Many New Jersey guitar enthusiasts are familiar with the Gibson guitar brand. A former Gibson employee left the company back in the 1980s when it closed its doors in one state to move to another. The former employee launched a new guitar company known as Heritage Guitars. Trademark law is now the central focus of litigation between these two businesses.
Fans of Panda Express in New Jersey may be interested to learn of a lawsuit filed by the Chinese takeout chain. Lawyers for the restaurant chain filed a civil suit against a Phoenix-based restaurant named Panda Libre. Panda Express alleged that Panda Libre infringed on its trademark name in the suit.
New Jersey companies and individuals who have acquired a trademark should be aware of the process of protecting it from illegal use. Sometimes, this involves a small entity taking on a larger one. In one lawsuit, a Maryland nonprofit is accusing a basketball star of using its slogan on social media and profiting from it.
Many New Jersey companies have good reason to be concerned about trademark infringement, particularly with the challenging global environment of online sales and e-commerce. Infringement types can range from confusingly similar products sold by legitimate competitor brands to blatant counterfeits marketed for sale online with fake brand logos and imagery. One company reported that 85% of the brands it works with faced at least some problems with trademark infringement in 2019, an increase from the already high numbers of 2018 when 81% reported the same concerns. In 2017, 74% of the businesses the trademark research firm works with reported that their intellectual property had been violated.
Companies in New Jersey and throughout the country may be able to claim a trademark over a color. For instance, T-Mobile has successfully claimed a trademark for the color magenta, and it asserted those rights in a lawsuit against an insurance company called Lemonade. A trademark is typically granted when a company has managed to use a logo, word or color in a way that distinguishes itself from the competition.
New Jersey residents may be familiar with the sports video sharing platform Overtime.tv. The website, which is popular with teenage athletes and sports fans, uses a simple letter "O" as its logo. When Overtime attempted to have its logo trademarked, it became involved in a legal battle with Ohio State University.
Many New Jersey businesses may be concerned about the effect of counterfeit products on their bottom line, especially as more consumers shop online with fewer opportunities to verify the provenance of the products they buy. The International Trademark Association estimates that counterfeit goods may be a $2.81 trillion business by 2022. In 2017 alone, U.S. companies lost more than $1 trillion due to counterfeiting, a $400 billion increase in counterfeit-related losses over the prior year. The winter holidays can be a particularly challenging time as people seek out name-brand products.
Indie game developers or any creatives in New Jersey may want to avoid using the phrase "choose your own adventure" in their work. Chooseco, the company that publishes the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books, has alleged that four games on itch.io have committed trademark infringement by using the phrase, and the games have been pulled from the platform. The company founder warned developers on Twitter not to use the phrase in their games.
New Jersey residents might be interested to learn that a Georgia woman has filed a lawsuit against the retail giant, Target, for allegedly infringing on her trademark with its Good & Gather line of products. The woman trademarked Garnish & Gather in 2014 as the name of her Atlanta-based business.
Intellectual property owners in New Jersey and around the country walk a fine line when they decide how vigorously to pursue infringers. Allowing trademarks and copyrights to be used without permission or consequence encourages further infringement and sets a precedent that could make future litigation more challenging, but initiating legal action against companies operating in completely different market segments just because they have vaguely similar names can seem like bullying and provoke fierce consumer reactions.