You always read about trademark infringement cases that seem ridiculously easy to adjudicate on their face. When the judgment goes the other way, we are all left wondering what strange facts (or unfair processes) led to such an unexpected conclusion.
It’s good to know that the easy ones are adjudicated properly most of the time, but perhaps we need to be reminded of that once in a while.
Good case in point:
Japanese tire maker Bridgestone announced the results of its two trademark litigations. In one case, it settled with Shandong Santai Rubber Company. In the other, it prevailed over a Hangzhou tire company.
Bridgestone owns namesake trademarks in several categories relating to its products. For using the label Rockstone on its tire products, the Shandong company was sued by Bridgestone on the ground of similarity to its registered mark. Mediated by the Shanghai High People’s Court, the two parties settled in December 2008.
Hangzhou’s Bridgesteel Rubber Company labeled its products of conveyor belts with Bridgesteel. Bridgestone then filed the case on the same ground with the above case in September 2007. In the end of 2008, the court eventually enjoined the Hangzhou company from using both the mark and company name Bridgesteel and destroyed modules for making the labels.
I should mention that I’m so cynical, I wouldn’t have even said that the first case (Rockstone vs. Bridgestone) was a slam-dunk. For English marks, the trademark examiners and judges here often just look at the first part of the name (from left to right) and discount the end. It would have been stupid, although not unheard of, for a judge to rule that "Rockstone" would not be considered to cause confusion among consumers. Nice to see that did not happen here. Of course, we are talking about a fairly narrow category of products here, so that helps.