Wednesday, September 30, 2009

5th Circuit (in Unpublished Opinion) Says Strength of Junior User’s Mark May be Relevant in Reverse Confusion Analysis

Seemingly approving of other circuits’ holdings that, in a reverse confusion case, the strength of the junior user’s mark is relevant, the 5th Circuit vacated summary judgment in the reverse confusion case of The Great Amer. Rest. Co. v. Domino’s Pizza LLC, No. 08-40654 (5th Cir. Sept. 30, 2009). The court designated its short, four-page opinion as “unpublished,” however. While unpublished opinions can be cited pursuant to Fed. R. App. P. 32.1, the 5th Circuit’s local rule 47.5.4 states that its unpublished opinions “are not precedent.” So it’s questionable how much weight any court might give it.

I believe this is the first time that the 5th Circuit has mentioned the “reverse strength” concept applying in a reverse confusion case. Off the top of my head I know that the 3d and 9th Circuits also take this view (the 5th Circuit cited only the 3d Circuit’s decision in A&H Sportswear, Inc. v. Victoria’s Secret Stores, Inc., 237 F.3d 198 (3d Cir. 2000)). The court did not address, however, whether the strength of the senior user’s mark remains relevant (or how) in the likelihood of reverse confusion calculus.

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