Joseph Phelps Vineyards, LLC v. Fairmont Holdings, LLC

Joseph Phelps Vineyards, LLC (“Vineyards”) has produced and sold wines bearing the trademark INSIGNIA since 1978. In 2012, Fairmont Holdings, LLC (“Fairmont”) received federal registration for the mark ALEC BRADLEY STAR INSIGNIA for cigars and cigar products. On Vineyards’ petition for cancellation, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“Board” or “TTAB”) denied the petition,1 stating the finding that:

while it appears that Petitioner’s INSIGNIA branded wine has met with success in the marketplace, we are not persuaded on this record that Petitioner’s mark is a famous mark.

TTAB Op. at 8.

The TTAB found that Vineyards’ INSIGNIA mark is not a “famous” mark and gave this factor no weight. The TTAB erred in its legal analysis, in analyzing the “fame” of INSIGNIA wine as an all-or-nothing factor, and discounting it entirely in reaching the conclusion of no likelihood of confusion as to source, contrary to law and precedent. As a result of this error, the Board did not properly apply the totality of the circumstances standard, which requires considering all the relevant factors on a scale appropriate to their merits. We vacate the Board’s decision and remand for redetermination of the merits of the cancellation petition.

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JobDiva, Inc.

In this trademark case, we must decide whether JobDiva, Inc. used its marks in connection with personnel placement and recruitment services, or whether the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board correctly held that JobDiva failed to do so because it used its marks on software offerings, without more. The Board required JobDiva to prove that it used its marks on more than just software because its software sales alone could not, in the Board’s view, constitute personnel and recruitment services. We disagree with the Board’s approach. The proper question is whether JobDiva, through its software, performed personnel placement and recruitment services and whether consumers would associate JobDiva’s registered marks with personnel placement and recruitment services, regardless of whether the steps of the service were performed by software. Because the Board must visit that question in the first instance, we vacate its decision and remand for further consideration.

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In re: Rearden, LLC

The defendants in the underlying case, Rearden LLC, Rearden MOVA LLC, MO2, LLC, and MOVA, LLC, petition for a writ of mandamus to challenge the district court’s order compelling them to produce allegedly privileged documents. We conclude we have jurisdiction to decide their petition. We further conclude that petitioners’ arguments fail to carry the high burden required on mandamus to overturn the district court’s discovery determination. We therefore deny their petition.

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Christian Faith Fellowship Church v. Adidas AG

Christian Faith Fellowship Church appeals a final judgment of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board that, in response to a petition filed by adidas AG, cancelled its trademarks for failing to use the marks in commerce before registering them. The Board held that the Church’s documented sale of two marked hats to an outof-state resident were de minimis and therefore did not constitute use of the marks in commerce under the Lanham Act. Because the Lanham Act defines commerce as all activity regulable by Congress, and because the Church’s sale to an out-of-state resident fell within Congress’s power to regulate under the Commerce Clause, we reverse the Board’s cancellation of the Church’s marks on this basis and remand for further proceedings.

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FIU v. FNU

At issue in this trademark case is whether Florida National University, Inc. (“FNU”), infringed the trademark rights of Florida International University (“FIU”) in its registered trademark “FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNVERSITY” or committed unfair competition when FNU changed its name from “Florida National College” to “Florida National University.” After thorough review and with the benefit of oral argument, we affirm the district court’s entry of final judgment in favor of FNU on all claims.

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Oakville Hills Cellar, Inc v. Georgallis Holdings, LLC

Oakville Hills Cellar, Inc. (“Oakville”), doing business as Dalla Valle Vineyards, appeals from the decision of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“the Board”) dismissing its opposition to an application filed by Georgallis Holdings, LLC (“Georgallis”) to register a MAYARI mark for use on wine. See Oakville Hills Cellar, Inc. v. Georgallis Holdings, LLC, No. 91211612, 2015 WL 4573202 (T.T.A.B. July 16, 2015) (“Opinion”). Because substantial evidence supports the Board’s finding that Oakville’s registered mark MAYA and Georgallis’s applied-for mark MAYARI are sufficiently dissimilar, we affirm.

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Cordua Restaurants, Inc.

Cordua Restaurants, Inc. (“Cordua”) appeals from the final decision of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB” or “Board”) refusing registration of a stylized form of the mark CHURRASCOS.1 In re Cordua Rests. LP, 110 U.S.P.Q.2d 1227, 2014 WL 1390504 (TTAB 2014) (“Cordua”) (affirming refusal of registration of Serial No. 85/214,191). The Board’s decision contains no harmful legal error, and the Board’s finding that the mark is generic is supported by substantial evidence. We affirm.

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Romag Fasteners, Inc. v. Fossil, Inc.

Romag Fasteners, Inc. (“Romag”) owns U.S. Patent No. 5,777,126 (“the ’126 patent”) on magnetic snap fasteners, which Romag sells under its registered trademark, ROMAG. Romag sued Fossil, Inc. and Fossil Stores I, Inc. (together, “Fossil”), along with retailers of Fossil products, alleging, inter alia, patent and trademark infringement. A jury found Fossil liable for both patent and trademark infringement and made advisory awards. The district court reduced the patent damages because of Romag’s laches and held as a matter of law that Romag could not recover Fossil’s profits for trademark infringement because the jury had found that Fossil’s trademark infringement was not willful. We affirm.

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Halo Creative & Design, Ltd. v. Comptoir des Indes Inc.

Halo Creative & Design Ltd., Halo Trademarks Ltd., and Halo Americas Ltd. (collectively, “Halo”), own two U.S. design patents, thirteen U.S. copyrights, and one U.S. common law trademark relating to twenty-five of their furniture designs. Halo is located in Hong Kong. Halo sued Comptoir Des Indes, Inc. (“Comptoir”), a Canadian company, and its CEO, David Ouaknine (collectively, “appellees”), a Canadian resident, in the Northern District of Illinois. Halo asserted that appellees infringed their intellectual property and violated Illinois consumer fraud and deceptive business practices statutes. Appellees moved to dismiss on forum non conveniens grounds, contending that the Federal Court of Canada would be a superior forum. The district court granted the motion and dismissed the case. Halo Creative & Design Ltd. v. Comptoir Des Indes, Inc., No. 14C8196, 2015 WL 426277, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 29, 2015) (“Halo”). Halo appeals. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

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IN RE SIMON SHIAO TAM

Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act bars the Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) from registering scandalous, immoral, or disparaging marks. 15 U.S.C. § 1052(a). The government enacted this law—and defends it today— because it disapproves of the messages conveyed by disparaging marks. It is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment that the government may not penalize private speech merely because it disapproves of the message it conveys. That principle governs even when the government’s message-discriminatory penalty is less than a prohibition.

Courts have been slow to appreciate the expressive power of trademarks. Words—even a single word—can be powerful. Mr. Simon Shiao Tam named his band THE SLANTS to make a statement about racial and cultural issues in this country. With his band name, Mr. Tam conveys more about our society than many volumes of undisputedly protected speech. Another rejected mark, STOP THE ISLAMISATION OF AMERICA, proclaims that Islamisation is undesirable and should be stopped. Many of the marks rejected as disparaging convey hurtful speech that harms members of oft-stigmatized communities. But the First Amendment protects even hurtful speech.

The government cannot refuse to register disparaging marks because it disapproves of the expressive messages conveyed by the marks. It cannot refuse to register marks because it concludes that such marks will be disparaging to others. The government regulation at issue amounts to viewpoint discrimination, and under the strict scrutiny review appropriate for government regulation of message or viewpoint, we conclude that the disparagement proscription of § 2(a) is unconstitutional. Because the government has offered no legitimate interests justifying § 2(a), we conclude that it would also be unconstitutional under the intermediate scrutiny traditionally applied to regulation of the commercial aspects of speech. We therefore vacate the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s (“Board”) holding that Mr. Tam’s mark is unregistrable, and remand this case to the Board for further proceedings.

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