2016 saw an assault on the age-old axiom that for a markholder
to have rights in the U.S., that same mark must actually be used in the U.S.
And, while what constitutes “use” has long been debated in U.S. courts and
before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB), use in the U.S. as a
precondition to an unfair competition claim under the Lanham Act is no longer
the law in the Fourth Circuit. In Belmora LLC v. Bayer Consumer Case AG et al.,
the Fourth Circuit concluded that a false advertising or false association
claim under Lanham Act Section 43(a) (15 U.S.C. §1125(a)) need not be premised
upon the ownership of a U.S. trademark registration or even use of a mark in
the U.S. Rather, a §43(a) claim is available to “[a]ny person who believes that
he is or will be damaged” as a result of a defendant’s conduct. Thus,
reasoned the Fourth Circuit, the question to be resolved under §43(a) is
not whether the defendant’s activities infringe the plaintiff’s registered
mark; but rather, whether the defendant has used in commerce a word, term,
name, or symbol that plaintiff believes is likely to cause it damage.
The Federal Circuit also abandoned this bedrock use requirement in Christian Faith Fellowship v. Adidas AG, where it reversed the TTAB’s cancellation of two marks on grounds that the registrant’s trivial out-of-state sales were nevertheless enough “use in commerce” to invoke protection under the Lanham Act.
But this sea change in the standards of use are not merely confined to the U.S. Canada too is scheduled to abandon its long time reliance on use as a precondition to obtaining a Canadian trademark registration. Canada’s recently amended Trade-marks Act is scheduled to be implemented in 2019 and looks to eliminate several filing bases, including proposed use.
The panelists will address relevant decisions and legislation and will explain how these developments contribute to an ever evolving trademark litigation and prosecution landscape in the U.S. and Canada.