recent years, and the ever-increasingly creative names to come out of that market, legal disputes over beer trademarks are a dime a dozen.  The latest of these lawsuits to reach trial resulted in significantly more than a dime’s worth of recovery for craft brewer Stone Brewing.