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Consumer confusion can prove a trademark infringement claim

On Behalf of | Oct 23, 2019 | Civil Litigation

Texas companies that apply for a federal trademark have the right to pursue legal action against any other U.S. company over infringement allegations. Unauthorized use of a symbol, quote or branding logo that confuses consumers or causes a mistaken belief that a product or service is something else may represent grounds for infringement. 

According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the trademark owner may file a lawsuit if another product or service appears related to the original source. If consumers mistakenly believe that another company manufactured or distributed a product, it may lead to a loss of substantial sales revenue for the company that actually created it. 

Differentiating between two products 

The general purpose of registering a company’s brand for trademark protection is differentiating the product from its competitors. When two different products are somewhat similar, the only things that may distinguish them from each other are the logos, slogans or symbols used in marketing them to purchasers. If the product slogan or campaign confuses consumers, they may mistakenly purchase it thinking that it belongs to one particular company when, in fact, it does not. 

Backyard barbecue grill causes confusion 

A federal jury found Walmart Inc. liable for trademark infringement over the use of its brand name “Backyard Grill + Design” on its packaging, as reported by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The big-box retailer applied for this brand’s trademark protection in 2011 to sell its barbecue grills. Another company, however, had previously produced a backyard grill called “The Backyard” and applied for its federal trademark protection in 1994. 

The smaller retailer won its case because Walmart’s branding strategy for its “Backyard Grill + Design” would most likely confuse consumers. An individual may purchase Walmart’s own “Backyard Grill + Design” when he or she actually intended to purchase the smaller company’s “The Backyard” grill. 

The court ordered Walmart to pay the business more than $95.5 million. The jury also found that Walmart willfully infringed upon the retailer’s barbecue grill trademarks and determined that it should pay for the smaller company’s lost profits.