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JetBlue sues Walmart for trademark infringement

Two well-known companies across California and the rest of the country have recently made news over intellectual property rights. JetBlue Airways has sued Walmart for trademark infringement over the retailer’s new personal shopping service, Jetblack.

While Walmart has only introduced Jetblack in New York City, the retailer has plans to expand the service and ultimately compete with e-commerce giants like Amazon Prime. CNBC reports that JetBlue referred to Jetblack as a "transparent attempt" to associate the service with the airline’s reputation.

Plans to expand Jetblack

A text-based personal shopping service, Jetblack is Walmart’s answer to consumers’ wants for faster, more convenient and more personalized online shopping. The startup owned by Walmart launched in New York City in 2018, with plans to slowly expand to other cities across the country.

Notably, Walmart plans to incorporate other colors into the brand. JetBlue alleges that this further infringes upon its trademarks, as the retailer plans to eventually incorporate “Jet+color” names into the brand like Jetgold, Jetsilver and more. Insurance Journal reports that JetBlue currently owns 43 federal trademark registrations.

Elements of proving trademark infringement

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) states that trademark infringement is the unauthorized use of a mark by another that may cause confusion or deception among consumers. Trademark infringement can dilute the brand of the trademark owner and potentially harm its goodwill.

In proving infringement in federal or state court, the burden falls on the trademark owner. This includes both proving that your own mark has priority and that the other mark may cause consumer confusion. The USPTO then states that the court will likely consider just how similar the two marks are, as well as evidence determining how likely confusion surrounding the marks may be.

While JetBlue has not disclosed the damages it seeks, common remedies available if the court finds evidence of infringement include:

  • A court order demanding the infringing party to stop use of the mark
  • A court order demanding the infringing party to destroy materials associated with the mark
  • Compensatory or punitive damages, relative to the harm caused by the infringement
  • Other financial relief, like paying attorneys’ fees

While Walmart states that it respects intellectual property rights, the lawsuit may complicate the expansion of its new service. If you have concerns about protecting your trademark, speak with an attorney to learn your rights and options.

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