Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Little forum about "free fish" (so to speak) prevails in trademark fight with big company


Drew Harwell writes on p. A15 of the Washington Post on Wednesday March 1, 2016, “A monster win for student lawyers: Pro bono clinic helps Md. Small-business owner take on major trademark bully”, Online, the title is “The college student took on one of America’s top trademark bullies –and won” 

The underdog of the story was Monster Fish Keepers which sells T-shirts and maintains forums about aquariums (how about “Free Fish”?)  The villain was Monster Beverage in Redondo Beach CA, a company (partly owned by Coca-Cola) that sells high energy beverages.

It sounds like a no-brainer.  The two companies are in unrelated businesses, so there should be no confusion.  (There is a gay bar called “The Monster” in Greemwich Village in NYC).  There can be a problem though with “famous marks”.


But the battle started when MFK filed for a trademark through the normal process with USPTO.  It does not appear to be based on the domain name alone in this case.


The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board did not allow the MSF’s trade dress, which it saw as too similar to the beverage company’s, but did allow the wordmark. And, by the way, "Free Fish" is the name of a short comedy mockumentary film in 2012 by Reid Ewing shot on location at the Monterrey Aquarium south of San Francisco. 

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