5 October 2020TrademarksSarah Morgan

TTAB sides with Barclays over ‘Lehman Brothers’ whiskey

The US Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) has refused to allow UK company Tiger Lily Ventures register ‘Lehman Brothers’ as a trademark for whiskey, following opposition from Barclays.

Last week, the board concluded that Barclays had not abandoned the ‘Lehman Brothers’ name and continued to function as a trademark for the company.

After investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy in 2008 (in a move which played a major role in sparking the financial crisis), Barclays acquired many of the Lehman Brothers’ businesses and assets, including the company’s trademarks.

Five years later, in 2013, Tiger Lily Ventures applied to register ‘Lehman Brothers’. Later that year, Barclays filed a trademark application for ‘Lehman Brothers’, covering services such as securities brokerage and investment consulting.

Barclays and Tiger Lily Ventures both opposed each other’s trademark applications, which were subsequently consolidated into one proceeding.

Tiger Lily Ventures argued that Barclays had abandoned its mark, because the financial services company let all of its registrations for ‘Lehman Brothers’ lapse, before applying for a new trademark.

But last week, the TTAB found that Barclays had not abandoned the trademark and, although it made minimal use of the ‘Lehman Brothers’ trademarks itself, there is evidence of licences regarding the use of the trademarks and trade name with Barclays’ consent.

“Moreover, in view of the well-known reputation established in Lehman Brothers by Barclays’ predecessor, the more likely a sufficient residual goodwill remains in the ‘Lehman Brothers’ trademark, especially when Barclays’ acts have not been of such character as to cause the mark to lose its significance as an indication of origin,” said the board.

The TTAB went on to conclude that there was a likelihood of confusion, rejecting Tiger Lily Venture’s argument that the trademark was a parody.

“In view of the fact that Tiger Lily’s mark is identical to the ‘Lehman Brothers’ trademark and tradename, consumers would associate the well-known Lehman Brothers financial services business when seeing the name Lehman Brothers used in connection with whiskey and restaurant services to the detriment of Barclays as the trademark owner,” it added.

While Barclays’ opposition to Tiger Lily Venture’s applications was sustained on the grounds of likelihood of confusion, it was dismissed on the grounds of false suggestion of a connection, dilution and lack of bona fide intent.

Tiger Lily Venture’s opposition to Barclays’ application was dismissed in full.

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