A & H Sportswear, Inc. v. Victoria's Secret Stores, Inc.

Decision Date21 January 1999
Docket NumberNo. 97-1570,97-1570
Citation166 F.3d 191
PartiesA & H SPORTSWEAR INC.; Mainstream Swimsuits, Inc., Appellants in, v. VICTORIA'S SECRET STORES, INC.; Victoria's Secret Catalogue, Inc. .
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit

Before: SLOVITER, GREENBERG and GIBSON, * Circuit Judges.

Resubmitted Dec. 14, 1998.

Before: SLOVITER, GREENBERG and GIBSON,* Circuit Judges.


SLOVITER, Circuit Judge.

This trademark infringement action was filed by A & H Sportswear Inc. and its affiliate, Mainstream Swimsuits, Inc., the maker and distributor respectively of swimwear under the trademark MIRACLESUIT (together "A & H"), against Victoria's Secret Stores, Inc. ("VS Stores"), and Victoria's Secret Catalogue, Inc. ("VS Catalogue"), (together "VS"), a well-known manufacturer of lingerie and now swimwear. The District Court gave judgment for VS on A & H's claim that VS's use of THE MIRACLE BRA on its lingerie infringed the MIRACLESUIT trademark, finding that there was no likelihood of confusion. The District Court also found that VS had violated the Lanham Act by its use of THE MIRACLE BRA on its swimwear, finding a "possibility of confusion" with the MIRACLESUIT swimsuit made by A & H, and ordered certain relief.

VS appeals the judgment that THE MIRACLE BRA swimwear infringes A & H's MIRACLESUIT trademark (No. 97-1541), arguing that the District Court applied an erroneous standard of law. A & H filed a cross appeal (No. 97-1570) contending that the District Court clearly erred in failing to find a likelihood of confusion between THE MIRACLE BRA mark and A & H's prior MIRACLESUIT mark.

This panel of the court heard argument on the appeal and cross-appeal on May 19, 1998. Thereafter, we recommended that the court originate a rehearing en banc to review whether it wished to adhere to the standard of possibility of confusion applied by the District Court. After giving the parties an opportunity to be heard on that issue, the court voted to consider VS's appeal (No. 97-1541) en banc, but resubmitted A & H's cross-appeal (No. 97-1570) to the panel as not presenting any issue requiring en banc consideration. Accordingly, we turn to the issues raised on A & H's cross-appeal.


The facts underlying this cross-appeal are set forth in the District Court's published opinion, A & H Sportswear Co. v. Victoria's Secret Stores, Inc., 926 F.Supp. 1233 (E.D.Pa.1996) (addressing liability). 1 We will set forth the pertinent facts and procedural history needed to address the substance of this appeal, recognizing that our discussion A & H, a closely held Pennsylvania corporation and maker of 10% of the nation's swimsuits, was issued a trademark for its MIRACLESUIT on October 27, 1992; its affiliate, Mainstream Swimsuits, Inc., a Pennsylvania corporation, served as the exclusive distributor of the MIRACLESUIT through its SWIM SHAPER division. Both corporations are controlled by members of the Waldman family. FF 1-2.

will duplicate some of the material in the en banc opinion. The District Court's Findings of Fact from the opinion on liability are designated hereafter as FF.

The MIRACLESUIT was developed and subsequently marketed as a "control" suit whose patented fabric and design affords the wearer greater "hold-in" control of the hips and waist, which makes the wearer appear slimmer without the use of girdle-like undergarments. Most MIRACLESUITs contain underwire bras, are of a one-piece design, and retail for $54 to over $100. FF 14. The first interstate use of the mark MIRACLESUIT and the first interstate sale of a MIRACLESUIT occurred in November 1991. FF 21. The name MIRACLESUIT was chosen because it was "unique, dynamic, exciting, and memorable." FF 22. In 1992, the MIRACLESUIT was widely advertised, shown, and discussed in trade shows, magazines and the electronic media. FF 27. The MIRACLESUIT was also sold for a brief time in the VS catalogue (1,700 suits were purchased by VS in 1992 and 1993), but the relationship was discontinued because in several instances VS failed to identify the swimsuit by its MIRACLESUIT trademark. FF 29, 30.

VS Stores, the nation's top retailer of lingerie, is a Delaware corporation headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, and operates over 650 stores throughout the country which focus on intimate apparel, with bra sales the leading product. FF 5. VS Catalogue, a Delaware corporation headquartered in New York City, is a mail order business with a much wider array of merchandise (including swimwear) sold through its over 300 million catalogues circulated each year. FF 6. The companies responsible for the stores and the catalogue are independent subsidiaries of Intimate Brands, Inc., owned by The Limited, Inc., based primarily in London. FF 7.

In 1992, VS Stores began developing a cleavage-enhancing bra which was introduced (then unnamed) in each store in August 1993 and first appeared in the VS catalogue in February 1994. FF 12, 17, 19. The bra uses removable pads, lace, straps, and underwire to accentuate the wearer's bust. FF 15. VS Stores sought a name for its new push-up bra that had a "fresh, flirtatious fun attitude." It chose THE MIRACLE BRA name in December 1992, allegedly after a model tried the new bra and exclaimed, "Wow, this is a miracle!" FF 23. The name THE MIRACLE BRA was first used in VS Stores in November 1993. FF 19. VS Stores was issued a registration for its trademark THE MIRACLE BRA on August 9, 1994. FF 25. Since its first brisk sales, THE MIRACLE BRA, which retails for under $20, has been heavily marketed and has generated over $132 million in sales. FF 69.

A & H, which did not initially object to VS's trademark use of THE MIRACLE BRA, did so after VS began to extend THE MIRACLE BRA into swimwear with its introduction of THE MIRACLE BRA bikini in the November 1994 VS catalogue and in ten VS stores as a test market. VS's sales of swimwear expanded rapidly, and in 1995 VS incorporated THE MIRACLE BRA design and trademark into a one-piece swimsuit.

In August 1994, even before its first sale, VS Stores applied for a registration of THE MIRACLE BRA trademark for swimwear. FF 34. In February 1995, the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) refused the registration on the basis of A & H's prior registration of the MIRACLESUIT, although A & H had not interposed an objection to the registration. FF 31, 36. Apparently because it had been using THE MIRACLE BRA name in lingerie, neither VS Stores nor VS Catalogue conducted a separate trademark search of THE MIRACLE BRA trademark as it applied to swimwear. FF 35. In December 1994, just a month after the introduction of THE MIRACLE BRA swimwear collection, A & H filed this suit alleging, inter alia, infringement of its trademark MIRACLESUIT, and seeking a preliminary injunction Following a two-week bench trial, the District Court found no likelihood of confusion between THE MIRACLE BRA mark as applied to lingerie and the MIRACLESUIT mark. Accordingly, the court entered judgment for Victoria's Secret and against A & H on that claim of infringement. When VS appealed from the District Court's decision in favor of A & H with respect to THE MIRACLE BRA for swimwear, A & H filed this cross-appeal. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

and damages. The District Court consolidated the injunction hearing with a bench trial on the merits.


In a trademark infringement action, the "likelihood of confusion" between two marks is a factual matter, subject to review for clear error. Versa Prods. Co. v. Bifold Co., 50 F.3d 189, 200 (3d Cir.1995). Clear error exists when, giving all deference to the opportunity of the trial judge to evaluate the credibility of witnesses and to weigh the evidence, we are "left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." Anderson v. Bessemer City, 470 U.S. 564, 573, 105 S.Ct. 1504, 84 L.Ed.2d 518 (1985) (quoting United States v. United States Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395, 68 S.Ct. 525, 92 L.Ed. 746 (1948)). The District Court's conclusions of law are subject to plenary review. See Duraco Prods., Inc. v. Joy Plastic Enters., 40 F.3d 1431, 1438 (3d Cir.1994).

In order for A & H, as the owner of a valid and legally protectable mark, to hold VS liable for trademark infringement under § 32 of the Lanham Act, it must show that VS has used a confusingly similar mark. Section 32(1) provides, in pertinent part:

Any person who shall, without the consent of the registrant--

(a) use in commerce any reproduction, counterfeit, copy, or colorable imitation of a registered mark in connection with the sale, offering for sale, distribution, or advertising of any goods or services on or in connection with which such use is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive; ... shall be liable in a civil action by the registrant....

15 U.S.C. § 1114(1) (emphasis added).

Similarly, § 43(a) of the Lanham Act, which governs unfair competition claims, provides in pertinent part:

Any person who, on or in connection with any goods or services, ... uses in commerce any word, term, name, symbol, or device ... or any false designation of origin ... which--

(A) is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive as to ... the...

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