Here are some important trademark cases and administrative activity for 2015.
TTAB findings can preclude litigating “likelihood of confusion.” In a dispute over two soundalike trademarks, SEALTIGHT and SEALTITE, the Supreme Court ruled that a finding of likelihood of confusion by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) could preclude litigating the same issue in court. The judgment of the Eighth Circuit was reversed and the case was remanded for further proceedings. B&B Hardware, Inc. v. Hargis Indus., Inc., 575 U.S. __ (2015).
“Tacking” is a question of fact for jury. “Tacking” occurs when a trademark owner seeking to prove priority (that is, that it was first to use a mark) relies on earlier altered use of the mark to prove first use. In this case, Hana Bank claimed that its use of HANA OVERSEAS KOREAN CLUB could serve as its basis for priority for HANA BANK. At issue was whether tacking was a question of fact for the jury or whether a judge could make the decision. The Supreme Court unanimously held that trademark tacking presents a question of fact appropriate for jury determination. Hana Financial v. Hana Bank, 574 U.S. ___ (2015)
TEAS system reconfigured. The Trademark Electronic Application System reconfigured its application system, lowering some fees and creating a new TEAS application option. Here is the current status of the TEAS system:
An electronic filing is $225 to $325 per class (depending on which filing option you choose); a paper filing—should you prepare a paper application on your own—is $375. Your TEAS options are:
Renewal fee reduced. The fee to electronically renew a trademark registration was reduced by $100, to $300 per class of goods/services.
Tenth edition of Nice Classification System. As of January 1, 2015, the Nice Classification, Tenth Edition, version 2015 (NCL 10-2015), became effective. Changes to the class headings and a link to noteworthy changes are available at www.uspto.gov/trademarks/notices/NiceClassSchedule2015.jsp.