Platform – the beer that recently sold to AB-Inbev – is in a trademark dispute with Bottle Logic over lightbulb marks for craft beer. What do you think?
The recent reports that Ohio’s Platform Beer Co. has sold/partnererd with AB InBev aren’t the only reason the beer company has been in the news. They’ve got an ongoing trademark dispute with Bottle Logic. Bottle Logic is opposing Platforms attempt to register these two lightbulb marks:
Based on Bottle Logic’s prior registration of these two lightbulb marks:
Recently the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board told the craft brewers that they’re going to need to get ready for a trial by denying their motions for summary judgment. (link to opinion)
Bottle Logic opposes Platform Beer’s attempt to register the lightbulb marks arguing that Bottle Logic has priority and that the marks are substantially similar enough to cause a likelihood of confusion – a contention Platform Beer disputes.
The TTAB found that Bottle Logic had priority for use of one of its lightbulb marks based on its August 20, 2013 date of first use and Platform’s admission that its first use wasn’t until 2014 but left Bottle Logic’s second lightbulb mark in limbo based on claims by Platform that it had a use of its lightbulb marks prior to the second Bottle Logic mark (an odd claim that will get sorted, but it’s obvious from the marks that Bottle Logic’s lightbulb is a component of its first mark… so while lawyers may make hay of the issue for now, they’re likely going to lose on the matter later on.
But the TTAB refused to find that the marks weren’t similar enough to, on their face, reject the arguments as to likelihood of confusion. In deciding to let the similarities be fleshed out in a trial, the TTAB noted that “[b]oth parties’ marks feature an Edison lightbulb to identify beer. Yet, there are some differences between the marks. Platform’s ‘742 mark features a modern/clean aesthetic, utilizing sharp, bold lines that evoke an industrial/modern motif. The word PLATFORM is inside a rectangle and a smaller Edison lightbulb is placed atop the rectangle, centered, and uses a wheat leaf as the filament for the bulb. Platform’s ‘210 mark uses the same bulb in the background with PLATFORM in front of it, inside multiple (5) concentric circles of varying thickness…. Bottle Logic’s ‘890 mark has a punk/playful feel. The words BOTTLE LOGIC are slightly parabolic with an upwards trend and the mark also features an Edison lightbulb. Inside the bulb is a beer bottle. The mark features two lightning bolts coming out of both sides of the bottom of the bulb with “est.” above the left bolt and “2013” above the right bolt. Outside of the bulb, the marks do not sound or look alike. … These differences, however, do not rise to the required “differ so substantially” standard that would allow summary judgment on this issue. Kellogg Co. v. Pack’em Enters, 951 F.2d 330, 21 USPQ2d 1142, 1144, (Fed. Cir. 1991). Platform supplied TSDR printouts of seven live registered marks that use a light bulb in relation to beer, but only one of the marks uses an Edison bulb. Platform also provided eight more examples, in the form of webpage printouts showing lightbulbs used in conjunction with beer, but only one features an Edison bulb.”
The trial is set to take place in 2020.
Thoughts on this? Do these look so similar as to avoid a determination that there’s no potential for likelihood of confusion? Does Platform now get the benefit of AB InBev resources in prosecuting and defending its claims in this action?