It’s been a busy week at the Supreme Court, and trademark law has not been left on the sidelines. On Thursday, the Court issued a unanimous opinion in Arbitron Austria v. Hetronic International which involves a dispute between Hetronic, a U.S. company, and Arbitron, a collection of foreign companies. Arbitron was formerly a licensed distributor for Hetronic’s radio remote control products and subsequently sold similar products, mainly in Europe, using Hetronic’s branding and designs without permission from Hetronic. The Court held that it is where infringing conduct occurs that determines if U.S. trademark law applies. Here, the majority of the infringing conduct occurred in Europe. Justice Sotomayor, joined by 3 other justices, issued a concurring opinion, that reads much more like a dissent, which argues that it is where the likelihood of confusion occurs that determines if U.S. trademark law applies. The holding resulted in a $96 million damages award to Hetronic being vacated because most of Arbitron’s conduct occurred in Europe. This case presents a potential blow to U.S. trademark holders because likelihood of confusion in the U.S. now more clearly requires affirmative acts by an infringer in the U.S. for U.S. trademark law to apply.
The full opinion can be read HERE.