Michigan trademark law is governed by the Trademarks and Service Marks Act, which is modeled after the federal law governing trademarks, The Lanham Act. A trademark is any word, symbol, phrase, or any combination thereof, adopted and used by a person to identify goods made or sold by someone and to distinguish the goods from similar goods made or sold by others. A trademark protects someone’s word, symbol, or phrase against any other individual from utilizing or marketing a similar mark. When a person files an application for a trademark, a specific class where the trademark will be utilized, must be selected, such as what kind of good or service. More than one class may be occupied by one trademark.
Registering a trademark is the ultimate protection against others from benefiting from your work. The trademark stays registered for a term of years and may be renewed for successive terms of upon application.
What Happened Here
The Federal Appeals Court for the Sixth Circuit recently affirmed the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, AuSable River Trading Post v. Dovetail Solutions Inc. and the Tawas Area Chamber of Commerce upholding the trademark, “Perchville.” The Tawas Area Chamber of Commerce registered “Perchville” as a trademark. The AuSable River Trading Post attempted to produce “Perchville” shirts without paying a licensing fee or receiving permission.
Here, the Federal Court found “Perchville” to be fanciful and suggestive. A “fanciful” trademark is a made-up word that people tend to associate with a product, good, or event over time. The Court stated, “The name does not refer to a place. It serves only to identify a particular event, namely the annual winter festival in Tawas.” Essentially, the Federal Court found “Perchville” to be a mark that when used, directed consumers’ attention to Tawas, Michigan. As a result of the inherently distinctive nature of “Perchville,” it is entitled to trademark protection.
What This Means Going Forward
The Federal Court’s protection of the “Perchville,” trademark reassures individuals and businesses that their trademarks will be protected. This case reinforces the need to protect the product, service, logo, or business name. Regardless, this case proves the importance of trademarks, and if you or your business are contemplating a trademark, reach out to Shinners & Cook, P.C., where we will help to protect your rights.