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  • Writer's pictureDavid Baker

Mad Monster – It’s a party, not an energy drink

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

Monster Energy Loses Legal Battle Over "MAD MONSTER PARTY" Trademark

In a recent decision, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) handed a legal setback to Monster Energy Company, known for its frequent trademark disputes. The TTAB dismissed Monster Energy's opposition to the registration of the trademark "MAD MONSTER PARTY," both in standard character form and as a word-and-design mark. The registration sought was for "organizing exhibitions for educational and entertainment purposes services" and a "general feature magazine in the field of horror and pop culture."

Monster Energy had argued that there was a likelihood of confusion between these marks and its various MONSTER-formative trademarks used for energy drinks, supplements, fruit juice, soft drinks, clothing, sports bags, stickers, and promoting sports and music events. However, the TTAB, in its decision dated September 8, 2023, ruled differently.

Differences in Connotations and Impressions

The TTAB determined that the first factor in the DuPont analysis was critical, finding that the marks involved different connotations and overall commercial impressions, making confusion unlikely. Specifically, the TTAB noted that while "MAD MONSTER PARTY" personalizes the idea of a monster into a specific character, Monster Energy's marks do not convey this same impression.

The TTAB acknowledged the strength and recognition of "MONSTER ENERGY" and "MONSTER (Stylized)" as trademarks for beverages but pointed out that the use of "monster" in connection with the horror genre activities had somewhat diluted its significance in that category.

Furthermore, the TTAB found that the word "MAD" in "MAD MONSTER PARTY" and the term "PARTY" suggested a gathering of such creatures, distinguishing it from Monster Energy's marks. The unique monster head design in the "MAD MONSTER PARTY" marks also played a significant role in differentiating them from Monster Energy's trademarks.

No Likelihood of Confusion

Monster Energy had submitted evidence of using its marks in connection with horror-themed events where attendees consumed its beverages. However, the TTAB concluded that consumers would not likely perceive applicant's conventions and magazines, which were related to the horror and pop culture fields, as emanating from the same source as sporting or music events sponsored by Monster Energy.

While several other factors, including channels of trade, purchaser care, lack of actual confusion evidence, and applicant's intent, were considered neutral, the TTAB noted that the applicant's ownership of a virtually identical mark for magazines weighed in its favor.

Final Decision

After a thorough analysis of the relevant factors, the TTAB deemed the dissimilarities between the marks to be the most crucial factor, outweighing the others. This led to the dismissal of Monster Energy's opposition. The TTAB's decision underscores the importance of considering the overall commercial impression and connotations of trademarks when assessing likelihood of confusion. It also highlights the need for a detailed analysis of factors in trademark disputes.

Why It Matters.

The concept of "likelihood of confusion" is central to determining whether trademark infringement is present. It is a crucial legal test used to assess whether a new trademark is too similar to an existing one, creating confusion among consumers. Trademark law aims to protect the rights of trademark owners and, in doing so, safeguard consumers from being misled or confused about the source of a product or service.

The primary purpose of trademark law is to prevent consumer confusion. If consumers are confused about the source of a product or service, it can harm both the original trademark owner and consumers themselves. Consumers rely on trademarks to make informed purchasing decisions. They trust certain brands based on prior experiences with those brands. If similar marks are used on unrelated products, it can lead to consumer confusion, dissatisfaction, or even deception.

The likelihood of confusion test helps protect trademark owners from competitors using similar marks that could dilute the distinctiveness and value of their trademarks.

To assess likelihood of confusion, courts and trademark authorities consider various factors, which can vary by jurisdiction but often include:

  • Similarity of Marks. How similar are the marks in appearance, sound, and meaning?

  • Similarity of Goods or Services. Are the goods or services related or similar in nature?

  • Channels of Trade. How and where are the goods or services distributed and sold?

  • Consumer Sophistication. What level of care do consumers exercise when making purchasing decisions?

  • Actual Confusion. Evidence of actual consumer confusion can be a strong indicator.

The likelihood of confusion test is a balancing act. Courts weigh the factors relevant to each case. A strong similarity between marks might be balanced by dissimilar goods or a clear distinction in the marketplace. If likelihood of confusion is established, the trademark owner may be entitled to legal remedies, such as injunctive relief to stop the infringing use and damages.

Ultimately, trademark law serves the public interest by promoting fair competition and ensuring consumers can make informed choices. The likelihood of confusion standard helps maintain this balance.

To read the decision yourself, check it out at Monster Energy Company v. Eben McGarr, Oppositions Nos. 91239678 and 91244601 (September 8, 2023) [not precedential] (Opinion by Judge Frances S. Wolfson).

Scary stuff? Not really.

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