Pucker Vodka Can Use Lipstick Mark, Court Holds
A Nevada federal court has dismissed JL Beverage Co.’s trademark-infringement allegations against Beam Inc.’s Pucker Vodka. JL Beverage Co. v. Beam Inc., No. 11-0417 (D. Nev., entered July 23, 2018). The 2011 complaint, which alleged that Beam Inc.’s mark featuring a drawing of lips infringed on JL Beverage’s lip-imprint mark, was revived by the Ninth Circuit in 2016. In addition to arguing against the alleged infringement, Beam Inc. filed a counterclaim asserting that JL Beverage’s trademark should be canceled.
The court was unpersuaded by JL Beverage’s arguments about consumer associations with the lip illustration. “Consumers do not refer to Johnny Love Vodka as ‘the lip vodka,’” the court noted. “JL Beverage offered evidence at trial that consumers refer to Johnny Love Vodka as ‘the lip vodka,’ but the Court did not find this evidence credible.” Further, “Consumers exposed to JL Beverage’s logo and marketing materials during the sponsorship events probably would not remember it. While Mr. Diab (the manager of JL Beverage) testified that consumers who saw the JLV Mark on the media wall at the Miss USA pageant or on a race car in 2008 would remember it six to nine years later , the Court finds that this testimony is not credible.” The court also observed that 40 existing trademarks registered for use on alcohol beverages feature lips as an element.
The court held that consumers were unlikely to confuse the brands because of the differences in trade dress and the lack of evidence that Beam Inc. sought to capitalize on consumers’ goodwill toward Johnny Love Vodka; using the same reasoning, the court refused to grant Beam Inc.’s motion to cancel JL Beverage’s mark registration.