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Los Angeles Business Law Blog

7-Eleven sues Quick E Mart for trademark infringement

California residents who are fans of the cartoon series 'The Simpsons" likely remember the convenience store in the show. On Dec. 29, a convenience store that was named Quick E Mart was sued by 7-Eleven for trademark infringement. The store is owned by Sangha Investments LLC and operated in North Bend, Oregon.

According to 7-Eleven, the name Quick E Mart is too similar to Kwik E Mart from The Simpsons. In 2007, 7-Eleven did a cross-promotion with the cartoon series and changed the branding on some of its stores to look like Springfield's Kwik E Mart. 7-Eleven also alleges that the Oregon Quick E Mart used its recognizable striping on the design of its building.

Airlines battle in "flagship" trademark dispute

Two of California's biggest airlines are locked in a dispute over trademarks used in their marketing materials. American Airlines sued rival company Delta Air Lines over the term "Flagship." Delta has begun using the term to promote premium flights, while American already uses the term for its own first- and business-class options. American requested that the court issue an injunction against Delta prohibiting the rival airline from using the disputed term in its promotion. It says that Delta has long been aware that American has trademarked these terms to promote its premium flights, as the airline has been using them for decades.

While American Airlines has used the term "Flagship" since the 1930s, it registered the term for trademark protection in 1999. It uses the term for its lounges and premium flights. Along with United, American and Delta are the two large legacy carriers in the United States and compete for similar markets, especially among business travelers and frequent flyers who may be more likely to make use of premium services. American's complaint says that the competition among the airlines is so well-established that Delta's use of the term must be deliberate.

Some indie games accused of violating Chooseco trademark

Some gaming fans in California may have noticed that a few indie games on the gaming storefront Itch.io have been removed if they use the phrase "Choose your own adventure." Chooseco, the Choose Your Own Adventure books publisher, claimed that four games were infringing on its trademark. On Twitter, the founder of Itch.io warned developers to avoid using the phrase since Chooseco was issuing takedown notices.

Some of the games used the phrase in their names; in other cases, "Choose your own adventure" was simply used to describe the game. The two that used the phrase in the title were called "A Series of Choose Your Own Adventure Stories Where No Matter What You Choose You Are Immediately Killed by a Werewolf" and "Choose Your Own Adventure BG."

Handling an unfounded sexual harassment claim

Running a modern workplace can be somewhat challenging. After all, you must meet or exceed customer demands if you want to stay in business. You must also recruit and retain the best talent possible. Furthermore, in the #MeToo era, you must take a proactive approach to addressing sexual harassment claims. 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that approximately 25% of women face sexual harassment at work. Of course, men can also be the targets of inappropriate behavior. Not all harassment claims have merit, though. As an employer, this puts you in a somewhat awkward position. How do you handle an unfounded sexual harassment claim? 

Local food company sues Target for trademark infringement

Trademark owners in California and around the country usually take legal action to protect their intellectual property when branding elements similar to theirs are used in a way that could confuse consumers. This was the concern that prompted a Georgia woman to file a lawsuit in September against the big-box retailer Target. The woman founded the Atlanta-based company Garnish & Gather in 2013 to promote locally grown food, and she sent a trademark infringement notice to Target in August when she learned that the retailer planned to name its premium food brand Good & Gather.

Target ignored the warning and went on to launch its Good & Gather food line at more than 1,800 stores across the country. The woman claims in her trademark infringement litigation that about 50 products bearing Good & Gather branding are similar to goods sold by Garnish & Gather. She also says that both lines use a leaf motif as one of their primary branding elements.

Outdoor retailer sues over the word "backcountry"

Deciding whether to take legal action against infringers is sometimes difficult for intellectual property owners in California and around the country. Choosing to allow branding elements or copyrighted material to be used without consent makes future infringement more likely, but aggressive litigation can sometimes prompt a disapproving media response and an angry public backlash.

For example, the bicycle manufacturer Specialized was criticized when it sued several businesses because their names were similar to the names of some of its products, and the online retailer Backcountry.com provoked a fierce public reaction when it launched lawsuits against dozens of companies with names that include the word 'backcountry." In addition to filing lawsuits in federal courts, Backcountry.com has made petitions to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. In 2018, the company was preparing a range of branded clothing and accessories, and it applied for trademarks to protect the word 'backcountry."

Riot Games sues Riot Squad for trademark infringement

The California-based video game company Riot Games, which is best known for its 'League of Legends" series, has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the esports organization Riot Squad. The litigation, which got filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleges that the Chicago-based esports tournament organizer violated rights protected by the Lanham Act and is engaging in unfair business practices prohibited by California law.

The two companies do not compete against each other directly and have dissimilar logos. Riot Squad has also not organized any 'League of Legends" tournaments. However, the lawsuit appears to have been filed because both companies operate in the video game sector and have names that include the word 'Riot." Riot Games claims that it has invested heavily in esports tournaments and alleges that Riot Squad chose its name to cash in on this investment and confuse or deceive consumers. The company is seeking injunctive relief and monetary damages for trademark infringement, unfair competition and false designation of origin.

Intellectual property classifications to know

The human mind is extremely creative, and some people take the initiative to make their dreams into reality. However, without the proper protection, other parties may be able to claim those ideas for themselves.

To prevent this, it is important that inventors claim their intellectual property through legal channels. In order to do this properly, parties should understand the different types of intellectual property.

Facebook sued over Libra logo

An online banking and software development company has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Facebook. The California-based social media giant is facing possible legal sanctions for using a logo that is allegedly virtually identical to one protected by a trademark issued in 2016. The logo at the center of the dispute is a tilde design that Facebook is using to promote its proposed Libra digital currency.

Finco Services, which offers app-based online banking services under the brand name Current, claims in its lawsuit that it retained the services of a San Francisco design firm to create a logo for its debit cards and mobile phone apps. The same company, which is also named as a defendant in the litigation, designed the Libra logo for Facebook. Finco says that the two logos are virtually identical and accuses Facebook of unfair competition and trademark infringement.

Stan Lee's estate files lawsuit over intellectual property

The daughter of Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee has filed a lawsuit against his business associates in a California federal court. As Lee's sole heir and estate trustee, she accuses business people running POW! Entertainment of misleading her father into reassigning rights to his valuable comic book characters and stories.

The lawsuit alleges that on at least six occasions, Lee's business partners manipulated the comic book creator who died in November 2018 into giving up ownership of some of his intellectual property. After his death, his daughter hired lawyers and accountants to examine business dealings conducted as far back as the 1990s but especially during the period of 2001 to 2017. The forensic team concluded that Lee's intellectual property rights had been looted by people acting in bad faith within POW! Entertainment. Lee had set up POW! in the 1990s to serve as the company holding his intellectual property rights. The lawsuit wants the rights to Lee's likeness and name to be restored to his estate along with declaratory relief regarding ownership of intellectual property.

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