Justia Banking Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Trademark
Hana Financial, Inc. v. Hana Bank
Hana Financial and Hana Bank both provide financial services to individuals in the U.S. When Hana Financial sued Hana Bank for trademark infringement, Hana Bank invoked the tacking doctrine, under which lower courts have provided that a trademark user may make certain modifications to its mark over time while, in limited circumstances, retaining its priority position. The district court adopted in substantial part the jury instruction on tacking proposed by Hana Bank. The jury returned a verdict in Hana Bank’s favor. Affirming, the Ninth Circuit explained that the tacking inquiry was an exceptionally limited and highly fact-sensitive matter reserved for juries, not judges. A unanimous Supreme Court affirmed. Whether two trademarks may be tacked for purposes of determining priority is a jury question. Lower courts have held that two marks may be tacked when they are considered to be “legal equivalents,” i.e., they “create the same, continuing commercial impression,” which “must be viewed through the eyes of a consumer.” When the relevant question is how an ordinary person or community would make an assessment, the jury is generally the decision-maker that ought to provide the fact-intensive answer. The “legal equivalents” test may involve a legal standard, but such mixed questions of law and fact have typically been resolved by juries. Any concern that a jury may improperly apply the relevant legal standard can be remedied by crafting careful jury instructions. View "Hana Financial, Inc. v. Hana Bank" on Justia Law
Cmty. Trust Bancorp, Inc. v. Cmty Trust Fin. Corp.
Since at least 1995, Community Trust Bancorp, Inc. (plaintiff) has used the mark “COMMUNITY TRUST” to promote its services; it included this mark on its website since 1998. Defendants, Community Trust Financial Corporation, and two subsidiaries, Community Trust Bank and Community Trust Bank of Texas, use the marks “COMMUNITY TRUST” and “COMMUNITY TRUST BANK,” and display these marks on their website. Defendants’ contacts with Kentucky are limited. They have branch offices exclusively in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi and limit their advertising and marketing campaigns to those states; they have no officers, directors, employees, agents, or any other physical presence in Kentucky. They do have customers who moved to Kentucky and continue to maintain their bank accounts from there. Three or four account owners, while residing in Kentucky, requested passwords to access the Defendants’ online banking website. Plaintiff brought a claim of trademark infringement under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1114(1), and state law. The district court denied a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit reversed, stating that the cause of action only tangentially related to defendants’ acts, providing passwords, within the forum state. View "Cmty. Trust Bancorp, Inc. v. Cmty Trust Fin. Corp." on Justia Law
The First National Bank v. First National Bank SD, et al.
FNB South Dakota and its affiliates appealed from the district court's entry of a permanent injunction against them as a remedy for trademark infringement and unfair competition claims brought by FNB Sioux Falls. FNB Sioux Falls cross-appealed the denial of its motion for attorney's fees and the district court's purported factual finding that certain of FNB South Dakota's affiliates' names "appear" not to infringe FNB Sioux Falls' marks. The court held that, because the nucleus of operative facts in this action included facts not common to the prior action, this action was not barred by res judicata; the admission of the confusion log was harmless error; the district court's finding of a likelihood of confusion was based on a permissible view of the evidence and was therefore not clearly erroneous; and the district court's denial of fees must be affirmed. The court also declined to strike the challenged language from the district court's Amended Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "The First National Bank v. First National Bank SD, et al." on Justia Law
Peoples Fed. Sav. Bank v. People’s United Bank
Peoples Federal, a community bank that operates exclusively in Eastern Massachusetts, was chartered in 1888 and became a federally insured savings and loan in 1937. It has used the term "Peoples" in its name and service marks since 1937 and claims to be the only continuous user of the mark for banking services in Eastern Massachusetts since that time. It owns six Massachusetts registrations for its marks. Defendant, People's United, was founded in 1842 in Connecticut, and has used the word "People" in its name for at least 80 years. After acquiring branches in Massachusetts, defendant re-opened them under the name "People's United Bank." Peoples Federal filed suit alleging trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and unfair competition under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a), and Massachusetts statutory and common law. The district court denied a preliminary injunction. The First Circuit affirmed, finding that the court properly weighed plaintiff's likelihood of success on the merits, likelihood of irreparable harm, the balance of relevant equities, and the effect of the court's action on the public interest.