Businesses, such as retailers or service providers, often wish to use another company’s protected name, trade dress or logo in association with the marketing of their own business. The marketer believes this is proper since it sells, repairs or offers services specific to the other company=s goods or services. However, when done without first having obtained the other company=s permission, marketing in this manner can bring about significant legal problems under both state and federal law. Merely including a J, 7 or K along with the other company’s name or mark is generally not enough to protect you from liability.
First, a written demand that you immediately cease all unauthorized use of the other company’s trade name or logo will be sent. If that demand is ignored, the trade name or mark owner can be expected to sue to stop your unapproved use of its protected name or marks. This frequently includes seeking a preliminary injunction ordering you to stop all unauthorized uses. The owner may also seek to recover all profits you derived from the unauthorized use of its intellectual property, damages for any dilution of the value of the name or mark, and the award of its reasonable attorneys fees and costs of having to bring that litigation.
Factory-authorized distributors, dealers or service facilities may have already been granted limited contractual rights to use a manufacturer=s name or marks. Those contractual provisions and limitations must be strictly adhered to. When in doubt, one should seek written permission before using anothers trade name, trade dress or marks in association with their business.