The Ninth Circuit yesterday decided an interesting case involving the concept of “tacking” the use of one form of a trademark onto another. In One Industries, LLC v. Jim O’Neal Distributing, Inc., No. 08-55316 (9th Cir. Aug. 24, 2009), the trademark owner claimed that the defendant’s stylized letter “O” infringed its stylized “O”. Since the trademark owner’s most recent stylized “O” was closest to the defendant’s stylized “O” but was also adopted after the defendant adopted its stylized “O,” the trademark owner tried to “tack” its junior stylized “O” onto its more senior stylized “O”s.
The 9th Circuit held that tacking doctrine is extremely strict—so strict that it wouldn’t allow the trademark owner to tack the 2003 “O” onto the older “O”s because they did not create the same, continuing commercial impression. (Sorry, I can't figure out how to upload images of the O's so you can see them, but they're in the opinion).
Having rejected tacking, the court then compared the trademark owner’s 1997 “O” to the defendant’s 1999 “O”.*
The 9th Circuit held that, in the absence of actual confusion, and because the “O” field was crowded with other stylized “O”s, these two “O”s were too different to give rise to a likelihood of confusion.
* Interestingly, the court did not explain why it was allowing the trademark owner to assert infringement based on a mark it abandoned in 2003. I mean, shouldn't the Defendant, if anyone, have been the one asserting that the Plaintiff moved closer to it and was, as a result, the infringer??