Nike recently sued Skechers for infringement of twelve of Nike’s design patents. The Complaint convincingly establishes the similarity of the appearance of the shoes:
In addition to appearance, the Complaint also develops a convincing case on appearances, detailing Sketchers strategy of copying:
Nike explains Skecher’s practice of Skecherizing competitor’s designs:
Nike’s Complaint recognizes that while competition is legitimate, people inately believe that copying is wrong. While Skechers appears to embrace its conduct, most business work to preserve its image as a legitimate competitor, and not merely a copier. To this end, a business should pay attention to how it characterizes its own conduct. Internal project names that make the business look like a pirate, or internal communications that talk about “ripping off, “knocking off,” or even “copying,” can cast the company in a bad light to a judge or jury. If what the business is doing is legimate, there is no need to characterize the conduct as improper or inappropriate — when the issue is design patent infringement, appearances can matter just as much as appearance.
Last month, General Chuck Yeager sued Airbus for violation of right of publicity, false endorsement, and trademark infringement. The basis of his complaint? In introducing its new Racer high-speed, cost effective helicopter, Air Bus referenced General Yeager’s breaking of the sound barrier at a press conference, and then repeating the reference on line and in print. Specifically, Air Bus said:
This seems little more than an innocuous reference to a historical fact. It adds some information and interest to an otherwise bland commercial statement, but it seems highly unlikely to cause anyone to believe that General Yeager is in any way connected with the Racer helicopter, let alone endorses it. Shouldn’t anyone, including a commerical entity, have the right to reference a historical event to make a point — at least if they do so in a way that doesn’t make it seem that they have the approval or endorsement of those involved in the event?
Unfortunately, the right of commercial speakers to reference historical events is not so clear. Had Air Bus been a slightly better student of history, it might of known that this is a lesson that General Yeager taught AT&T nearly a decade earlier. AT&T Mobility — then called Cingular — referenced General Yeager in an eerily similar press release:
To paraphrase George Santayana, those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. One might add that if you are commercial entity, even if you study history, you best not talk about it!
Le-Vel Brands, LLC recently sued Thrival Nutrition, LLC in the Eastern District of Texas (4:19-cv-00698-SDJ) for trademark infringement and unfair competition arising from Le-Vel’s use of THRIVE and Thrival’s use of THRIVAL
To prevail, Le-Vel will of course have to prove the there is a likelihood of confusion, but Le-Vel has help in meeting this burden from an unlikely source — Thrival’s own social media posts. As set forth in the very first paragraph of the Complain, Thrival has admitted on its Facebook page that there is confusion between the two companies:
While Thrival may ultimately be able to explain away these posts, the bottom line is that they are going to have to. Lured by the ease and informality of posting in social media businesses often post messages without vetting the content. The reality is that such posts are virtually permanent, and relatively easy to find, and thus the content should be vetted the same way it would review formal press releases and advertising
A business should restrict who can post on its behalf, and should have some process for vetting the content of those posts to avoid embarrassment or worse — liability.