Be Careful When Choosing Your Company's Logo

jacguar_logoAn Ohio-based logistics company finds itself in litigation over its use of a logo similar to the logo of luxury automaker, Jaguar. Panther Premium Logistics recently updated its logo to include a leaping feline that resembles the familiar leaping jaguar that adorns car hoods and other parts of Jaguar automobiles. Images of the two companies' logos are available here .  According to its website, Panther Premium Logistics was founded in 1992, and "is one of the largest premium logistics companies in the world. [Panther] provide[s] door-to-door transportation solutions for more than 11,000 customers worldwide, including Fortune 500 corporations, government agencies and blue-chip transportation service providers."

Jaguar's complaint -- filed in federal court in the Northern District of Ohio -- states that Jaguar has used the leaping jaguar logo for over 75 years in the United States and more than 100 other countries. Jaguar Land Rover Limited v. Panther Premium Logistics, Inc., et al., Case No. 1:14-cv-02813-PAG, United States District Court Northern District of Ohio (Dec. 23, 2014) ("Compl."), ¶ 9. Jaguar alleges trademark infringement as well as trademark dilution. Trademark dilution is a claim available to famous brands such as Jaguar, whose trademarks "have become famous in the United States and worldwide as a result of their inherent and/or acquired distinctiveness . . . ." Compl. ¶ 46. "Because the Jaguar Land Rover Goods and Services have gained a reputation for superior quality, the Jaguar Land Rover Marks have gained substantial renown." Id. ¶ 47. Jaguar alleges that Panther's logo has caused injury by "blur[ing] and tarnish[ing] the distinctive quality of the Jaguar" trademarks. Id. ¶ 49.

The lesson to other businesses is to be careful about choosing or updating logos. If the new or updated logo is sufficiently similar to a trademarked logo already in place, then a business could be met with a cease and desist letter, or worse -- a lawsuit alleging trademark infringement. A business that is considering such a change should consult an attorney who is knowledgeable in the field and can navigate the process for trademark registration. To avoid the use of a logo that is already in use, an attorney can search through the database of trademarks registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USTPO"). A search of state registries will also provide information of trademarks already in use. A thorough search will ensure that the business will not waste time or money on a logo that another company or organization has already claimed. Also, the USTPO has produced a series of short videos with basic information on the concept trademarks and the registration process. A link to those videos is available here.

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