Furniture sold in Illinois through Bon-Ton Stores was the subject of a recent trademark infringement case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Stone Creek, Inc. v. Omnia Italian Design, Inc., No. 15-17418 (9th Cir. 2017)).
Phoenix-area furniture maker and retailer Stone Creek, Inc., obtained state and federal trademark protection for the signature red oval encircling the words “Stone Creek” imprinted on its furniture. In 2003, the company entered an agreement with leather furniture maker Omnia Italian Design to sell Omnia furniture branded with the Stone Creek label in Stone Creek stores.
Stone Creek later learned that Omnia was using its brand mark without authorization on competing products, specifically furniture sold through Bon-Ton Stores in the Midwest. Omnia digitally copied the mark from Stone Creek products and used it in marketing and warranty materials displayed at Bon-Ton galleries. Stone Creek was tipped off when, among other things, consumers began contacting them about warranties for furniture purchased at Bon-Ton.
Stone Creek sued Omnia for federal and common-law trademark infringement and unfair competition. The district court found for Omnia on the ground that consumers were not likely to be confused by the mark as defined under the Lanham Act.
A “likelihood of confusion” under trademark law turns on whether a “reasonably prudent” marketplace consumer is “likely to be confused as to the origin of the good or service bearing one of the marks.” Determining factors include the similarity of the marks and the proximity of the goods, the recognition and distinctiveness of the protected mark, evidence of actual confusion, and common marketing channels. Continue reading