Likelihood of Confusion

Miyano Machinery USA, Inc. v. MiyanoHitec Mach., Inc., No. 08 C 526, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Sep. 5, 2008) (Kendall, J.)
Judge Kendall granted a preliminary injunction against defendants’ (collectively “MiyanoHitec”) continued use of plaintiff Miyano Machinery’s (“MMU”) MIYANO trademarks. MMU proved a sufficient likelihood of success on its trademark infringement claims. Despite the fact that Miyano was the surname of the individual defendants, it was protectible. While personal names are not generally protectible, MMU’s Miyano marks had acquired secondary meaning, making them protectible. And individual defendants originally consented to MMU registering the marks.
MMU’s “Winged M” mark was not abandoned when MMU changed the font of the Miyano name in the mark. And MMU showed a likelihood of confusion. MMU’s and MiyanoHitec’s marks were very similar and were used on similar products – lathes – that were to be sold in similar channels. MMU also offered evidence of a few acts of actual confusion. And the evidence showed that MiyanoHitec likely intended to benefit from the likely consumer confusion.
The Court also found that MMU would be irreparably harmed without an injunction because trademark infringement is presumed to create irreparable harm. In contrast, the injunction would cause MiyanoHitec minimal or no harm. MiyanoHitec had not sold any product yet, had previously used a different name, and was aware of MMU’s trademark claim before choosing its marks.
Finally, the public interest was served by preventing trademark infringement and the resulting consumer confusion. The Court, therefore, granted MMU a preliminary injunction against MiyanoHitec.

Continue Reading Trademark Preliminary Injunction Granted

In re Bilski, __ F.3d __ (Fed. Cir. 2008) (en banc).*
Chief Judge Michel, writing for a nine judge majority, affirmed the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences’ finding that Bilski’s invention — a commodities trading method for hedging risks — did not meet the 35 U.S.C. § 101 patentable subject matter requirement. The Federal Circuit overturned State Street’s “useful, concrete, and tangible result” test as insufficient to determine patentability. The Federal Circuit held that the Supreme Court’s “machine-or-transformation” test was the only test for determining patentability:
A claimed process is surely patent-eligible under § 101 if: (1) it is tied to a particular machine or apparatus, or (2) it transforms a particular article into a different state or thing.
I found Judge Dyk’s concurrence tracing the history of the “machine-or-transformation” test back to the Patent Act of 1793 especially interesting:
In fact, the unpatentability of processes not involving manufactures, machines, or compositions of matter has been firmly embedded in the statute since the time of the Patent Act of 1793, ch. 11, 1 Stat. 318 (1793).
As with any major appellate decision, we will need eighteen to twenty four months of district court and Federal Circuit decisions to flesh out and fully understand Bilski’s implications. While we argue those cases and await the decisions, there will be plenty of law review and blog analysis. Here are some of the first (I will update with additional posts as they come):**
* 271 Patent Blog (glad to see Peter Zura back in the blogosphere);
* IP ADR Blog;
* Likelihood of Confusion;
* Patent Baristas;
* Patently-O (with Crouch’s usual, in-depth analysis);
* The University of Chicago Law Faculty Blog (Randy Picker has an exceptionally detailed take on the opinion); and
* WSJ Law Blog (saying experts are torn as to whether Bilski will make it to the Supreme Court).
* Click here for the opinion.
** I have updated the list of Bilski blog posts with some new ones.

Continue Reading Bilski: Some Business Method & Software Patents Survive

Aller-Caire, Inc. v. Am. Textile Co., No. 07 C 4086, 2008 WL 4066976 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 28, 2008) (Andersen, J.)
Judge Andersen granted in part and denied in part defendant American Textile Co.’s (“ATC”) Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss plaintiff Aller-Caire’s trademark infringement case. Aller-Caire allegedly began using its ALLER-CAIRE mark in 1990, but never registered it. ATC registered its ALLER CARE mark in 2006. Both use the marks to market, at least, allergy sensitive pillow and mattress encasements. The Court dismissed Aller-Caire’s trademark count with leave to refile because it did not expressly allege a likelihood of confusion. It was not sufficient that the complaint alleged facts sufficient to infer confusion, plaintiff must plead confusion. The Court did not dismiss Aller-Caire’s tortious interference claim. Aller-Caire’s allegations would have been insufficient pursuant to Illinois law because Aller-Caire did not plead that ATC interfered with Aller-Caire’s business expectancy with a specific third party. But federal pleading requirements governed, and did not require identification of an entity.
Finally, a competitor’s privilege did not defeat Aller-Caire’s tortious interference claim. Competition cannot be tortious interference unless the competition employs wrongful means. Aller-Caire’s allegation that ATC’s alleged trademark infringement was done with malice constituted wrongful means.

Continue Reading Trademark Plaintiff Must Specifically Plead Confusion

Allen Bros., Inv. v. AB Foods LLC, No. 06 C 1269, 2008 WL 345600 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 6, 2008) (Andersen, J.).
Judge Andersen granted defendant AB Foods summary judgment of likelihood of confusion and dismissed plaintiff Allen Brothers’ Lanham Act claim and related state law trademark infringement claim. Allen Brothers, a seller of gourmet meats, argued that AB Foods infringed its AB trademark by using it to sell AB Foods’ gourmet meats. The Court held that this was the rare case that was so one-sided as to warrant summary judgment that there was no likelihood of confusion, even though AB Foods uses its AB mark in direct competition with Allen Brothers:
The marks were not similar because Allen Brothers always used its full name along with its AB mark;
Allen Brothers’ customers are sophisticated meat purchasers, as evidenced by Allen Brothers’ high prices;
The strength of Allen Brothers’ mark is in its full name, not just AB;
Allen Brothers’ produced no evidence of actual confusion; and
Allen Brothers produced no evidence that AB Foods intended to pass off its meats as Allen Brothers products.
The Court, therefore, granted AB Foods summary judgment and dismissed the case.

Continue Reading Rare Summary Judgment of No Likelihood of Confusion

My recent story about Ebert’s use of his “Two Thumbs Up” has been receiving a lot of attention (and I even scooped the Sun-Times):
Likelihood of Confusion — Ron Coleman agrees with E. Leonard Rubin, interviewed in the Chicago Tribune today, who says that the written “Two Thumbs Up” mark is pretty strong.
Robert Feder of the Chicago Sun-Times — Feder says that the “Two Thumbs Up” mark is “the most powerful and influential symbol in movie marketing.”
The fact that the Patent Reform Act has stalled in Congress, which I discussed earlier this week, has been picked up by several blogs:
Maryland IP Law Blog — Citing my post.
Patently-O — Dennis Crouch says that the Patent Reform Act is not just stalled, it is dead.
271 Patent Blog — Leads with a great Simpsons’ quote in saying the Act is on hold.

Continue Reading Chicago IP Blog in the News

AutoZone, Inc. v. Strick, __ F. Supp.2d __, 2006 WL 3626770 (N.D. Ill.  Dec. 7, 2006) (Hart, J.).

Judge Hart granted summary judgment for defendants and dismissed all of plaintiffs’ claims in this trademark case.  First, the Court did a detailed analysis of each of the seven likelihood of confusion factors and determined that a reasonable jury could not find a likelihood of confusion between plaintiffs’ AutoZone mark and defendants’ Oil Zone and Wash Zone marks.  The Court found that plaintiffs’ mark was strong, but held that there was not great similarity between the marks, that plaintiffs’ and defendants’ services were not similar, and that there was no evidence of actual confusion or intentional infringement.  As a result, the Court dismissed plaintiffs’ trademark infringement and unfair competition claims.


Continue Reading Parties Must Support Summary Judgment Arguments With Facts