372 F.3d 1330 (Fed. Cir. 2004), 03-1526, Nautilus Group, Inc. v. ICON Health and Fitness, Inc.

Docket Nº:03-1526.
Citation:372 F.3d 1330
Party Name:71 U.S.P.Q.2d 1173 The NAUTILUS GROUP, INC. (formerly known as Direct Focus, Inc.), Plaintiff-Appellee, v. ICON HEALTH AND FITNESS, INC., Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:June 21, 2004
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 1330

372 F.3d 1330 (Fed. Cir. 2004)

71 U.S.P.Q.2d 1173

The NAUTILUS GROUP, INC. (formerly known as Direct Focus, Inc.), Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

ICON HEALTH AND FITNESS, INC., Defendant-Appellant.

No. 03-1526.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

June 21, 2004

Rehearing Denied July 16, 2004.

Page 1331

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1332

Paul T. Meiklejohn, Dorsey & Whitney LLP, of Seattle, WA, argued for plaintiff-appellee. With him on the brief was Mark S. Carlson.

Brent P. Lorimer, Workman Nydegger, P.C., of Salt Lake City, UT, argued for defendant-appellant. On the brief were Larry R. Laycock; David R. Wright; and David R. Todd. Of counsel were Robyn L. Phillips; Sterling A. Brennan; and L. Rex Sears.

Before MICHEL, SCHALL, and PROST, Circuit Judges.

SCHALL, Circuit Judge.

Defendant-appellant in this trademark infringement suit, ICON Health and Fitness, Inc. ("ICON"), appeals from the order of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington granting a preliminary injunction in favor of plaintiff-appellee, The Nautilus Group, Inc. ("Nautilus"). Nautilus Group, Inc. v. ICON Health & Fitness, Inc., 308 F.Supp.2d 1208 (W.D.Wash.2003) ("Preliminary Injunction Order"). The preliminary injunction, which has been stayed pending this appeal, bars ICON from using its "CrossBow" trademark to sell its exercise equipment. Nautilus is the holder of the "Bowflex" trademark, which it uses to market its patented exercise machines of the same name. Because we do not find that the district court applied the incorrect law, relied on clearly erroneous factual findings, or otherwise abused its discretion in finding a likelihood of confusion to exist between the Bowflex and CrossBow marks, we affirm the grant of the preliminary injunction.

BACKGROUND

I.

Nautilus and ICON are direct competitors in the market for home exercise equipment. Both produce resistance training systems that use bendable rods. In Nautilus's product, the Bowflex exerciser, the rods are arranged vertically; when

Page 1333

a user pulls on a cable connected to the upper ends of the rods, the rods curve or "bow" outward. The rods are structured to resist this outward movement, requiring exertion by the user.

Nautilus has continuously produced the Bowflex exerciser since 1984, and holds two patents on related technology.1 Nautilus registered the trademark for the "Bowflex" brand in 1986.2 Since 1993, when Nautilus began to directly market its Bowflex exerciser to consumers, the company has invested in excess of $233 million in promotion efforts. Nautilus's advertising has focused on infomercials, the Internet, and print publications. As a result, over 780,000 machines have been sold, with total revenues to Nautilus of $900 million.

In 2002, ICON, another large exercise equipment manufacturer, introduced a competing rod-based resistance training system it called "CrossBow." In the CrossBow exerciser, the bendable rods are arranged horizontally so that they bend downward, in an inverted U-shape, rather than outward, as in Bowflex's vertical rod configuration. According to ICON, the product's resemblance to the medieval crossbow weapon inspired the brand name. In ICON's two-line logo for the machine, the "o" in "Cross" is replaced by a circular crosshairs. Beneath the mark, in smaller type, appears an additional line, "by Weider," signaling the machine's source.3 Since it introduced the CrossBow exerciser, ICON has spent $13 million on marketing in many of the same advertising channels as Nautilus, including infomercials and the Internet.

II.

Nautilus commenced a suit for patent infringement against ICON on December 3, 2002. Thereafter, in April of 2003, the district court granted Nautilus's motion for leave to amend its suit to include a claim of trademark infringement. On May 16, 2003, the district court granted ICON's motion for summary judgment of non-infringement of the Nautilus patents. This order became the subject of Nautilus's first appeal to this court. Nautilus Group, Inc. v. ICON Health & Fitness, Inc., 82 Fed. Appx. 691 (Fed.Cir. 2003) (unpublished opinion).4

While its appeal of the patent infringement issue was pending, Nautilus moved for a preliminary injunction to suspend ICON's use of the CrossBow trademark. The district court, applying pertinent Ninth Circuit law, determined that Nautilus had established likelihood of confusion between the marks such that irreparable injury could be presumed. The preliminary injunction was granted on July 14, 2003. Before Nautilus posted the required bond, ICON moved for reconsideration or

Page 1334

for a stay of the injunction pending appeal. Both motions were denied by the district court, and this appeal followed.5 We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(1).

ANALYSIS

I.

Any "word, name, symbol, or device" may be treated as a "trademark" if it is "used by a person" to "identify and distinguish his or her goods, including a unique product, from those manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods...." 15 U.S.C. § 1127 (2000). A trademark holder may bring an action for infringement to prevent or recover for the unauthorized use of its mark. Id. § 1114. In a trademark case, we apply the law of the applicable regional circuit, in this case, the Ninth Circuit. See Payless Shoesource, Inc. v. Reebok Int'l Ltd., 998 F.2d 985, 987-88 (Fed.Cir. 1993). Under Ninth Circuit law, the core element of trademark infringement is whether the reasonably prudent consumer is likely to be confused as to the origin of the good or service bearing one of the marks. Dreamwerks Prod. Group, Inc. v. SKG Studio, 142 F.3d 1127, 1129 (9th Cir. 1998).

In the Ninth Circuit, a district court may grant a preliminary injunction in a trademark case when the plaintiff demonstrates "either (1) a combination of 'probable success on the merits' and 'the possibility of irreparable injury' or (2) the existence of 'serious questions going to the merits' and 'that the balance of hardships tips sharply in his favor.' " GoTo.com, Inc. v. Walt Disney Co., 202 F.3d 1199, 1205 (9th Cir. 2000) (quoting Sardi's Restaurant Corp. v. Sardie, 755 F.2d 719, 723 (9th Cir. 1985)). Probable success on the merits requires a showing that the similarity of the marks, among other factors, has created a likelihood of confusion as to the source or origin of the goods. Ocean Garden, Inc. v. Marktrade Co., 953 F.2d 500, 506 (9th Cir. 1991). If a likelihood of confusion between the marks is found, irreparable injury to the plaintiff may be presumed. See GoTo.com, 202 F.3d at 1205; Vision Sports, Inc. v. Melville Corp., 888 F.2d 609, 612 n. 3 (9th Cir. 1989).

In accordance with Ninth Circuit law, "[a] district court's decision to grant a motion for a preliminary injunction will be upheld unless the court 'applied the incorrect law, relied on clearly erroneous factual findings, or otherwise abused its discretion.' " Ocean Garden, 953 F.2d at 502 (quoting NEC Electronics v. CAL Circuit Abco, 810 F.2d 1506, 1508 (9th Cir. 1987)); see also GoTo.com, 202 F.3d at 1204. As far as the facts are concerned, "[i]f the district court's account of the evidence is plausible in light of the record viewed in its entirety, we may not reverse even though convinced that had we been sitting as the trier of fact, we would have weighed the evidence differently." Interstellar Starship Servs. v. Epix, Inc., 304 F.3d 936, 941 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Anderson v. Bessemer City, 470 U.S. 564, 573-74, 105 S.Ct. 1504, 84 L.Ed.2d 518 (1985)). The Ninth Circuit views the ultimate conclusion of likelihood of confusion as a mixed question of law and fact, and it reviews that conclusion under the clearly erroneous standard. Levi Strauss & Co. v. Blue Bell, Inc., 778 F.2d 1352, 1355 (9th Cir. 1985) (en banc).

II.

In determining that Nautilus had established a likelihood of confusion between

Page 1335

its mark and ICON's, the district court applied the eight factors set forth in AMF, Inc. v. Sleekcraft Boats, 599 F.2d 341, 348-49 (9th Cir. 1979). The Sleekcraft factors include (1) the similarity of the marks, (2) the relatedness or proximity of the two companies' products or services, (3) the strength of the registered mark, (4) the marketing channels used, (5) the degree of care likely to be exercised by the purchaser in selecting goods, (6) the accused infringers' intent in selecting the mark, (7) evidence of actual confusion, and (8) the likelihood of expansion in product lines. See also Interstellar Starship, 304 F.3d at 942. "This eight factor test is pliant, and the relative import of each factor is case specific." Id.

The district court began its analysis by considering together two complementary Sleekcraft factors: the similarity of the Bowflex and CrossBow marks, and the similarity of the associated products. The court observed that aside from the shared use of "bow," the marks' respective appearances and meanings were dissimilar. On the other hand, the court viewed the competing products as virtually interchangeable. Because the close similarity in the products was likely to create confusion, the district court reasoned that less similarity between the marks was necessary. Thus, despite acknowledged differences between the marks, Nautilus was deemed to prevail on these two Sleekcraft factors, similarity of marks and relatedness of goods.

The next Sleekcraft factor considered by the district court was the strength of the registered mark. The district court found the Bowflex mark to be "suggestive," because it "convey[ed] an impression of a good but require[d] the exercise of some imagination and perception to reach a conclusion as to the product's nature." Preliminary Injunction...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP