A Small Business Owner Gets Sued for Trademark Infringement.

A trademark is a symbol, word, or phrase that businesses use to distinguish their products and services from competitors. Infringement occurs when one party uses another’s trademark without authorization, and in a way that can cause confusion about ownership of the latter’s goods and services.

If a trademark owner believes that you have infringed upon its rights, it can commence a civil action against you. These cases usually appear in federal court, although they may also be filed within the state where the trademark is registered. Before things reach that point, the trademark owner may send you a cease and desist letter through their attorney to resolve the matter outside of court.

You’re Being Sued- What Can You Do?

A trademark infringement lawsuit puts you in a very difficult position. If you violate someone else’s rights in this area, you may be held liable for thousands of dollars even if the alleged infringement did not cause the trademark owner any financial losses. This is the main reason why you should always consult with a Florida business lawyer who can help you present a strong defense to the claim.

Trademark infringements can be defended in a variety of ways, depending on the specific details of your case. Common defenses include:

  • Fair use, meaning that you used the mark in good faith and in a purely descriptive context.
  • You were using the mark before the date it was registered by the plaintiff and didn’t know that it had been claimed.
  • The registrant effectively abandoned the mark.
  • With word trademarks, it is your actual name or a descriptive term with no secondary meaning.
  • You used the mark for parody purposes.

Your attorney will present the most appropriate defense for your case.

What Constitutes a Trademark Infringement Claim?

In order to pursue a trademark infringement in court, the plaintiff must must prove several things, including the following:

  • They legally own the trademark.
  • They were the first to use it.
  • Your alleged use of the trademark is likely to confuse consumers.

The courts also look at factors like the following:

  • How strong and distinctive the mark is.
  • The similarity between your mark and theirs.
  • The similarity between your goods and services and those of the defendant. For example, cakes and donuts are relatively similar while cakes and electronics are not.
  • Whether you and the plaintiffs used similar marketing channels, such as the same radio station or television channel.
  • Your intent- does it appear as if you were trying to profit at the plaintiff’s expense?
  • Evidence that consumers were confused- did a disgruntled consumer leave a negative Google review for the plaintiff, thinking they were reviewing your business instead?

A trademark infringement lawsuit is primarily based on similarities between the goods or services, as well as confusion or inaccurate association that may result from them. 

Are You Facing a Trademark Infringement Claim?

You may feel bullied when receiving a trademark infringement notice, especially since you had no idea you were impacting someone else’s rights. When this happens, it’s important to hire a business attorney who understands the ramifications and can help you negotiate a positive resolution.

Whenever negotiations aren’t possible, the team at the Florida Small Business Center can help you defend your position in federal and state court, so don’t face this situation alone. To schedule a confidential case review, please call the Florida Small Business Center at 1-866-842-5202.

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