Trademark Showdown at Home Plate: Atlanta Braves at Bat against Local Taxi Company
On November 1, 2018, the Atlanta Braves commenced an action in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia against a local Marietta taxi company and its owner for trademark infringement. The complaint filed by the Atlanta Braves asserts Federal and State causes of action against Braves Taxi sounding in Trademark Infringement, Trademark Dilution, Unfair Competition, and Cyberpiracy. In short, the Atlanta Braves claim that Braves Taxi is using identical and confusingly similar marks to those of the MLB team on its vehicles.
According to the complaint Braves Taxis is “intentionally freeriding on the success and popularity of the Atlanta Braves by brazenly copying the Atlanta Braves’ trademarks and trade dress, in an effort to dupe unwitting fans or other Atlantans into believing [Braves Taxi] is owned by, associated or affiliated with, or sponsored or endorsed by the Atlanta Braves”. Braves Taxi vehicles display the name “Braves Taxi” in a font similar to that of the Atlanta Braves, as well as displays the team’s widely known tomahawk. Likewise, the Atlanta Braves operate “Braves Around Town” vehicles that display a logo associated with the franchise, and a strong resemblance to the marks on Braves Taxi.
Courts look to a Likelihood of Confusion analysis when determining Trademark Infringement claims. The Eleventh Circuit utilizes a seven factor test: (1) the type of trademark; (2) the similarity of the marks; (3) similarity of the products the marks represent; (4) similarity of the parties’ customers; (5) similarity of advertising media used; (6) defendant’s intent; and (7) actual confusion. Long Star Steakhouse v. Longhorn Steaks, 122 F.3d 1379, 1382 (11th Cir. 1997).
Counsel for Braves Taxi filed an answer on November 26, 2018, denying all claims. Discovery has been scheduled to close on April 25, 2019. As this action develops, Sports and Entertainment Law Insider will provide a full analysis of the how the Likelihood of Confusion factors weigh in favor for the Atlanta Braves, the party that has the burden of proof in a trademark infringement case. Whether the Braves Taxi advertising and marketing is a home-run or major strike, now becomes a determination for the federal courts to make.