California - The Ninth Circuit reversed the lower court's ruling that dismissed a lawsuit brought by jewelry designer Solid 21, Inc. alleging that its rival Breitling USA, Inc. infringed it RED GOLD trademark, saying the lower court erred when it ruled that the trademark was generic and therefore not protectable.
The Ninth Circuit reversed U.S. District Judge Gary A. Feess' ruling that dismissed Solid 21's lawsuit for failure to state a claim and remanded the case to the California district court, saying that the evidence provided by Solid 21 gave it the presumption that the trademark is not generic.
"Solid 21 has alleged in its complaint and submitted supporting documentation indicating that its "red gold" mark is registered in accordance with the Lanham Act," the appeals panel's opinion read. "Solid 21's federal registration of its trademark constitutes prima facie evidence of the trademark's validity."
Solid 21 asked the Ninth Circuit to revive its lawsuit early this month, claiming that Judge Feess of the Central District of California made a rash decision when he ruled that "red gold" is a generic term for the amber-hued alloy made from gold and copper.
Breitling argued that Solid 21 could not protect a term that describes the metals the product is made out of. It also argued that there is not a rule preventing judges from dismissing a trademark infringement case at the motion to dismiss stage on grounds that the term is generic. It also argued that Judge Feess appropriately considered its dictionary evidence that Solid 21's RED GOLD trademark is merely descriptive of a specific kind of gold that has a reddish hue from being alloyed with copper.
Solid 21 argued that a trademark should not be ruled generic at the motion to dismiss stage because it is a factual inquiry. It said that a motion to dismiss would have to be turned into a motion for summary judgment in order for the judge to dismiss the case based on genericness.
The appeals panel cautioned Breitling that it is hard to overthrow the presumption of validity and that it has the burden to prove the trademark is not protectable.
The lawsuit is one of 15 filed by Solid 21 in January of 2011 in an attempt to protect the RED GOLD trademark against brands including Bulgari, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Rolex and Swatch. The other lawsuits were on hold awaiting the Ninth Circuit's decision on the case against Breitling.