Thursday, March 6, 2014

City Steam Brewery Café Defending Allegations of Trademark Infringement

City Steam Brewery Café is one of Hartford’s popular restaurant and entertainment venues, but the “City Steam” name may be in jeopardy. As reported in a recent Hartford Business Journal article, Anchor Brewing Co., which is located in California and manufactures Anchor Steam beer, has sued City Steam Brewery Café and asked the court to stop City Steam from using the “City Steam” name because they allege that similarities between the two names will confuse customers. City Steam Brewery Café has used the “City Steam” mark in conjunction with its products and services since 1997 and its bottled beers are now sold throughout New England and New York. In 2012 City Steam registered its “City Steam” trademark in the beverages category, whereas Anchor Steam registered its “Steam Beer” trademark in the beverages category in 1982. In our opinion, these particular marks are different enough so that the public is not likely to be confused, but trademark owners have a right, and an obligation, to enforce (or at least attempt to enforce) their rights in order to maintain protection.  

Trademarks are critical assets for businesses because they help consumers identify the sources of goods and services. Accordingly, a trademark communicates a business’s reputation and goodwill, so it is crucial for a trademark owner to stop any potential infringement of its mark before customers mistakenly purchase goods from other sources. To prove trademark infringement, an individual or business must show: that they own the trademark; that the allegedly infringing mark is very similar or identical to the mark that is already in use; and that the infringing mark is affixed to similar goods and services as the mark that is already in use.   

In deciding trademark infringement cases, courts evaluate a variety of factors to determine whether there is a “likelihood of confusion” between the two marks. Appearance is an important element, so courts utilize the “sight, sound, and meaning” test to determine whether two marks look the same, sound the same, and have the same commercial meanings. Courts also evaluate whether the goods or services associated with the marks are related. In addition, courts may consider the uniqueness of the marks; the similarity of the marks; whether the trademark holder can offer evidence of confusion, such as through consumer surveys; and the alleged infringer’s reasons for copying the mark.

The lawyers of Brown, Paindiris & Scott can help you to protect your intellectual property and defend against claims of infringement.  For more information, click here.