Monster Cable Finds Itself On The Other Side Of A Trademark Case (But Still Losing)

from the monster-trademarks dept

As you're probably aware, Monster Cable is somewhat famous as a trademark bully -- at times going after completely unrelated businesses that use the word "monster" (such as a mini-golf course, an automotive parts shop and the manufacturer of deer salt blocks) despite there being no chance for confusion. So it's interesting to see what happens when it's actually being accused of trademark infringement itself. Unlike Monster's lawsuits, this one is from a company that's actually in the same space. Dolby is suing Monster for trademark infringement and last week Monster failed in its attempt to win the case via summary judgment, while Dolby partially won its summary judgment arguments. (Updated to show the logos):
Incredibly, Monster, which continually attacks totally unrelated businesses where no moron in a hurry would ever consider there to be any confusion, is now forced to argue here that its own use wouldn't cause any confusion at all. However, the court isn't convinced, noting that the marks do, in fact, appear similar (and even Monster's own "expert" witness said as much):
Here, both marks consist of an icon of a pair of over-the-ear headphones surrounding an abstract geometrical shape. The proportionate size of the headphone icon compared to the center geometric shape is approximately the same for both marks. Both of the center geometric shapes have a similar dark, right-angle side nearest the headphones icon, with mirror-image, inward-facing, semi-circular arcs opposite the right-angle side. Indeed, Monster's own witnesses concede that the marks have similar elements. The evidence indicates that Monster's mark sometimes appears in a certain configuration with the Monster name or in certain color combinations, but sometimes does not. In short, a reasonable jury could find, on the record before the Court, that this element favors likelihood of confusion.
And, while Dolby itself doesn't directly compete, it licenses its mark to those who do:
Headphones bearing the Dolby mark sell in the same price range and to the same market segments. Moreover, the Dolby mark may appear on a variety of different headphone styles, including styles similar to Monster's, since Dolby licenses its mark to different headphone manufacturers. This adds to the potential for source confusion, whatever the sophistication level of the buyers.
Oh, and there's even some evidence to suggest that, unlike those Monster accuses of trademark infringement, Monster itself may have purposely copied Dolby's mark:
Based upon the record before the Court here, a reasonable jury could find that Monster intentionally adopted a mark similar to the Dolby Headphone Mark, thus creating a triable issue. Monster was aware of the Dolby Headphone Mark at the time that it adopted its Monster Headphone Mark. It had, in fact, licensed and used the Dolby Headphone Mark on its own products. The record contains conflicting accounts about the creation of the Monster Headphone Mark. Dolby also offers evidence that Monster previously admitted using a different Dolby mark without permission, as well as evidence that Monster acknowledged the value of including the Dolby Headphone Mark and Dolby technology in marketing headphones to consumers. This and other circumstantial evidence would allow a reasonable jury to find in favor of Dolby on the intent to confuse factor
You would think that, for a company so incredibly (and ridiculously) aggressive in enforcing its own trademark, it would be a bit more careful in designing its own damn logos. Monster may eventually win the case, but initially it doesn't look to be going that well.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 8th, 2013 @ 10:00am

    Are there any pictures of the two logos in dispute?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    Baldaur Regis (profile), Feb 8th, 2013 @ 10:02am

    Wait....

    ....are Monster HDMI cables so ridiculously overpriced because they have to pay all these lawyers? I always thought it was because they just enjoyed screwing over the public.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Lord Binky, Feb 8th, 2013 @ 10:04am

    I wonder what the defense for this is. Consumers need an abstract marking to identify the product is a pair of headphones? The Monster Cable brand name isn't enough to designate the product as a Monster Cable product? Wouldn't that mean that without additional markings, they are admitting all the non-competitor companies that had Monster in their name had no way of being confused with Monster Cable?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    Chris ODonnell (profile), Feb 8th, 2013 @ 10:06am

    Can we pile on Monster a bit? The story of the beatdown on Monster delivered by Dr Dre.

    http://gizmodo.com/5981823/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Vidiot (profile), Feb 8th, 2013 @ 10:08am

    Re: Wait....

    "...are Monster HDMI cables so ridiculously overpriced..."

    They prefer to say "premium branded". That's code for "electrically equivalent, but with a cooler (purloined) brand name."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    bshock, Feb 8th, 2013 @ 10:11am

    not surprising at all

    Monster Cable's clueless trademark lawsuits strongly suggest that the people behind it don't understand the basics of trademark. Why would we expect them to handle this aspect of it any better?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Michael S. (profile), Feb 8th, 2013 @ 10:20am

    verdict

    Hmmm I kind of hope for a nice verdict against them and "Monster" compensation awards.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 8th, 2013 @ 10:24am

    While I wholeheartedly approve of Monster getting it's due, the idea that a company can license its trademark to an industry where the mark was not originally applicable and have the mark still apply is ridiculous.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 8th, 2013 @ 10:37am

    Re:

    You can find pictures on the web. Dolby's trademark is headphones with DɊ in the middle (minus the little tail there). Monster's logo has a letter M in the middle, but the way they do that looks similar to Dobly's mark. http://www.monstercable.com/headphones/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    Some Other AC (profile), Feb 8th, 2013 @ 11:14am

    Re: Re:

    Here is an image with the two side by side.
    http://pattishall.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/headsets.jpg

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Wally (profile), Feb 8th, 2013 @ 11:22am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Looks like all monster did was add solid quarter pie pieces on the top and fill in the Dolby double D's....yeah, I'm in support of Dolby Labs...they really aren't all that litigious in nature and this is the first time I think anyone heard of them going after trademark issues.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Wally (profile), Feb 8th, 2013 @ 11:23am

    Re: Wait....

    You just got my vote for insightful :-)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    Wally (profile), Feb 8th, 2013 @ 11:26am

    Re:

    Any VHS Cassette recorder, DVD Player, or Bluray player manufacturer will tell you the value of trademark branding and licensing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 8th, 2013 @ 11:37am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Thanks, this is helpful.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 8th, 2013 @ 11:57am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Hmm... I see the monster logo pretty clearly as an uppercase "M" inside the headphones.

    I _guess_ I could see how a "moron in a hurry" might be confused though.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Ven, Feb 8th, 2013 @ 12:03pm

    Re:

    It can make sense that Dolby's license practices are relevant.

    Lets assume that Dolby does provide some headphone technology that is an improvement on generic headphone technology. And also that educated consumers recognize that.

    Under those assumptions part of the value of licensing Dolby technology is also licensing Dolby trademarks. By placing the mark on a product it identifies the product as containing a distinct technology.

    Now if Monster is using a mark that could cause confusion, then they are diluting the value of Dolby's mark. What happens when you buy a Monster branded and marked product thinking it was a Dolby marked product, then find out you only got an over price low quality headphone?

    Would you be more or less likely to buy an authentic Dolby marked product in the future?

    The purpose of the Dolby Headphones mark is not to differentiate Dolby products to it's customers, but to differentiate Dolby's technology (embedded in its customers' products) to consumers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Feb 8th, 2013 @ 1:17pm

    Re: not surprising at all

    Monster Cables is a company that makes its money from bilking ill-informed customers. Their business model requires consumer confusion to work. They understand trademarks perfectly well and know exactly what they're doing. They're just scumbags.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    charliebrown (profile), Feb 8th, 2013 @ 1:33pm

    I don't really care for either Monster Cable or Deafening Dolby..... What? Then what does the other D stand for in their logo?

    Anyway, I would side in Dolby in this case. Plus, let's face it, they have come up with a lot of good sound based innovations over the years. What has Monster Cable ever done?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    GMacGuffin (profile), Feb 8th, 2013 @ 1:39pm

    Honestly...

    Monster Cable must have its own TM and brand management dept., which often includes a lawyer or someone who searches marks and scans the USPTO Gazette all day long. And yet they missed this obvious (yea, likely to confuse) similarities with the other mark?

    Well, I've never heard of this "Dolby" company, so maybe they can make that excuse. (Oh, you mean Dubly? Like in Spinal Tap?)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Feb 8th, 2013 @ 5:26pm

    Re: Wait....

    Nothing stops it from being both.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    bugmenot (profile), Feb 8th, 2013 @ 9:37pm

    Monster Cable beatdown

    The fools at Monster Cable sued Disney/Pixar over the "Monsters Inc." film and got their butt kicked. Officially it was "settled", which really meant Monster went away empty handed and probably paid Disney's legal expenses to boot!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    G Thompson (profile), Feb 8th, 2013 @ 10:19pm

    Re: Wait....

    Whether it's Monster or any other brand if you are paying anymore than $5 to $9 for v1.4 HDMI cables you are paying way to much.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    patzilla (profile), Feb 9th, 2013 @ 5:23am

    Planned Parenthood

    This is too funny. Poetic justice. Planned Parenthood tried to make me give up my trademark, PLANNED PARROTHOODŽ, unsuccessfully. Guess these companies have idle lawyers trying to fill in time. They also went after all other entities using "Planned" such as Planned Pethood, etc.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Lotari, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 6:29am

    But Dr Dre told me Monster was cool? They're cool, right?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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