United Drug Co v. Theodore Rectanus Co, No. 27

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtPITNEY
Citation39 S.Ct. 48,63 L.Ed. 141,248 U.S. 90
PartiesUNITED DRUG CO. v. THEODORE RECTANUS CO
Decision Date09 December 1918
Docket NumberNo. 27

248 U.S. 90
39 S.Ct. 48
63 L.Ed. 141
UNITED DRUG CO.

v.

THEODORE RECTANUS CO.

No. 27.
Argued March 12 and 13, 1918.
Decided Dec. 9, 1918.

Messrs. Lawrence A. Janney, of Chicago, Ill., and Frederick L. Emery, of Boston, Mass., for petitioner and appellant.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 90-93 intentionally omitted]

Page 93

Mr. Clayton B. Blakey, of Louisville, Ky., for respondent and appellee.

Mr. Justice PITNEY delivered the opinion of the Court.

This was a suit in equity brought September 24, 1912, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky by the present petitioner, a Massachusetts corporation, against the respondent, a Kentucky corporation, together with certain individual citizens of the latter state, to restrain infringement of trade-mark and unfair competition.

The District Court granted an injunction against the corporation defendant pursuant to the prayer of the bill. 206 Fed. 570. The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decree and remanded the cause with directions to dismiss the bill. 226 Fed. 545, 141 C. C. A. 301. An appeal was allowed by one of the judges of that court, and afterwards we allowed a writ of certiorari. Pursuant to a stipulation, the transcript of the record filed for the purposes of the appeal was treated as a return to the writ. Under section 128, Judicial Code (Act March 3, 1911, c. 231, 36 Stat. 1133), as amended by Act of January 28, 1915 (38 Stat. 803, c. 22, § 2; Comp. St. 1916, § 1120), the appeal must be dismissed, and the cause will be determined on the writ of certiorari.

Page 94

The essential facts are as follows: About the year 1877 Ellen M. Regis, a resident of Haverhill, Mass., began to compound and distribute in a small way a preparation for medicinal use in cases of dyspepsia and some other ailments, to which she applied as a distinguishing name the word 'Rex'—derived from her surname. The word was put upon the boxes and packages in which the medicine was placed upon the market, after the usual manner of a trade-mark. At first alone, and afterwards in partnership with her son under the firm name of %'e. m. r/egis & Co.,' she continued the business on a modest scale; in 1898 she recorded the word 'Rex' as a trade-mark under the laws of Massachusetts (Acts 1895, p. 519, c. 462, § 1); in 1900 the firm procured its registration in the United States Patent Office under the Act of March 3, 1881 (21 Stat. 502, c. 138); in 1904 the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts sustained their trade-mark right under the state law as against a concern that was selling medicinal preparations of the present petitioner under the designation of 'Rexall Remedies' (Regis v. Jaynes, 185 Mass. 458, 70 N. E. 480); afterwards the firm established priority in the mark as against petitioner in a contested proceeding in the Patent Office; and subsequently, in the year 1911, petitioner purchased the business with the trade-mark right, and has carried it on in connection with its other business, which consists in the manufacture of medicinal preparations, and their distribution and sale through retail drug stores, known as 'Rexall stores,' situate in the different states of the Union, four of them being in Louisville, Ky.

Meanwhile, about the year 1883, Theodore Rectanus, a druggist in Louisville, familiarly known as 'Rex,' employed this word as a trade-mark for a medicinal preparation known as a 'blood purifier.' He continued this use to a considerable extent in Louisville and vicinity, spending money in advertising and building up a trade, so that—-

Page 95

except for whatever effect might flow from Mrs. Regis' prior adoption of the word in Massachusetts, of which he was entirely ignorant—he was entitled to use the word as his trade-mark. In the year 1906 he sold his business, including the right to the use of the word, to respondent; and the use of the mark by him and afterwards by respondent was continuous from about the year 1883 until the filing of the bill in the year 1912.

Petitioner's first use of the word 'Rex' in connection with the sale of drugs in Louisville or vicinity was in April, 1912, when two shipments of 'Rex Dyspepsia Tablets,' aggregating 150 boxes and valued at $22.50, were sent to one of the 'Rexall' stores in that city. Shortly after this the remedy was mentioned by name in local newspaper advertisements published by those stores. In the previous September, petitioner shipped a trifling amount—5 boxes—to a drug store in Franklin, Ky., approximately 120 miles distant from Louisville. There is nothing to show that before this any customer in or near Kentucky had heard of the Regis remedy, with or without the description 'Rex,' or that this word ever possessed any meaning to the purchasing public in that state, except as pointing to Rectanus and the Rectanus Company and their 'blood purifier.' That it did and does convey the latter meaning in Louisville and vicinity is proved without dispute. Months before petitioner's first shipment of its remedy to Kentucky, petitioner was distinctly notified (in June, 1911) by one of its Louisville distributors, that respondent was using the word 'Rex' to designate its medicinal preparations, and that such use had been commenced by Mr. Rectanus as much as 16 or 17 years before that time.

There was nothing to sustain the allegation of unfair competition, aside from the question of trade-mark infringement. As to this, both courts found, in substance, that the use of the same mark upon different but somewhat

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related preparations was carried on by the parties and their respective predecessors contemporaneously, but in widely separated localities, during the period in question—between 25 and 30 years in perfect good faith; neither side having any knowledge or notice of what was being done by the other. The District Court held that, because the adoption of the mark by Mrs. Regis antedated its adoption by Rectanus, petitioner's right to the exclusive use of the word in connection with medicinal preparations intended for dyspepsia and kindred diseases of the stomach and digestive organs must be sustained, but without accounting for profits or assessment of damages for unfair trade, citing McLean v. Fleming, 96 U. S. 245, 24 L. Ed. 828; Menendez v. Holt, 128 U. S. 514, 9 Sup. Ct. 143, 32 L. Ed. 526; Saxlehner v. Eisner & Mendelson Co., 179 U. S. 19, 39, 21 Sup. Ct. 7, 45 L. Ed. 60; Saxlehner v. Siegel-Cooper Co., 179 U. S. 42, 21 Sup. Ct. 16, 45 L. Ed. 77. The Circuit Court of Appeals held that in view of the fact that Rectanus had used the mark for a long period of years in entire ignorance of Mrs. Regis' remedy or of her trade-mark, had expended money in making his mark well known, and had established a considerable though local business under it in Louisville and vicinity, while on the other hand during the same long period Mrs. Regis had done nothing, either by sales agencies or by advertising, to make her medicine or its mark known outside of the New England States, saving sporadic sales in territory adjacent to those states, and had made no effort whatever to extend the trade to Kentucky, she and her successors were bound to know that, misled by their silence and inaction, others might act, as Rectanus and his successors did act, upon the assumption that the field was open, and therefore were estopped to ask for an injunction against the continued use of the mark in Louisville and vicinity by the Rectanus Company.

The entire argument for the petitioner is summed up in the contention that whenever the first user of a trade-mark has been reasonably diligent in extending the

Page 97

territory of his trade, and as a result of such...

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609 practice notes
  • Food for human consumption: Food labeling— Dietary supplements; effect on structure or function of body; types of statements, definition,
    • United States
    • Federal Register January 06, 2000
    • January 6, 2000
    ...trademark or trade name is to prevent confusion with the products of another manufacturer. (See United Drug Co. v. Theodore Rectanus Co., 248 U.S. 90, 97 (1918).) Trademarks and trade names are given legal protection to prevent one manufacturer from passing off its goods as the goods of ano......
  • Cottonwood Financial Ltd. v. the Cash Store Financial Serv. Inc., Civil Action No. 3:10–CV–1650–N.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Texas
    • March 31, 2011
    ...F.Supp.2d 738] Buti v. Perosa, S.R.L., 139 F.3d 98, 103–05 (2d Cir.1998) (citing, inter alia, United Drug Co. v. Theodore Rectanus Co., 248 U.S. 90, 97, 39 S.Ct. 48, 63 L.Ed. 141 (1918) and collecting numerous T.T.A.B. cases); see also General Healthcare, Ltd. v. Qashat, 364 F.3d 332, 337 (......
  • United States v. Mongol Nation, Case No. CR 13-0106-DOC-1
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • February 28, 2019
    ...in gross or at large." Amicus Curiae Brief, Seven Law Professors46 (Dkt. XX) at 6 (citing United Drug Co. v. Theodore Rectanus co. , 248 U.S. 90, 97, 39 S.Ct. 48, 63 L.Ed. 141 (1918) ). "Trademark ownership is always appurtenant to commercial activity." Id. (citing Tally-Ho, Inc. v. Coast C......
  • Int'L Bancorp v. Societe Des Bains De Mer, No. 02-1364.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • May 19, 2003
    ...is employed.... [T]he right to a particular mark grows out of its use, not its mere adoption;" United Drug Co. v. Theodore Rectanus, Co., 248 U.S. 90, 97, 39 S.Ct. 48, 63 L.Ed. 141 (1918). Because a mark is used in commerce only if it accompanies services rendered in commerce, i.e., it is e......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
606 cases
  • Cottonwood Financial Ltd. v. the Cash Store Financial Serv. Inc., Civil Action No. 3:10–CV–1650–N.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Texas
    • March 31, 2011
    ...F.Supp.2d 738] Buti v. Perosa, S.R.L., 139 F.3d 98, 103–05 (2d Cir.1998) (citing, inter alia, United Drug Co. v. Theodore Rectanus Co., 248 U.S. 90, 97, 39 S.Ct. 48, 63 L.Ed. 141 (1918) and collecting numerous T.T.A.B. cases); see also General Healthcare, Ltd. v. Qashat, 364 F.3d 332, 337 (......
  • United States v. Mongol Nation, Case No. CR 13-0106-DOC-1
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • February 28, 2019
    ...in gross or at large." Amicus Curiae Brief, Seven Law Professors46 (Dkt. XX) at 6 (citing United Drug Co. v. Theodore Rectanus co. , 248 U.S. 90, 97, 39 S.Ct. 48, 63 L.Ed. 141 (1918) ). "Trademark ownership is always appurtenant to commercial activity." Id. (citing Tally-Ho, Inc. v. Coast C......
  • Int'L Bancorp v. Societe Des Bains De Mer, No. 02-1364.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • May 19, 2003
    ...is employed.... [T]he right to a particular mark grows out of its use, not its mere adoption;" United Drug Co. v. Theodore Rectanus, Co., 248 U.S. 90, 97, 39 S.Ct. 48, 63 L.Ed. 141 (1918). Because a mark is used in commerce only if it accompanies services rendered in commerce, i.e., it is e......
  • E. W., LLC v. Rahman, No. 1:11cv1380 (JCC/TCB).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • September 13, 2012
    ...Co., Inc. v. Wes Worsham Fire Protection, LLC, 419 F.Supp.2d 861, 867 (E.D.Va.2006)(citing United Drug Co. v. Theodore Rectanus Co., 248 U.S. 90, 97–98, 39 S.Ct. 48, 63 L.Ed. 141 (1918)). The mark's owner acquires “both the right to use a particular mark and the right to prevent others from......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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