Source of this excerpt: DelawareOnline.com (Maureen Milford)
The Connecticut brothers who built a successful clothing company that embodies the prepster lifestyle of Martha’s Vineyard have stirred up a nor’easter for a Rehoboth Beach T-shirt shop.
Vineyard Vines LLC, a company started by Ian and Shep Murray in 1998, has sued Rehoboth Lifestyle Clothing Co. for selling tops and sweatshirts that say “rehoboth” and are embroidered with big smiling whales. The jaunty-tailed whales bear a striking resemblance to the iconic trademark seen on the Murrays’ high-end ties, shirts, jackets, dresses and other products, the lawsuit alleges.
The way the Stamford, Connecticut, company sees it, Rehoboth Lifestyle is infringing on its registered trademark and diluting its “famous trademark,” according to a lawsuit filed in federal court. Vineyard Vines clothing, which has been spotted on movie stars and several presidents, is pricey, with a cotton dress shirt selling for $128 on the company’s website. […]
I doubt a court would find that the Vineyard Vines whale, even as popular, well-known and iconic as it may be, is indeed a “famous mark” as that term is defined under the Federal Trademark Dilution Act. Bigger ‘fish’ have tried and failed. The short list includes: XEROX, KODAK, COCA-COLA, and REEBOK. Read more about trademark dilution and famous mark cases. But it seems that Vineyard Vines has a strong case in establishing the “likelihood” of confusion. Actual confusion of consumers is not required.
I was quoted in the article to explain why it is important for trademark owners to police and to protect their marks. The consequences of not doing so could be extremely costly to their brand and business. And the failure to police may also lead to “genericide”, causing the owners to lose their exclusive right to use the mark in connection with the sale of its goods and services. Common examples of well-known companies whose marks became generic
In the article, I also explained the general purposes of trademark law. Read the full article:
So what do you think? Are consumers likely to be confused, even if initially, by the local t-shirt company’s mirror-image, stylized pink whale? More specifically, is it more likely than not that some consumer might be confused? If so, what’s the harm?
~Prof TE~ Follow me on Twitter @IPProfEvans