Considering Use in Commerce, Source-Identifying-Function, and Conduct vs. Confusion
On June 29, 2023, the Supreme Court vacated the 10thCircuit’s decision in Abitron Austria GmbH et al. v. Hetronic International Inc. (“Hetronic”). The Supreme Court principally held that the Lanham Act does not have extraterritorial application. As Crowell previously discussed, the Supreme Court sought briefing on Hetronic from the U.S. Solicitor General, signaling an interest in addressing the Tenth Circuit’s decision, the extraterritoriality of the Lanham Act, and the complex circuit split that has at least three distinct tests. Although the Court agreed 9-0 that the lower court’s decision should be vacated, Justice Alito’s majority opinion and Justice Sotomayor’s concurring opinion disagreed on the second step of the extraterritoriality test, specifically regarding whether foreign conduct can have domestic implications. The majority disagreed with both the Tenth Circuit and the Solicitor General, concluding that the Lanham Act cannot apply to foreign defendants’ foreign conduct.