On November 21, 2022 the U.S. Supreme Court agreed—after passing on the issue once before—to hear Jack Daniel’s (JDPI) challenge to the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in VIP Prods. LLC v. Jack Daniel’s Props, where the Ninth Circuit affirmed without opinion the district court’s grant of summary judgment to VIP and the dismissal of JDPI’s trademark infringement claim, on the grounds that JDPI could not satisfy either prong of the Rogers test. The Rogers test balances free expression under the First Amendment against the trademark protections of the Lanham Act. The Supreme Court granted certiorari on the questions of whether parody uses of another’s mark receive First Amendment protection from liability under the Lanham Act and whether parody is exempt from claims of dilution by tarnishment under 15 U.S.C. § 1125(c)(3)(C). The decision could clarify the balance between trademark and the First Amendment, an issue that has long-confounded practitioners.
The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to clarify the extraterritorial reach of the Lanham Act for the first time in seventy years. The decision will impact corporations’ ability to seek damages for international trademark infringement, and may resolve a circuit split on the applicability of the Lanham Act on foreign defendants’ foreign conduct. The Court will review the Tenth Circuit’s decision in Abitron Austria GmbH et al. v. Hetronic International Inc. (“Hetronic”) and the extraterritoriality of the Lanham Act, seemingly the Court’s desired outcome after requesting the United States weigh in on Abitron Austria GmbH’s (“Abitron”) certiorari petition filed in January 2022. …
Allegations of trademark infringement against celebrity-founded brands are not new. In 2015, resort-wear brand Island Company LLC sued Kendall and Kylie Jenner for use of the phrase “Run Away, Fall in Love, Never Return,” which resembled Island Company’s trademark phrase “Quit Your Job, Buy a Ticket, Get A Tan, Fall In Love, Never Return”. The case was settled in January 2016. In 2021, an Italian tribunal ordered social media influencer Chiara Ferragni to pull her snow boots from her footwear line, finding infringement on Tecnica group’s trademark for the world-renowned Moonboot. Now, Vans, Inc., a sneaker company born out of 1960s California counter-culture, alleges trademark infringement by MSCHF, a Brooklyn art collective endorsed by rapper Tyga.…
A new draft report to Congress by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on behalf of the Interagency Marine Debris Coordinating Committee cites textiles and the fashion industry as the leading sources of microfiber pollution in the environment. While the draft report acknowledges uncertainty about how microfiber pollution impacts the environment and human health, the report’s authors recommend that the textile and fashion industry—along with manufacturers of clothes washers and dryers and personal care products—design their products to prevent microfibers from being released into the environment.
The draft report was required to be developed pursuant to the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, enacted in 2020 on a bipartisan basis to address problems associated with marine debris and plastics in the ocean. It has been made available for public comment, which closes October 17, 2022.…
Earlier this year, Hermès filed a trademark infringement suit against Los Angeles-based designer Mason Rothschild for creating and selling faux-fur digital renditions of the luxury Hermès Birkin handbags and using a collection of 100 NFTs, titled “MetaBirkins,” to authenticate the digital images. In response, Rothschild filed a motion to dismiss Hermès’ trademark infringement claim under the Rogers test on the basis that the digital images of the Birkin bags are “art” and, therefore, receive First Amendment protection. Hermès opposed, arguing that the Polaroid factors— instead of the Rogers test—should apply, to assess likelihood of confusion. On May 18, 2022, the court denied Rothschild’s motion to dismiss, concluding that: (1) the Rogers test applies to the trademark infringement analysis of the “MetaBirkins” title, and (2) the Polaroid factors apply to the explicit misleadingness analysis.…
In recent months, the metaverse, a term that is meant to encompass a mixture of virtual reality and augmented reality, has increasingly become a conversation topic for companies and consumers. Companies have begun to invest in this space and have started staking out virtual property on platforms like Decentraland and The Sandbox. Lawsuits and trademark applications have also popped up alongside these investments. This recent legal activity indicates that the metaverse will be a critical area for companies to begin to learn about and monitor to ensure they are adequately protecting their intellectual property and avoiding risk.
In January 2022, designer Hermès sued an individual named Mason Rothschild in the Southern District of New York for his creation and sale of “Metabirkins,” which are non-fungible tokens (“NFTs”) that resemble fur-covered versions of Hermès’ iconic Birkin bag. Among other things, the complaint alleges that Rothschild has engaged in trademark and trade dress dilution and infringement by selling his NFTs, one of which has already sold for $40,000, just as one would by selling a counterfeit physical bag. Interestingly, Hermès’ complaint notes that the defendant’s activity is preempting Hermès from entering the NFT market itself.
Continue Reading See You in the Metaverse: What Brands Need to Know
Earlier this month, New York State Assemblywoman Kelles and State Senator Biaggi introduced the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act in the New York State Assembly and Senate. If the legislation becomes law, it would amend New York’s general business law to require fashion companies to publicly disclose extensive information about their environmental, social, and governance (“ESG”) policies, impacts, and targets for improvement.
Specifically, the Act would require all fashion retail sellers and manufacturers doing business in New York that have annual worldwide gross receipts surpassing $100 million to disclose:
- ESG due diligence policies and processes;
- ESG outcomes, including actual or possible negative environmental and social impacts; and
- Binding targets for prevention and improvement of ESG outcomes and policies.
On November 11, 2021 activewear apparel brand lululemon athletica canada inc. (“lululemon”) sent a cease and desist letter to interactive fitness platform Peloton Interactive, Inc. (“Peloton”), alleging that five of Peloton’s products, including four bras and a pair of leggings, were infringing upon six of lululemon’s design patents and that Peloton’s One Luxe Tight infringed upon lululemon’s Align pant trade dress.
Rather than spinning its wheels, on November 24, 2021, Peloton responded with an action for declaratory judgment against lululemon in the Southern District of New York, seeking (1) a determination that Peloton did not infringe lululemon’s design patents, (2) invalidity of these patents, and (3) a declaration that lululemon does not have trade dress rights in the Align pant and/or that Peloton did not infringe upon this trade dress. Specifically, Peloton argues that there are clear and obvious differences between its products and lululemon’s design patents, the presence of the brands’ trademarks on the products eliminates confusion, and the design patents are anticipated and/or obvious based on prior art. For example, Peloton emphasizes that the back of its Peloton Branded Strappy Bra is cut straight across and has a mesh layer, while the design patents depict a scooped back and no mesh layer, among other differences. Peloton also argues that the asserted Align trade dress does not possess the requisite distinctiveness to be protectable, and even if it does, Pelton’s One Luxe Tight is not likely to cause marketplace confusion.
Continue Reading Peloton and lululemon Yet to Work Things Out, File Cross Lawsuits
Promotional products seller Gennex Media LLC and its owner, Akil Kurji, have settled Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) charges that they made false, misleading, or unsupported advertising claims that their “Brandnex” customizable promotional products were “all or virtually all” made in the United States. Despite numerous claims that the company’s novelty items were “Made in the USA,” “USA Made,” and “Manufactured Right Here in America!”, the items were wholly imported from China.
The settlement requires Gennex and Kurji to pay the FTC a monetary judgment of $146,249.24. In addition to the payment, the parties are required to follow post-settlement remediation measures. Some of these measures include: (1) providing customer information to the FTC in order to ensure proper customer redress; (2) submitting compliance reports to the FTC one year post-settlement; and (3) maintaining certain business records for five years.
Continue Reading Made in USA Settlement for Chinese Imports
On March 4, 2021, the Federal Circuit spoke pointedly on its view of contract interpretation and contract obligations in the context of trademark licensing agreements between private and government actors. In Authentic Apparel Group, LLC v. United States, No. 2020-1412 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 4, 2021), the court upheld the Court of Federal Claims’ decision, on summary judgment, that the Army did not violate its obligations under a trademark licensing agreement with Authentic Apparel Group, LLC (“Authentic”). Authentic, the licensee, claimed that the Army violated the terms of the licensing agreement by refusing to approve certain products and marketing materials bearing Army trademarks. These included a proposed shoe line and an advertisement featuring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The Federal Circuit disagreed.
The Federal Circuit emphasized the plain language of the trademark licensing agreement, which granted the Army “sole and absolute discretion” to approve or deny Authentic’s proposed uses of the Army’s marks. Additionally, an exculpatory clause provided that Authentic would have no cause of action based on the Army’s exercise of this discretion in failing or refusing to grant approval. “Contracting parties,” the court noted, “including parties who contract with the government, are generally held to the terms for which they bargained.” This precept does not change merely because the subject matter of the contract is a trademark.
Continue Reading Deep Sixed: Federal Circuit Boots Trademark Licensee for Meritless Claims Against U.S. Army