AMF Inc. v. Sleekcraft Boats Cases of Interest >  IP >  Trademark

AMF Inc. v. Sleekcraft Boats

Jaclyn Courtney

AMF Inc. v. Sleekcraft Boats

Facts: Plaintiff and Defendant both manufacture boats. The boat names were very similar. Plaintiffs called their boat Slickcraft while the defendants called their boat Sleekcraft. When creating the name, defendants had no idea that plaintiff’s name was so similar.
Procedural History: Plaintiff filed suit against defendant, alleging trademark infringement because defendant's trade name was very similar to plaintiff's trade name, with the only difference being one letter. Defendant contended that it was not aware of plaintiff's trade name at the time that it developed its trade name. Plaintiff argued that consumer confusion was likely because the names were so similar and because the parties manufactured basically the same type of boats. The trial court held that consumer confusion was unlikely. Plaintiff appeals.

Issue: Did the trial court error is holding that consumer confusion was unlikely based on the factors that determine likelihood of confusion?

Holding: Yes. The order denying plaintiff injunctive relief was reversed and remanded because the parties' marks were similar enough to cause consumer confusion. Defendant was required to put its unique logo on all advertisements, signs, and promotional materials bearing its trade name so that consumers could differentiate between the two boat manufacturers.

Reasoning: When determining whether confusion between related goods is likely, the following factors are relevant:1. strength of the mark; 2. proximity of the goods; 3. similarity of the marks; 4. evidence of actual confusion; 5. marketing channels used; 6. type of goods and the degree of care likely to be exercised by the purchaser; 7. defendant's intent in selecting the mark; and 8. likelihood of expansion of the product lines. The court decided that the mark may be strong due to advertising, but it was a weak mark. Therefore there was a restricted range of protection. In regards to the proximity, both of the boat companies are for recreational boating and therefore they are close in proximity. The court determined that there is a similarity in the two marks in terms of sight, sound, and meaning. The plaintiffs had a hard time proving actual confusion. Both boat companies use the same marketing techniques. In regards to the six factors, the court concluded that a person buying these boats, because they are so expensive, will make sure they are buying the right boat. The eighth factor leans in favor of the defendant since there was no intent for his mark to be similar to the plaintiff. Lastly, both parties are diversifying their model lines. The potential that one or both of the parties will enter the other's submarket with a competing model is strong.

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