Many people think that in order to be in violation of trademark law you have to copy a trademarked work exactly down to the tee. This, of course, is not true. Creating something that looks very similar to a trademarked work that can “cause confusion” among the public is often enough to trigger a trademark infringement complaint or lawsuit, particularly if the product or service is in the same category.
PayPal, the giant global online payment company, recently filed a trademark complaint against an Indian company in the same field called Paytm. Yes, both names begin with the word Pay, but that’s not the only issue that sparked the complaint. PayPal points out that the India-based competitor also uses the same two-tone blue in their logo.
The complaint alleges that the Paytm logo can cause confusion among global users and that the company is attempting to coopt PayPal’s “global reputation and grow its user base.”
In another recent case, the battery company Energizer, has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit in a federal court in St. Louis against one of its competitors, Rayovac.
Energizer Brands alleges that Rayovac’s new packaging is “confusingly similar” to their own packaging, which has remained unchanged for years. The complaint accuses Rayovac of mimicking the color scheme and design of their battery packaging.
This Energizer lawsuit against Rayovac isn’t the first time they clashed with a competitor in regards to their trademarks. Earlier this year, Energizer sued competitor Duracell over placement of a pink bunny on their packaging, which Energizer claims is too similar to their registered trademarked pink Energizer bunny.
Trademark Infringement Definition.
The United States Patent And Trademark Office defines trademark infringement as follows:
Trademark infringement is the unauthorized use of a trademark or service mark on or in connection with goods and/or services in a manner that is likely to cause confusion, deception, or mistake about the source of the goods and/or services.
As we see, confusion is the key. This confusion can manifest in many forms. You must exercise due diligence when choosing words, phrases, designs and graphics, and even color schemes. And of course, if you have a trademark, be vigilant in protecting it.
Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on Facebook, Twitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groups, Google+ Circles. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter.