Key Harrington Barnes, PC

Supreme Court sets precedent ruling in favor of trademark holder

Dallas businesses may be interested in the story of one legal battle that has been resolved after over a decade. Now, the nation's highest court has weighed in on the question of whether one company was violating the intellectual property rights of another.

After 16 years of litigation through various levels of the justice system, the Supreme Court has made a final decision on a dispute between two companies with similar-sounding product names. The plaintiff, a company that produces a fastener known as Sealtight, primarily for aerospace companies, sued the defendant, who makes a product called SealTite, for trademark infringement. SealTite is a type of screw used in building construction. The prior ruling by the 8th Circuit dismissed the plaintiff's infringement claim, which was then taken up by the higher court.

The major issue decided by the Supreme Court was whether a finding by the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board would preempt further litigation of the matter. The TTAB is often the first place that trademark disputes are heard when one trademark holder contests another company's registration attempt. In this case, the TTAB decided that the defendant's registration would be likely to confuse consumers and denied their registration. Now, the Supreme Court is saying that this original TTAB ruling may prevent higher courts from relitigating the same issue if the issue is the same in all important aspects.

This decision may put greater importance on the need to fight against infringing trademark registrations at the TTAB level as well as other types of intellectual property decisions decided by administrative agencies. An attorney may be able to help a business protect their trade secrets and other intellectual property from infringement. They may do this through registration, enforceable restrictive covenants and other legal actions.

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