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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.

According to American's lawsuit, Delta began using the term "Flagship" to promote flights on Airbus A350 planes, which it uses for international flights. It began promoting these flights in 2017, using the slogan, "Delta's flagship international aircraft." American has engaged in litigation on several occasions regarding its trademarks. It also filed a lawsuit against a travel firm in Latin America over the company's logo, which it also claims is a trademark infringement.

For companies struggling to distinguish themselves in tight or highly competitive markets, trademarks and branding may be essential. An intellectual property attorney may help business owners protect themselves and their creative concepts through copyright or trademark registration or litigation.

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