Pom Wonderful v. Hubbard

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Trademarks
  • Date Filed: 12-30-2014
  • Case #: 14-55253
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Ebel for the Court; Circuit Judges Graber and Kleinfeld
  • Full Text Opinion

In a trademark infringement action, the absence of evidence of actual confusion on the part of the consumers is a neutral factor and is not to be weighed against the plaintiff in determining whether an injunction is appropriate.

Pom Wonderful Company (“Pom Wonderful”) sought an injunction against the Portland Bottling Company and Pur beverages (“Pur”) to keep Pur from using the word “Pom” on its pomegranate beverage flavors. Pur refused to change the marketing, and Pom filed suit. The district court found for Pur, stating that it was unlikely that consumer confusion would result from Pur’s labeling scheme and that Pom Wonderful was unlikely to succeed on the merits of its claim. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit explained that the lower court clearly erred when it held that Pom Wonderful was unlikely to show a likelihood of confusion on the part of the consumers, and therefore unlikely to succeed on the merits of its trademark infringement claim. The panel employed a four-part test that parties seeking preliminary injunctions must satisfy: (1) that the claim is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) that the plaintiff is likely to suffer great harm if relief is not granted; (3) the balance of equities tips in favor of the plaintiff; and, (4) the public interest requires the injunction. The panel explained that the district court erred when it determined that the absence of evidence of actual confusion, or of any malicious intent on the part of Pur, weighed against Pom Wonderful in the legal analysis. Therefore, the panel remanded the case and instructed the district court to consider whether Pom Wonderful sufficiently met its burden of proving the four elements required for a preliminary injunction. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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