Tag Archive: Trademarks

Knut the Polar Bear Gets His Day in Court!

Has anyone heard of Knut the Polar Bear?  Well, the German icon recently had his day in court.  The European Union General Court in Luxembourg ruled this week in favor of the Berlin Zoo’s bid to get European trademark rights to the bear’s name.  The Berlin Zoo is in litigation with the United Kingdom’s company Knut IP Management over the names ‘Knut’ and ‘Knut der Eisbaer’.  The Berlin Zoo won a first round at European Union’s Community trademark office in March 2010.  Knut IP Management attempted to register “Knut – Der Eisbaer” (“Knut – The Polar Bear”) as a trademark for paper goods, clothing, shoes and sporting goods. EU Court cited a likelihood of confusion of similar goods sold by the UK company as reasoning for their ruling.  KNUT IP Management Ltd contends an infringement of Article 8(1)(b) of Regulation 207/2009, because the marks don’t invoke a likelihood of confusion.

The trademark is important to the Berlin Zoo because it still generates significant profits from Knut’s likeness. Knut the Polar Bear was not just any animal you would find at the zoo.  He was very special.  His website states:  “When Knut was born, he was no bigger than a snowball and unable to care for himself. His mother didn’t know how to take care of Knut and rejected him. Knut would have died if it weren’t for Thomas Dorflein, a zookeeper who nurtured Knut and gave him the love and attention he needed to thrive. The adorable little polar bear captured the world’s attention, and now Knut is loved around the globe.”  Knut was featured in Vanity Fair with Leonardo DiCaprio, and television shows documented him from his very beginning to his death at age four of encephalitis.  He also inspired a children’s candy.  Since his birth in 2006, Knut helped boost Berlin Zoo’s visits by 21 percent.  Bloomberg Businessweek hailed him the $140 Million Polar Bear.

The decision by the European Union General Court can be appealed to the European Court of Justice.


Putting A Stop to Counterfeit Coaches?

     On the August 30th episode of TLC’s Kate Plus 8 the family took a trip to New York City to visit the “Green Lady” (also known as The Statute of Liberty). This show thrives off  funny bits provided by Kate’s quirky and cute mass of children. This episode was no exception. The trip proved to be a fun but chaotic one. Part of the humor involved the quest to find every child the perfect souvenir. During the search the young girls find purses that they want to buy. When I first saw their choices, I thought the purses might have been Coach handbag imitations. Howeer, in a later shot one can see that these purses do not have the distinctive Coach logo, so they are clearly not “knockoffs.” But this raises an interesting issue that is all too common: the sale of knockoff consumer goods.
     When researching the issue of counterfeit purses I first came across a news article by the Chicago Tribune entitled: “City Sued in Battle Against Knockoff Purses; Coach claims city hasn’t halted illegal sales at Maxwell Market”.
     After hiring a private investigator who purchased illegal goods Coach informed Chicago city officials about the problem. The city did nothing to stop the sale of these goods. Coach then sent a cease-and-desist notice to the city in December “to compel its cooperation in ending the infringing conduct.” The lawsuit states that the city has yet to respond. The article states that Coach is basing its claim on “landlord liability doctrine” that places responsibility on the owner of the premises where alleged counterfeit activity takes place, rather than on an individual vendor.
     Coach has since filed suit in the Northern District of Illinois. Their claim is for trademark infringement, trade dress infringement, and counterfeiting under the Lanham Act (15 U.S.C. §§ 1114, 1116, 1117, 1125(a) and (c)); copyright infringement under the United States Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. § 501 et seq.); trademark infringement, unfair competition and unjust enrichment; trademark dilution under the Illinois Anti-Dilution Act (765 ILCS 1035/15); and unfair competition under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (815 ILCS 505).

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