The Dark Knight Refuses: USPTO Prohibits Softball Team From Using Batman Logo
On Friday, July 17, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled that a softball team cannot use a lookalike of the Batman logo with the name “Gotham Batmen.” The USPTO agreed with DC Comics that the Batman mark is famous due to its use in comic books and movies, thus protecting it under the Trademark Act.
In order to stop trademark infringement in any case, the first or senior user of the mark must prove likelihood of consumer confusion. In this determination, courts generally look at eight factors: the strength of the trademark, the similarity of the marks, the proximity of the products and their competitiveness with one another, the likelihood that the senior user will “bridge the gap” by developing a product for sale in the market of the alleged infringer’s product, any evidence of actual consumer confusion, any evidence of the second user’s good or bad faith, the quality of the products, and the sophistication of consumers in the relevant market.
Ultimately, the USPTO found that the use of the lookalike mark was likely to cause consumer confusion, pointing to examples such as t-shirts and hats sold by both companies. This holding was due to the similarity of the marks, plus the fact that the goods and services using the logos are related and thus likely to be sold to the same classes of consumers.