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Does context matter in trademark disputes?

On Behalf of | Sep 14, 2023 | Trademark Law

You might think that taking a name from one industry and applying it to something totally different is fine. Yet if that item is trademarked, you need to take care.

There are only 26 letters in the alphabet so there’s a pretty good chance any name or phrase you think of has been used elsewhere. This is where context comes in when a court decides whether or not someone has breached a trademark.

The possibility for confusion is key

If you decide to name your child ‘Bud’ you do not need to worry about the brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) who owns the “Bud” trademark filing a lawsuit against you. No one is going to think your child is a bottle of beer and even if they do, their delusion won’t harm the owners of the trademark.

If you started brewing beer or another sort of alcohol under that name, you definitely should expect a lawsuit as the trademark owners would have a good case for arguing it could confuse people and end up costing them money and reputation.

What about opening a bar called Bud’s? Perhaps someone could assume it must be owned by AB InBev. A quick Google search reveals several bars of that name, so presumably, the brewer does not have a problem with it, even though they potentially could as a case from 2022 shows.

Barbie vs. Rap Snacks

Mattel, the owner of the Barbie trademark, filed a lawsuit claiming that Rap Snacks had violated its trademark by releasing a potato chip flavor called “Barbie-Que Honey Truffle”. Mattel later withdrew the complaint and while the details of any agreement were not revealed, Rap Snacks also withdrew that line of potato chips.

Trademark law is incredibly complex. If you are unsure about whether something could be seen as a violation of an existing trademark, you need legal help to find out.