During the 16th century a Dutch shipmaker used heat to concentrate wine to make it easier to transport, his idea was to reconstitute it with water when he arrived at his destination. What he ultimately discovered, was that the heated wine tasted very good. The concentrated wine was called burnt wine or brandewijn in Dutch. Today, Brandy is enjoyed around the world.
By refusing to hear the University of South Carolina’s appeal, the Supreme Court ended a 13-year-old dispute over interlocking letters “SC”. Prior to this appeal, the Federal Circuit held the University of Southern California and not South Carolina is the proprietor of intellectual property rights in the mark. Their ruling stands.
Trademark law protects identifiers of origin. Put more simply, the reason you know shoes bearing the “swoosh” emblem are Nikes and not something else is because of trademark law. Nike has registered the “swoosh” with the United States Patent and Trademark Office limiting other company’s ability to fool buyers by placing it on their products.
Consumer confusion is what Trademark Law was meant to defend against. This week, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear South Carolina’s appeal. The lower court concluded although diehard fans could tell the difference between the South Carolina “SC” and Southern California “SC,” casual fans could get confused. The fact that one school used block letters and the other curved was not enough to prevent this from happening.
For more questions on this or other Intellectual Property matters, please contact our office.