from the 80-million-and-counting dept
It appears that the company sued Getty Images for infringing on its trademarks on those tree shaped air fresheners because a few of the stock images available via Getty Images includes the tree. Getty Images responded that this isn't a violation of trademark law and is clearly fair use, so the claims should be dismissed. Unfortunately, at this stage, the court has refused to do that, and argues that CAR-FRESHNER actually has made a reasonable enough argument that there may be consumer confusion.
Really?!? I'm curious what moron-in-a-hurry is going to look at these images and think, "gee, the idiotically misspelled company CAR-FRESHNER must have sponsored this photograph that some person took in their car." I just don't see it. Furthermore, trademark (unlike copyright) has a clear requirement that the mark be "used in commerce." While Getty is certainly selling these images, it's ridiculous to think that it's using the trademark in commerce. It's just selling photos -- millions of them -- that photographers have taken. In this case, the "commerce" associated with AIR-FRESHNER happened when someone bought the little tree. Photographing it doesn't represent a new use in commerce. Except in this court, unfortunately.
And if you think this is just a minor issue, you're not paying attention. As trademark lawyer, Marty Schwimmer, points out in the link above, this could make Getty liable for every image in its collection that incidentally shows any trademarked item:
Given that Getty has 80 million images, it may have some agita that its fair use defense did not defeat a 12(b)(6) motion, given that perhaps some others of its 80 million photos that may depict recognizable trademarks as well.While there may be some poetic justice, given reports that Getty is, itself, a rather insanely aggressive protector of copyrights, known to send out letters demanding huge payments for finding incidental parts of its images on websites, we should never celebrate the expanding of bad laws like this.