Trademark Law and Practice

Burger King of Fla., Inc. v. Hoots

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, 1968

Facts:

Plaintiffs founded "Burger King" in Florida in 1953. The restaurants soon grew to a chain and spread across the nation. Defendants opened their restaurant called "Burger King" in Mattoon, IL in 1957 and registered a state trademark without knowing of plaintiffs in July 1959. Plaintiffs opened their first restaurant in Illinois in July 1961 and soon received their federal trademark registration in October 1961. They received notice of defendants' state trademark but soon had their own federal trademark. After plaintiffs opened a second restaurant in the state in Champaign, both parties sued each other for trademark infringement and opened more restaurants in the state.

Procedural History:

District court held that plaintiffs had a right to exclusive use of the mark in the state, except in the Mattoon area, where the innocent defendant was held to be entitled to exclusive use of the mark.

Issue:

Is it trademark infringement when the same trademark is registered twice without knowing of the other?

Rule:

Continuous use of a mark without knowledge of a prior trademark is a defense to trademark infringement for the area where the mark's continuous use is proved.

Reasoning:

Defendants only continuously used their mark in the Mattoon area until learning of plaintiffs, so that is where they are entitled to protection.

Holding:

No, both parties gain exclusive rights to their marks if registered in separate areas without knowing. Affirmed. Defendants' "Burger King" products are both confined to and protected within a 20 miles radius of Mattoon.

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