In a recent landmark ruling, the Federal Circuit, sitting en banc, held that Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act’s ban on “disparaging” marks violates the First Amendment. Section 2(a) provides that no trademark shall be refused registration “unless it consists of or comprises . . . matter which may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols[.]” The majority found that the government’s prohibition of registration of disparaging marks “amounts to viewpoint discrimination, and under the strict scrutiny review, . . . is unconstitutional.” It further concluded that such prohibition is unconstitutional even under the intermediate scrutiny review because the government offered no legitimate interests to justify such prohibition.
The NFL playoffs aren’t the only big football news happening this month! The U.S. Department of Justice recently decided to intervene in the Washington Redskins trademark litigation over the constitutionality of certain provisions of the Lanham Act.
We have previously addressed the Supreme Court’s decision in Octane Fitness, LLC v. Icon Health & Fitness, Inc., 12-1184, Slip Op. at 7 (2014), which relaxed the standard for awarding attorney’s fees under Section 285 of the Patent Act (“§285”) and ruled that decisions on §285 are entitled to deference on appeal. In the patent litigation realm, the Octane Fitness decision does not seem to have led to an overwhelming trend toward awarding fees. It does, however, beg the question: how has this impacted the standard for awarding attorney’s fees in other types of intellectual property cases, such as trademarks and trade secrets?
One of the several claims available to plaintiffs under the Lanham Act is a claim for “false advertising.” Section 1125(a)(1)(B) of the Lanham Act states that:(1) Any person who, on or in connection with any goods or services, or any container for goods, uses in commerce any word, term, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof, or any false designation of origin, false or misleading description of fact, or false or misleading representation of fact, which—