Nike Opposes Local Business’ Trademark Rights
A legal action filed by athletics giant Nike against local Florida business Crossfit CityPlace, a Pike & Lustig, LLP client, alleges that the small business has attempted to register a trademark that is too similar to one of Nike’s marks. The trademarks in question are Nike’s “jumpman” logo, a silhouette depiction of a slam-dunking Michael Jordan, and the Crossfit CityPlace logo of a man doing a one-armed handstand. Crossfit CityPlace filed an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to federally register their handstand mark. As part of the registration process, other members of the public are allowed to protest registrations if they think it would conflict with the rights that they have in their mark.
The logo that Crossfit CityPlace wants to register is a stylized depiction of a one-armed handstand, enclosed within a circle. The logo is based on a common exercise performed by crossfit athletes in which they engage in a one-handed handstand, often holding on to a kettlebell or some other form of weight. In fact, the exercise is so distinctive and associated with crossfit, that many participants opt to take photographs of themselves while performing the exercise and post them on the internet. The logo that Nike claims this handstand interferes with is a picture of a slam dunk. The jumpman logo is most commonly associated with Nike’s Air Jordan line of products. Unlike the Crossfit CityPlace logo, it is not enclosed in a circle, and the figure it shows is right side up.
Despite the fact that the athletes on the two logos are, among other differences, inverted, Nike nevertheless asserts two separate claims in its opposition to the registration: likelihood of confusion and dilution. Likelihood of confusion is the foundation of a trademark infringement claim, and it refers to the potential confusion that consumers might suffer if they cannot tell the two marks apart. This is because trademarks, at their heart, are about protecting consumers and making sure that they are not mislead. Confusingly similar trademarks could mislead consumers into purchasing products they do not want because they think they were made by a better company. In order to determine whether marks are confusingly similar courts look at a variety of factors including the similarity of the marks, the intent of the people registering the marks, and evidence of actual confusion, such as consumer surveys. Since it is too early in the process for such surveys to be produced, for the moment Nike is left arguing that handstands and slam dunks inherently look so similar that consumers cannot tell them apart.
The other claim Nike brings is known as a dilution claim. This is a special type of claim that does not require a likelihood of confusion. Instead, Nike is claiming that their jumpman mark is so famous that it deserves extra protection. If a mark is so famous that it is “widely recognized by the general consuming public of the United States,” the mark’s owner can claim that other marks dilute their mark’s value by “blurring” them, which means making them less recognizable, regardless of whether there is any actual confusion. Again, however, this argument is based on the idea that a handstand is similar enough to a slam dunk to blur the line.
If you have found yourself involved in a trademark dispute, contact a West Palm Beach intellectual property attorney at Pike & Lustig, LLP today. Our firm’s experienced team is here to help you protect your rights.