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Omaha Steaks International, Inc. v. Greater Omaha Packing Co., Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

November 15, 2018

OMAHA STEAKS INTERNATIONAL, INC., Appellant
v.
GREATER OMAHA PACKING CO., INC., Appellee

          Appeal from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Trademark Trial and Appeal Board in Nos. 91213527, 92059455, 92059629.

          Nora Marie Kane, Omaha Steaks International, Inc., Omaha, NE, argued for appellant.

          I. Stephen Samuels, Samuels & Hiebert, LLC, Boston, MA, argued for appellee.

          Before Prost, Chief Judge, O'Malley and Stoll, Circuit Judges.

          PROST, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Omaha Steaks International, Inc. ("Omaha Steaks") appeals a decision of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ("Board") dismissing its opposition (No. 91213527) to Greater Omaha Packing Co., Inc.'s ("GOP") application to register the mark "GREATER OMAHA PROVIDING THE HIGHEST QUALITY BEEF" ("Opposed Mark") for meat, including boxed beef primal cuts. The Board concluded that there is no likelihood of confusion between the Opposed Mark and Omaha Steaks' previously registered trademarks. We conclude that the Board made certain errors while analyzing the fame of the registered mark, third-party usage, and similarity of the marks. Accordingly, we vacate and remand.

         Background

         I

         Appellant began as Table Supply Meat Company in 1917. Around 1959, Appellant started doing business as Omaha Steaks. Omaha Steaks acquires "subprimals," or larger cuts of meat (such as the loin or bovine loin), for further processing. It cleans them up, takes the tendons off, and packages the processed meat for sale under an Omaha Steaks mark.

         Omaha Steaks has over two-dozen registrations for Omaha Steaks marks. All of those registrations include the words "Omaha Steaks."

         According to Mr. Todd Simon, Omaha Steaks' senior vice president of sales and marketing, the company spent over $45 million in 2011, and over $50 million in 2012 and 2013, on domestic advertising of its beef products. Omaha Steaks advertises its products through national radio, television, and freestanding print campaigns.

         Omaha Steaks has been featured in national newspapers, magazines, television shows, and movies. It further promotes its products via catalog and direct mail, a daily blast e-mail, customer calls, and on social media platforms, including Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. The direct mail advertising program operates on a rotating basis, soliciting about 2 million customers throughout the year.

         Omaha Steaks has seventy-five retail stores as well as two airport kiosks. It sells its products online via Amazon as well.

         II

         In 1920, GOP's predecessor was formed as an unincorporated company in Omaha, Nebraska called Greater Omaha Packing Company. In 1956, the owners formed Greater Omaha Packing Co., Inc. at the same location. GOP sells boxed beef, which is beef fabricated from whole carcasses. It is sold to wholesalers, such as hotels, restaurants, and food service institutions. GOP has continuously sold beef to Omaha Steaks from 1966 to the present.

         On April 8, 2013, GOP filed an application to register the mark "GREATER OMAHA PROVIDING THE HIGHEST QUALITY BEEF" and design (Serial No. 85/897, 951). The application was for the following goods in International Class 29: "meat, including boxed beef primal cuts."

         The mark and design appear as follows:

         (Image Omitted)

         III

         On November 15, 2013, Omaha Steaks filed an opposition against the GOP mark and design. Omaha Steaks alleged that the Opposed Mark was likely to cause confusion in consumers' minds as to the source of the goods due to its similarity to the registered Omaha Steaks marks.

         On September 30, 2017, the Board dismissed the opposition. The Board concluded there was no likelihood of confusion between GOP's Opposed Mark and Omaha Steaks' marks. To arrive at that result, the Board found inter alia that (1) Omaha Steaks did not show that its marks are famous, (2) third-party use shows that the word "Omaha" may indicate geographic location rather than a single commercial source, and (3) the differences between the GOP and Omaha Steaks marks outweigh their similarities. Omaha Steaks appeals the Board's decision.

         We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(4)(B).

         Discussion

         Omaha Steaks challenges three aspects of the Board's conclusion that there is no likelihood of confusion. First, Omaha Steaks contends that the Board ignored evidence of the fame of its marks under the fifth DuPont factor. Second, Omaha Steaks argues that the Board relied on a much broader range of goods lacking any similarity to meat products when evaluating the sixth factor, which examines the number and nature of third-party uses of similar marks on "similar goods." Third, Omaha Steaks contends that the Board's analysis of the similarity between the parties' marks was flawed because it ignored the word "BEEF" in GOP's slogan, "PROVIDING THE HIGHEST QUALITY BEEF."

         I

         We review the Board's legal conclusions de novo and its factual findings for substantial evidence. In re Pacer Tech., 338 F.3d 1348, 1349 (Fed. Cir. 2003).

         Pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1052(d), the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ("PTO") has authority to refuse to register an applicant's mark where it is so similar to a previously registered mark "as to be likely, when used on or in connection with the goods of the applicant, to cause confusion." Whether a likelihood of confusion exists between an applicant's mark and a previously registered mark is determined on a case-by-case basis, aided by application of the thirteen DuPont factors. Citigroup Inc. v. Capital City Bank Grp., Inc., 637 F.3d 1344, 1349 (Fed. Cir. 2011); see also In re E. I. DuPont DeNemours & Co., 476 F.2d 1357, 1361 (CCPA 1973) (reciting factors).

         "Each of the DuPont factors presents a question of fact, findings with regard to which we test for substantial evidence when called into question on appeal." Bose Corp. v. QSC Audio Prods., Inc., 293 F.3d 1367, 1370 (Fed. Cir. 2002). However, we review the Board's overall determination of likelihood of confusion without deference. Coach Servs., Inc. v. Triumph Learning LLC, 668 F.3d 1356, 1366 (Fed. Cir. 2012).

         II

         There are three parts to Omaha Steaks' challenge to the Board's conclusion that its Omaha Steaks marks are not famous. First, Omaha Steaks argues the admitted evidence confirms the fame of its marks. Second, it contends that the Board inappropriately excluded the Poret survey, which evidenced consumer recognition of its marks. Third, it asserts that the Board abused its discretion by refusing to take judicial notice of its trademark lawsuits, which demonstrate fame given that others are imitating its marks. We address each argument in turn.

         A

         Omaha Steaks argues that the Board improperly rejected its advertising expenditures and sales figures as evidence of the fame of its marks. A mark "with extensive public recognition and renown deserves and receives more legal protection than an obscure or weak mark." Kenner Parker Toys Inc. v. Rose Art Indus., Inc., 963 F.2d 350, 353 (Fed. Cir. 1992). "Direct evidence of fame, for example from widespread consumer polls, rarely appears in contests over likelihood of confusion." Bose, 293 F.3d at 1371. Instead, "the fame of a mark may be measured indirectly, among other things, by the volume of sales and advertising expenditures of the goods traveling under the mark, and by the length of time those indicia of commercial awareness have been evident." Id.

         The Board acknowledged that Omaha Steaks spent over $45 million in 2011 to advertise its beef products. That number increased to over $50 million in 2012 and 2013. J.A. 37. Furthermore, the Board determined that during the December holiday season Omaha Steaks processes 100, 000 orders per day. J.A. 26-27. The Board, however, concluded ...


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