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If it seems like infringement, is it really?

When one party uses a mark that another party believes represents their brand, it is always possible that some infringement has occurred. Copyright infringement is a very serious matter, and can lead to costly legal consequences, so it is always important to understand the nuances of this complex field before choosing the elements that represent a company or product.

However, in some instances, two different entities may use substantially similar branding elements or other marks and symbols without practically infringing on each other’s commerce. The law recognizes that two parties with substantially different products and clients may not actually infringe one another by using similar marks and branding elements on their respective products.

Consider some simple symbol, such as a sunflower. If a hair products manufacturer builds a brand around a sunflower mark and files all the proper copyright and trademark paperwork, it may object to another company using a similar sunflower symbol to sell products. This is reasonable at first glance, but may not hold up to scrutiny. If the other company potentially infringing on the hair products producer is in a similar area of commerce, such as skin care or health supplements, then it is likely that an infringement is occurring.

In contrast, if the second company using the mark is a financial planning firm or a producer of industrial refrigeration units, it is unlikely that a court will recognize this as infringement, because there is very little chance of a potential customer confusing the two companies or their products.

If you have concerns about a trademark or copyright issue, an experienced attorney can help you understand these complex laws and build a strategy to keep yourself and your ideas protected.

Source: FRndLaw, “Proving Infringement: Confusing Similarity,” accessed Feb. 02, 2018

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