Tuesday, July 24, 2018

OTR Wheel Engineering, Inc. v. West Worldwide Services, Inc., Docket No. 16-35897

Trademark: Registration requirement: Trade dress:

If a trademark is not registered, then a plaintiff may still assert a claim for infringement of its protectable trade dress right, but that plaintiff bears the burden to establish distinctiveness and non-functionality. Talking Rain, 349 F.3d at 603. Thus, if a mark is cancelled, a claim for infringement may still be pursued based on an unregistered mark. Dep’t of Parks & Recreation for State of Cal. v. Bazaar Del Mundo Inc., 448 F.3d 1118, 1131 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing Far Out Prods., Inc. v. Oskar, 247 F.3d 986, 997 (9th Cir.2001)). In other words, fraud on the PTO “does not affect the mark’s validity, because a trademark need not be registered to be enforceable.” Specialized Seating, Inc. v. Greenwich Industries, LP, 616 F.3d 722, 728 (7th Cir. 2010); cf. J. Thomas McCarthy, 6 McCarthy on Trademarks and Unfair Competition § 31:60 (5th ed. 2018). Thus, if a defendant establishes that a mark was obtained through fraud on the PTO, the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to establish distinctiveness and non-functionality. See Tie Tech, 296 F.3d at 783; see also Talking Rain, 349 F.3d at 603. The plaintiff always maintains the burden to establish consumer confusion.

(…) OTR argues that it pled an unregistered trade dress claim by asserting a claim under section 43 of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125. It was not enough to simply cite section 43, however, because that section covers both registered and unregistered marks. GoTo.com, Inc. v. Walt Disney Co., 202 F.3d 1199, 1204 n.3 (9th Cir. 2000) (“The provision at issue here—§ 43—protects against infringement of unregistered marks and trade dress as well as registered marks.” (citing Kendall-Jackson Winery, Ltd. v. E. & J. Gallo Winery, 150 F.3d 1042, 1046 (9th Cir.1998)). OTR’s reference to section 43 did not by itself signal an unregistered trade dress claim.

(…) We pause to note that OTR’s unregistered claim was only precluded to the extent that it asserted a broader claim than the registered claim. As noted above, registration only provides a presumption of validity, shifting the burden to the defendant to rebut either distinctiveness or non-functionality. Tie Tech, 296 F.3d at 783. If a registration is cancelled, for example, due to fraud on the PTO, then the claim survives but becomes more difficult to prove. See Bazaar Del Mundo Inc., 448 F.3d at 1131. Perhaps appreciating that fact, OTR argues that its unregistered claim encompassed “something more” than what was covered by the registered claim. OTR describes that “something more” as the OTR tire’s “overall appearance, including the sidewall and its relationship to the road.” To assert this broader claim, however, OTR was required to clearly plead the claim in the complaint, and it did not.

Secondary sources: J. Thomas McCarthy, McCarthy on Trademarks and Unfair Competition § 31:60 (5th ed. 2018).

(U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, July 24, 2018, OTR Wheel Engineering, Inc. v. West Worldwide Services, Inc., Docket No. 16-35897, J. Clifton, for publication)

Droit des marques. Trade dress (terme juridique qui se rapporte à des caractéristiques de l'aspect visuel d'un produit ou de son emballage, donnant une indication de l'origine du produit aux consommateurs). Une action en violation de la marque peut être déposée même si elle n’est pas enregistrée, ou peut être maintenue même si l’enregistrement est annulé. Il en va de même en cas d’action en violation de la présentation (protégée) du produit associé à la marque (trade dress). 15 U.S.C. § 1125 (Section 43 du Lanham Act) (false designations of origin, false descriptions, and dilution forbidden), peut être invoqué que la marque soit ou non enregistrée.
L’action en violation d’une marque qui n’est pas enregistrée pose davantage de problèmes de preuve que dans le cas d’une marque enregistrée. Le sachant, le demandeur dans l’action en violation d’une marque enregistrée doit veiller à alléguer la violation de l’ensemble des caractères liés à la marque, même ceux qui ne ressortent pas de l’enregistrement : de la sorte, si l’enregistrement est considéré comme invalide, le demandeur aura maintenu la possibilité d’alléguer la violation des caractéristiques qui exorbitent l’enregistrement.

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