Case Study 3: Koalect SA v Elefunds GmbH

The Companies


Koalect SA is a Belgian start-up that has developed, since October 2014, the largest donation and reward-based crowdfunding software tool in Belgium. Elefunds GmbH, is a German company with two earlier registered EU and German trade marks for “Elefunds”, with an elephant logo and in the class corresponding to its activities.

The Case


Initially, Koalect SA launched its business project under a different name, “Elefund”, with an elephant logo. The company started to use this brand to identify itself in the market without previously carrying out a trade mark search in order to ascertain whether a similar or identical trade mark for similar or identical goods and services was registered by a third party. The German company approached the Belgian company and informed it about the conflict between the two trade marks.At this point, the Belgian Company realised that there were only two possible solutions to this issue: either face court action against Elefunds GmbH, or stop using the name “Elefund” and find a completely new brand, meaning a re-invention from scratch of their corporate identity.

The Conclusion


After considering several approaches including consulting lawyers specialised in trade mark law, Koalect SA was left with a few options:to stop using “Elefund” and to find a different name, fight the case in court or trying to find an amicable agreement with Elefunds GmbH.The negotiation was fruitless with Elefunds GmbH giving the now Koalect multiple ultimatums to change its brand name and to close down all its social media communications and e-mail addresses.At this point, the company understood that, as a young start-up, it could not afford litigation due to its monetary and time costs. As a result, it was decided to change their company name and register a new trade mark.

“The company has changed its name to “Koalect SA” and registered its trade mark, “Koalect”, with a koala logo, as a EU trade mark with a completely new brand identity.,”

Key Takeaways


Maxime Bouckaert, co-founder of Koalect SA, explains that when facing this type of issue he would advise to look at it from different angles (strategic, marketing value, legal, financial, practical options…) and to be as objective as possible about the matter without becoming emotional.

He also considers that in certain circumstances, it is preferable to avoid litigation and, therefore, either adopt a strategy of finding an amicable settlement with the counterparty

Koalect SA first sought help from their advisory board, which gave a first “strategic” opinion on the matter. The advisory board explained that to stop using “Elefund” and to eventually find a different name would not be a big issue considering, in particular, that the company was very young.
Secondly, they consulted two lawyers specialized in trade mark law. Both lawyers advised that it would be difficult to fight the case and win, but that it would still be worth trying to find an amicable agreement.

IP Nuggets


It is essential to always perform a trade mark search before using or applying for registration of a trade mark. This search allows you to determine whether the trade mark whose registration is intended is available in connection to the goods and/or services whose commercialization under the trademark is sought.

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PalladiumIP October 19, 2020 0 Comments

Case Study 2: D2 Holdings (D2) v MRC II Distribution Company (MRC II)

The Companies


D2 Holdings (D2) is a Massachusetts entertainment goods and services company . MRC 11 Distribution Company (MRCII), is the brand behind the Netflix hit political thriller House of Cards.

The Case


On March 3, 2016 D2 filed a trademark infringement claim against MRC 11, stating it has held the trademark for House of Cards for “entertainment goods and services” since 2009, MRC 11 has tried several times to file a trademark for the phrase, which was rejected but still has proceeded to use the name, to great success with the popularity of the show. Indeed, to such success that the name has been licensed to a producer of gaming machines who now uses that mark on slot machines. D2 also filed suit against IGT, the manufacturer of the slot machines at issue.

The Conclusion


The lawsuit is pending ruling. The verdict of the lawsuit will be based on the law on infringement of intellectual property. The complaint seeks an injunction ordering MRC II and IGT to cease all use of the “HOUSE OF CARDS” name. Given the commercial success of the program, MRC II (and Netflix) do not want to lose the right to use “HOUSE OF CARDS”. Therefore, the case will invariably settle with a significant windfall to D2 via a license agreement allowing use of HOUSE OF CARDS by defendants.

“If D2 Holding proves ownership of the trademark, then it is its responsibility to prove that MRC violated the infringement rights by sharing the trademark with other entities without a license or authorization by D2 Holdings”

Key Takeaways


If the court finds sufficient evidence that MRC violated infringement rights by sharing licensed trademark “House of Cards” with other entities, and rules in favor of D2 Holdings, compensation for damages could be huge.

The “HOUSE OF CARDS” situation illustrates two important points

  • Trademark laws provide the initial user of a trademark with two significant rights and remedies, namely, the right to preclude others from using a mark and the ability to seek a court order requiring a party to cease use of a trademark.
  • The risk of drawing a challenge to use of a mark can be lowered through thorough pre-adoption trademark searching. Through comprehensive searching significant risks – such as another party already using an identical mark for identical services – can be uncovered, understood and potentially averted.

IP Nuggets


Trademarks are vitally important to business. Among the rights a first user of a trademark has against others is the ability to seek injunctive relief, requesting a second user to stop all use of a trademark. This could stop a product launch dead in its tracks or result in significant re-branding costs if a product or service is already in the market. Because of this, businesses should carefully consider trademarks before adopting or using them. It is crucial that all businesses engage in trademark searching before use of a mark.

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PalladiumIP October 18, 2020 0 Comments

IP Case Study 1 : Romag v. Fossil

The Companies


Romag sells magnetic snap fasteners for use in leather goods . Part of the American Fossil Group’s business is their line of clothing accessories including handbags. Fossil designs, markets, and distributes a wide range of fashion accessories.

The Case


In 2002 , the two companies, signed an agreement allowing Fossil to use Romag’s fasteners in Fossil’s handbags and other products. Initially, both sides seemed content with the arrangement. In time, Romag discovered that the factories Fossil hired in China, to make its products were using counterfeit Romag fasteners—and that Fossil was doing little to guard against the practice. Romag sues Fossil, alleging that Fossil had infringed its trademark and falsely represented that its fasteners came from Romag. Romag sought (among other things) an order requiring Fossil to hand over the profits it had earned thanks to its trademark violation.

The Conclusion


After a trial, the jury agreed with Romag citing that Fossil had acted “in callous disregard” of Romag’s rights. The jury determined that Fossil had infringed Romag’s trademark, but rejected Romag’s claim that the infringement was “willful”. Nevertheless, the jury awarded Romag damages based on Fossil’s profits. In a highly split decision the US Court of Appeals Second Circuit pointed out that a plaintiff seeking an award of the defendant’s profits must show willful infringement, failing which the court struck the jury’s award of profits to Romag.

“The jury determined that Fossil had infringed Romag’s trademark, but rejected Romag’s claim that the infringement was “willful”…”

Key Takeaways


The possibility of obtaining profits from an infringing party will definitely set in motion a series of events in the very near future.

  • Increase in trademark infringement lawsuits – As a result of this ruling, it is now easier to obtain an infringer’s profits in trademark infringement lawsuits. This may lead to an increase in trademark infringement lawsuits as it may incentivize companies to initiate
  • Payment demand in addition to cease and desist letters – Previously, before considering litigation, many businesses first attempt to resolve trademarks through cease and desist letters. Now that it’s easier to obtain a defendant’s profits, in a lawsuit, it is very likely that infringers may start receiving cease and desist letters that require payment from the infringer in order to resolve disputes.
  • “Willful infringement” will be easier to prove-Conducting thorough trademark clearance searches before adopting a mark is even more critical. If a business adopts a third party’s mark, without the proper trademark clearance, the third party does not have to prove “willfulness” to recover an award of profits.

IP Nuggets


Now, businesses will have to closely monitor their supply chains and institute robust quality control standards to prevent counterfeit materials from being used in their businesses. Businesses should conduct thorough due diligence of the suppliers that they are contracting with to ensure that the materials provided are not counterfeit.

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PalladiumIP October 18, 2020 0 Comments