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Putt-Putt Has No Miniature Trademark Rights

Posted in Branding, Genericide, Infringement, Law Suits, Loss of Rights, Trademarks

With all the golf coverage of the Masters Tournament and the coveted Green Jacket, this past weekend, it seemed particularly appropriate to report on a recent trademark case involving the miniature variety of golf: Putt-Putt, LLC v. 416 Constant Friendship, LLC (April 5, 2013 D. Md.).

So, I learned two things this weekend, Adam Scott is the first Australian to win the Masters, and “putt-putt” golf is a brand of miniature golf, not a generic designation for a type or category of golf game. In fact, I was surprised to learn that the brand is subject to federally-registered trademark rights, and for much more than mini-golf services, see here, here, here, here, and here.

In the Putt-Putt v. 416 Constant Friendship decision, the court granted summary judgement in favor of Putt-Putt’s federal and Maryland State trademark infringement and unfair competition claims. The court basically found it unnecessary to hold a trial in order for Putt-Putt to win. Not only did the court find there to be infringement as a matter of law, it also found Putt-Putt to be a “strong” trademark.

Why the surprise? I grew up using and hearing the term as a generic reference, not a brand. Apparently 416 Constant Friendship couldn’t muster up enough evidence to even create a genuine issue of material fact on the question of validity. Survey evidence would have been interesting, but there was no mention of this type of evidence, the registrations appeared to carry the day on validity.

What is your experience with this term, brand or generic? And, would you place Putt-Putt on the Genericide Watch?