531 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2008), 07-2078, Boston Duck Tours, LP v. Super Duck Tours, LLC

Docket Nº:07-2078, 07-2246.
Citation:531 F.3d 1
Party Name:BOSTON DUCK TOURS, LP, Plaintiff-Appellee, Cross-Appellant, v. SUPER DUCK TOURS, LLC, Defendant-Appellant, Cross-Appellee.
Case Date:June 18, 2008
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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531 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2008)

BOSTON DUCK TOURS, LP, Plaintiff-Appellee, Cross-Appellant,


SUPER DUCK TOURS, LLC, Defendant-Appellant, Cross-Appellee.

Nos. 07-2078, 07-2246.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit.

June 18, 2008

Heard March 5, 2008.

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Robert R. Pierce , with whom Christopher D. Engebretson and Pierce & Mandell, P.C. were on brief, for plaintiff, appellee.

Joshua M. Dalton , with whom Victor H. Polk, Jr. , Ralph C. Martin, II, Lawrence T. Stanley, Jr. , and Bingham McCutchen LLP, were on brief for defendant, appellant.

Before Lipez and Howard , Circuit Judges, and DiClerico, Jr., Senior District Judge.[*]

LIPEZ , Circuit Judge.

In this trademark infringement dispute, defendant-appellant Super Duck Tours (“Super Duck" ) appeals a preliminary injunction granted in favor of plaintiff-appellee Boston Duck Tours (“Boston Duck" ). Asserting that the phrase “duck tour" and the image of a duck splashing in water are generic, and therefore that there is no likelihood of confusion between Boston Duck's marks and Super Duck's marks, appellant requests that we dissolve the injunction requiring the alteration of its trade name and logo. Appellee has also cross-appealed the order of the district court, arguing that the court committed clear error by not enjoining Super Duck from using the term “duck" in its trade name.

After carefully reviewing the record in this dispute, we conclude that the district court committed clear error by finding the phrase “duck tour" nongeneric, and thereby according it too much weight in its likelihood of confusion analysis. Consequently,

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the court erred in issuing a preliminary injunction, which prevented Super Duck from using the phrase “duck tour" in its own trade name. The district court also clearly erred in finding a likelihood of confusion between Super Duck's and Boston Duck's design marks. Therefore, the court also should not have issued an injunction preventing Super Duck from using its design mark. We dismiss Boston Duck's cross-appeal as moot given our resolution of the other issues.


A. Duck Tours

We recite the background facts here, adding additional information throughout the analysis where appropriate. Both Boston Duck and Super Duck are in the business of offering sightseeing tours via land and water in Boston, using amphibious vehicles commonly referred to as “ducks." The idea to market such tours to the public was hatched by Melvin Flath shortly after World War II. He purchased DUKWs (pronounced “ducks" ), amphibious army vehicles used in the war to function as both trucks and boats, and fitted them with bus seats. His company, based in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, became the first purveyor of such tours in the country.

Recently, these amphibious tours have surfaced in many cities in the United States and abroad, including San Francisco, Philadelphia, Seattle, Chicago, and London. Many of the companies that offer these tours use the phrase “duck tour" in their trade names as a way of describing their services. They also use various logos featuring a cartoon duck and water to advertise and represent their businesses.

B. The Parties

Since 1994, Boston Duck has offered sightseeing tours of the Boston area and Charles River, largely with genuine renovated DUKWs from World War II. Andy Wilson, the founder of Boston Duck, started the company after a visit to Memphis, Tennessee in 1992, where he experienced his first tour. The vehicles, which are painted with a rainbow of colors and marked with the Boston Duck logo,1 take customers to a number of Boston landmarks, including Charles Street, the State House, the North End, Quincy Market, and Newbury Street. Boston Duck has received national and international press coverage as well as numerous awards for its tours. The tours were featured in the World Series Parade after the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 and after the Patriots' 2002, 2004, and 2005 Super Bowl wins. In 2006 alone, over 585,000 customers enjoyed a tour operated by Boston Duck.

Begun in 2001, Super Duck is also in the business of providing sightseeing tours by land and water. Rather than using renovated DUKWs, Super Duck uses custom-made amphibious vehicles called Hydra-Terras containing several features that make the vessels virtually unsinkable. Because of the Hydra-Terras' features, which make them “larger and more modern" than the original DUKW vehicles, Super Duck decided to adopt the trade name SUPER DUCK TOURS in 2001. The name and the company's super-hero theme seek to portray services that are “bigger and newer" ; the company essentially combined the word “super" with the description of the service offered, “duck tours." The “super" theme was also reflected in the company's advertisements and website,

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which contain a parody of Superman (“It's a bus. It's a boat. It's a Super Duck!" ) as well as its logo, which consists of a white cartoon duck with an orange bill, muscular arms, and a cape.

Super Duck opened its business in Portland, Maine in 2001 and operated exclusively there until 2003, when the company ceased its operations in Maine and, seeking a larger New England market, started planning operations in Boston. Unable to obtain the necessary approvals and Hackney licenses to begin operations on its own, Super Duck purchased New England Tours in 2006 and thereafter obtained the necessary permits and licenses to conduct its tours. In late 2006 and 2007, Super Duck took steps to begin its Boston operation, including launching its website, advertising its services in local publications, and making substantial capital and resource investments in its operations. In May 2007, Super Duck entered into an agreement with Discover Boston, an independent company that offers trolley tours, whereby Discover Boston agreed to sell tickets for Super Duck tours in exchange for a sales commission. Super Duck introduced its tour operations the same month; the tours avoid the Back Bay area, a focus of Boston Duck's tours, instead concentrating on the Boston waterfront area.

C. The Trademarks

Boston Duck owns several state and federal trademark registrations for the composite 2 word mark BOSTON DUCK TOURS and a composite design mark consisting of the company's name and logo in connection with its sightseeing tour services. For both of these marks, Boston Duck's federal registrations on the Principal Register 3 are subject to disclaimers for the terms “duck" and “tours," meaning that it does not possess exclusive rights to use either term separate and apart from its full, registered mark. See, e.g., Dena Corp. v. Belvedere Int'l, Inc., 950 F.2d 1555, 1560 (Fed.Cir.1991) . Boston Duck also owns two federal trademark registrations, one for the composite word mark BOSTON DUCK TOURS and the second for its composite design mark, in connection with “clothing, namely, sweatshirts, T-shirts, golf shirts, sweaters, visors, and hats." 4 Boston Duck claims a first-use date of 1993 for three of its four registrations; the fourth, the word mark in connection with apparel, claims a first-use date of 1995. Super Duck does not dispute that Boston Duck maintains trademark priority rights in the Boston area with respect to its composite marks.

Super Duck maintains one federal registration for the word mark SUPER DUCK TOURS on the Supplemental Register,5 in

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connection with its tour services. Super Duck filed for the mark in 2001 on the Principal Register, but its application was rejected by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (the “PTO" ), which ruled that the phrase was merely descriptive, and therefore not entitled to protection unless Super Duck could establish secondary meaning. As a result, Super Duck agreed to register the mark on the Supplemental Register, and further, to disclaim exclusive use of the phrase “duck tours." The mark has been registered since July 2003, and Super Duck claims a first-use date of 2001.

D. Procedural History

On July 2, 2007, Boston Duck filed a complaint against Super Duck Tours, alleging federal trademark infringement in violation of Section 32(1) of the Lanham Act, codified at 15 U.S.C. § 1114 , federal and state unfair competition, tortious interference with prospective business relationships, and a flock of other state and federal claims. In connection with these claims, Boston Duck asked the court for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent Super Duck from using its trademark or logo, or any other mark confusingly similar to Boston Duck's mark BOSTON DUCK TOURS, in connection with its services. Further, it sought to enjoin Super Duck from interfering with Boston Duck's relations with prospective customers.

After receiving affidavits and exhibits from both parties, the district court held a non-testimonial hearing on the motion for a preliminary injunction on July 11. Two days later, the court entered its judgment, granting Boston Duck's motion in part and denying it in part. Specifically, the court found the term “duck tours" to be nongeneric for amphibious sightseeing tours in the Boston area, and therefore capable of trademark protection. The court used the eight-part likelihood of confusion test established in Pignons S.A. de Mecanique de Precision v. Polaroid Corp., 657 F.2d 482, 487 (1st Cir.1981) (the “Pignons factors" or “Pignons analysis" ),6 and concluded that Boston Duck had established a likelihood of success on the merits of its trademark infringement claim...

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