29 September 2017Trademarks

Mars dog treat case dismissed

A Mars trademark infringement complaint over dog treats has been dismissed, after a judge ruled that the company had not provided sufficient evidence of confusion.

In a ruling handed down on Wednesday, September 27, Judge Claude Hilton dismissed Mars’s claim and all counterclaims at the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The case stems from a complaint last December when Mars sued the J.M. Smucker Company and its subsidiary Big Heart Pet over the latter’s Pill Pouches, a special dog treat designed for pet owners to hide medication for administration to their pets.

Mars claimed the Pill Pouches infringed its trademarked ‘Pill Pockets’ dog treat product and created a likelihood of confusion in the market.

Mars was awarded US trademark number 2,673,252 in October 2011 for ‘Pill Pockets’, while the Pill Pouches do not have a trademark as Big Heart Pet claimed to use the term “merely as a description”.

In February 2017, Big Heart Pet responded with a counterclaim seeking cancellation of Mars’s ‘Pill Pockets’ trademark for being generic and a ruling that it had not infringed, before filing a motion for summary judgment in April.

In Wednesday’s ruling, Hilton stated that Mars had “failed to demonstrate actual confusion” as it had no survey data to back up its claims, while the defendant’s survey showed “a 0.0% chance of confusion”.

“Mars’s failure to present any survey data in response to the defendant’s survey is itself evidence that there is no likelihood of confusion,” he added.

The judge’s ruling went on to state that use of the name ‘Pill Pouches’ in this context was fair.

“Since this court has determined there is no threat of trademark infringement, there is no longer a case or controversy between the parties to support this court’s adjudication of the remaining claims,” Hilton added.

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