Monday, April 13, 2020

The Qualitex Of Commerce Is Not Strained

Few would describe decisions by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ("CAFC") as colorful.  Nevertheless, the CAFC published an important opinion about color on April 9, 2020.  In In re:  Forney Industries, Inc. (CAFC 2020), the CAFC unanimously vacated and remanded a decision by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ("TTAB") that had held that
(1) a multi-color mark can never be inherently distinctive, and (2) product packaging marks that employ color cannot be inherently distinctive in the absence of a well-defined peripheral shape or border, we vacate and remand for further proceedings.
In its application for registration of a trademark proposed to cover "packaging for various welding and machining goods based on use in commerce under Section 1(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C.
§ 1051(a)", Forney Industries described its packaging as follows:
[t]he mark consists of a solid black stripe at the top. Below the solid black stripe is the color yellow which fades into the color red. These colors are located on the packaging and or labels.
In contrast to the TTAB, the CAFC held that "color marks can be inherently distinctive when used on product packaging, depending upon the character of the color design".

With sincerest apologies to Portia, this case shows that the Qualitex of commerce is not strained.