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AMF, Inc. v. Sleekcraft Boats

    Brief Fact Summary. AMF, Inc. (Plaintiff) sought to enjoin Sleekcraft Boats (Defendant) from using its mark since it was similar enough to AMF’s (Plaintiff) Slickcraft mark to expect confusion to result.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Several factors must be considered in determining whether confusion between related goods is likely, including strength and similarity of the marks, type and proximity of the goods, and marketing channels used.

    Facts. AMF, Inc. (Plaintiff) manufactured Slickcraft boats and its mark was federally registered in 1969.  Sleekcraft Boats (Defendant) also manufactured boats and its name was selected without knowledge of AMF’s (Plaintiff) use.  Plaintiff sued for infringement of its trademark, claiming the boat lines were competitive.  Defendant claimed that its boats are not competitive with Slickcraft boats as they manufactured only high performance boats meant for racing enthusiasts.  The district court held that Plaintiff’s trademark was valid but not infringed because confusion was not likely.  AMF (Plaintiff) appealed.

    Issue. Must several factors be considered in determining whether confusion between related goods is likely?

    Held. (Anderson, J.)  Yes.  Several factors must be considered in determining whether confusion between related goods is likely.  The strength of the mark, the vicinity of the goods, the similarity of the marks, evidence of actual confusion, the marketing channels used, the type of goods, the defendant’s intent in selecting the mark, and the likelihood of expansion of the product lines must all be considered.  In this case, Slickcraft is a weak mark, yet protectable.  The boats are similar in use and function.  Concerning the marks, Sleekcraft (Defendant) and Slickcraft are similar in sight, sound, and meaning.  There is little evidence of actual confusion, however, there is an overlap of the general class of boat purchasers exposed to the product.  A limited mandatory injunction is called for.  Upon remand, the district court should consider the above interests in structuring appropriate relief.  Remanded.

    Discussion. When the goods produced by the alleged infringer compete for sales with those of the trademark owner, infringement will usually be found if the marks are similar enough that confusion can be expected.  If the goods are totally unrelated, there can be no infringement because confusion is not likely.  In this case, the two lines of boats were found to be non-competing, but they were very close in use and function.


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