Benjamin Appelbaum, Attorney at Law

Appearance of competitor's product deemed trademark infringement

Products of all types could be the subject of trademark litigation. They do not need to be an expensive product for trademark action to be taken. A lawsuit filed by the manufacturer of automotive air fresheners, against a competitor, illustrates this.

Both of the companies make car fresheners that are in the shape of trees--the party bringing the lawsuit in the shape of a pine tree, and the other a palm. The fresheners have similar packaging and scents that are called the same thing, smell the same, and are the same color. As a result of all of the similarities, the maker of the ”Little Trees” pine shaped version—Car-Freshener—took legal action against Exotica Fresheners Company, the manufacturer of the palm tree version.

Car-Freshener has been manufacturing the Little Trees version since 1952.

The basis of the claim was that a consumer could be mislead into thinking the palm tree version was connected to, affiliated with or approved by Car-Freshener, and that the palm tree version could cause deception, mistake or confusion regarding the source of the product. It sought an unspecified amount of money and an order directing Exotica to stop using the palm tree design.

At trial, the jury agreed with Car-Freshener that the two products looked similar and determined Exotica had in fact infringed upon Car-Freshener’s trademark. As a result the business was ordered to pay $52,000. It was also ordered to change its packaging.

Being proactive about infringement could prevent a business’s trademark from being diluted, potentially leading to a loss of money. When taking this course of action a lawyer can be of assistance.

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Benjamin Appelbaum, Attorney at Law - Intellectual Property

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