Recent Supreme Court decision will impact trademark law cases

| May 11, 2020 | Trademark Law |

For New Jersey individuals or companies that have an image, a sign, a design or other way in which they differentiate themselves from others, it is imperative that it be protected from misuse by others. A trademark can prevent this from negatively impacting the business. Still, trademark infringement happens all-too frequently and it is important to understand how to put a stop to it and recover compensation for the damage it has done. A recent decision by the Supreme Court of the United States addressed how profits can be obtained if there is trademark infringement.

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court stated that a plaintiff who is claiming trademark infringement is not obligated to show that the infringement was willful to be awarded profits. The specific way in which the Lanham Act – the law related to trademarks – is worded does not require willfulness if there is a trademark issue if it is due to it being used falsely or in a misleading way. The specific case the Supreme Court heard was related to a company that makes leather items.

One company makes fasteners that close a wallet or purse. It asserted that there were manufacturers in China making handbags for another company using counterfeit fasteners of its design. The second company was not earnestly trying to put a stop to it. The fastener company was awarded $6.7 million by a jury, but the judge set it aside because the jury did not say there was willful infringement. However, the Supreme Court found that the mental state of a company or entity accused of trademark infringement must be considered when deciding on the validity of an award. This allows companies to have greater flexibility when determining if there should be an award based on trademark infringement.

This ruling may benefit companies for whom trademark infringement was perceived to be an issue, but there were disputes as to whether the infringement was done willfully. For legal problems related to trademark law, patents, copyrights, licenses, trade secrets and more, having legal assistance to protect one’s property, creations and ideas may be key. A law firm with experience in helping with these disputes may be crucial to be fully shielded and recover compensation.

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