When you own your own business, developing a recognizable brand is essential. Often, businesses use certain lettering, a unique logo, and other identifiers to help differentiate themselves and make themselves known to their potential customers and clientele. Once a business has developed this type of intellectual property, it’s usually important to protect it through trademark registration. When something is trademarked, it provides for the owner to have exclusive use. Therefore, if another party tries to use trademarked content, the mark’s owner can file suit. So, what happens during a Florida trademark infringement lawsuit?
What is a Trademark?
According to Florida law, a “Trademark” “means any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination thereof, used by a person to identify and distinguish the goods of such person, including a unique product, from those manufactured or sold by others, and to indicate the source of the goods, even if the source is unknown.”
Similarly, the United States Patent and Trademark Office defines a trademark as “A word, phrase, design, or a combination that identifies your goods or services distinguishes them from the goods or services of others, and indicates the source of your goods or services.”
Thousands of Florida businesses have registered trademarks. These typically include specific images, letting, or phrases that are associated with a brand or product. For example, Apple and Google have certain trademarked images and lettering. In addition, Dunkin Donuts has several trademarked phrases. Likewise, Coca-Cola has a trademark for its lettering and image.
Trademark Infringement Lawsuits
When someone uses another’s trademark-protected content without permission, they may have committed trademark infringement. Under Florida and federal law, when a party has a registered mark and another uses it without permission, the mark’s owner can sue for trademark infringement.
When a party sues for trademark infringement, they have to be able to show that:
- they have a valid and protected mark
- the infringing party adopted a mark or name
- that was the same or confusingly similar to the trademarked content,
- such that consumers were likely to confuse the content.
If the mark’s holder can establish these elements, they may be entitled to recover damages for trademark infringement. However, depending on the type of trademark involved, the mark’s holder may need to pursue their case in federal rather than state court.
Federal v. Florida Trademarks
Business owners can register their trademarks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. However, marks can also be registered in Florida. The two types of trademarks cover different transaction areas. For example, federal trademarks apply to interstate commerce. By contrast, Florida trademarks apply to a mark’s use within the state.
Both federal and Florida trademarks protect the registrant’s logo, lettering, and other uniquely identifying information. They also provide a means to formally register marks. Federal marks are usually more expensive and can be complicated to obtain. However, they can last indefinitely with renewal registration every ten years and offer more protection. In addition, they offer specific protection for domain names. Finally, federal trademarks offer the mark’s holder the right to pursue statutory damages for the use of a counterfeit mark.
Florida trademark registration lasts for five years but can be renewed.
Florida trademarks are governed by the “Florida Registration and Protection of Trademarks Act” (FRPTA). Federal trademarks fall under the Lanham Act. The laws have similar requirements. However, Federal trademark registration falls under the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), while in Florida, it is under the Department of State.
Trademark infringement lawsuits are complicated, and there are different steps and remedies under federal and state law. If you are involved in a trademark infringement matter, you should contact an experienced Florida business attorney as soon as possible. You and your lawyer can evaluate your circumstances and determine your next steps.
Contact an Experienced Florida Business Lawyer
Attorney Richard Sierra at the Florida Small Business Legal Center assists clients like you with commercial leasing, business, and litigation matters. As always, Our Goal Is to Help You Succeed™. For an appointment, you may call us at 1-866-842-5202 or use the contact form on our website. We represent clients throughout the State of Florida, including Coral Springs, Coconut Creek, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Pompano Beach, Sunrise, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, West Palm Beach, Jupiter, Deerfield Beach, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Orlando, Naples, Fort Myers, Sarasota, Tampa, and surrounding communities.