2 July 2019Trademarks

Nonprofit sues Association of Trial Lawyers of America over its name

A US-based nonprofit, the American Association for Justice (AAJ) is suing a competitor for trademark infringement.

In a complaint filed on Friday, June 28 at the US District Court for the District of Columbia, the AAJ said the Association of American Trial Lawyers (AOATL) name and abbreviation was “intentionally” confusing consumers in the US.

AAJ, which was formerly named the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA), alleged the organisation was infringing its ‘ATLA’ trademark.

AAJ said it has owned the ATLA trademark since 1976 for “providing seminars and meetings for attorneys”. It alleged that AOATL’s use of ‘AOATL’ began “long after” AAJ acquired the ‘ATAL’ mark.

AAJ, which supports trial attorneys and advocates for a “fair and effective justice system”, said it sent AOATL a cease and desist letter in December 2018, requesting that the organisation discontinues use of its allegedly infringing name.

In response, AOATL, “with full knowledge of AAJ’s claim and marks, filed an application at the US Patent and Trademark Office seeking to register AOATL as a service mark, according to the complaint.

AOATL filed its application for services such as “advertising agencies specialising in law”.

AAJ said AOATL “began using the terms Association of American Trial Lawyers and AOATL with full knowledge” of AAJ’s prior marks and without seeking or obtaining permission.

It said continued use of the mark is likely to cause confusion, mistake and deceive potential customers.

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