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Aktiebolaget Electrolux v. Armatron Int'l, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

July 15, 1993, Decided

No. 92-2388, No. 92-2439

Opinion

 [***1461]   [*2]  TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge.

This is a trademark infringement and unfair competition action under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1051 et seq. 1 [**2]  Appellant Aktiebolaget Electrolux holds a trademark for a line of gardening products called "Weed Eater." Appellee Armatron International, Inc. subsequently sold a gardening product variously called "Leef Eeter," "Leaf Eater," "Flowtron Leaf Eater," and "Vornado Leaf Eater." For convenience, we will refer to appellee's product as a Leaf Eater. The district court, after a bench trial, issued an injunction requiring appellee to use the term Leaf Eater only in conjunction with the Flowtron or Vornado logos, but declined to award appellant damages. Finding no error, we affirm. 2 

Appellant has used the Weed Eater trademark since 1972 to sell weed trimmers and blower/vacuums. Weed trimmers are hand-held machines which use a rapidly spinning nylon string, driven by a motor, to shave unwanted growth from gardens. Blower/vacuums work much like normal household vacuum cleaners; they suck loose debris, such as fallen leaves, from the garden through a hose and deposit them in a bag. The leaves are shredded by a nylon string mechanism before they arrive in the bag. Blower/vacuums also may be used to blow loose debris away from the garden or into manageable piles. The user walks along the garden with both machines.

Appellee has sold Leaf Eaters since 1987. The product consists of a free-standing barrel, into which the user pours collected leaves. A nylon string mechanism in the barrel shreds the leaves and ejects the fragments at the bottom. The shredded leaves may be used as mulch. Alternatively, the entire apparatus can be positioned over a garbage can, allowing the user to dispose of the shredded leaves [**3]  easily. Appellee boasts that the Leaf Eater will convert eight bags of normal leaves into one bag of shredded leaves. Leaf Eaters thus perform only one function: they shred leaves.

Appellee contends that its use of the Leaf Eater name flows naturally from the name of its previous product, the Skeeter Eeter,  [*3]  which was used to control insects. Skeeter Eeter was never challenged as an infringing mark. Prior to adopting the Leaf Eater mark, however, appellee conducted a trademark [***1462]  search to determine whether it was available legally. Appellee learned, in fact, that Leaf Eater was trademarked by a company called Idea Bank, but that the trademark had since lapsed. Appellee also learned about the Weed Eater trademark, which appellant trademarked even before Idea Bank trademarked Leaf Eater. Appellee concluded that Leaf Eater was an unprotected mark, available for use in connection with a leaf shredding machine.

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999 F.2d 1 *; 1993 U.S. App. LEXIS 17508 **; 27 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1460 ***

AKTIEBOLAGET ELECTROLUX, Plaintiff, Appellant, v. ARMATRON INTERNATIONAL, INC., Defendant, Appellee. AKTIEBOLAGET ELECTROLUX, Plaintiff, Appellee, v. ARMATRON INTERNATIONAL, INC., Defendant, Appellant.

Subsequent History: As Amended August 10, 1993.

Prior History:  [**1]  APPEALS FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS. Hon. Douglas P. Woodlock, U.S. District Judge

CORE TERMS

Leaf, district court, Weed, damages, infringement, products, trademark, injunction, leaves, likelihood of confusion, factors, marks, advertising, gardening, profits, shredded, manufactured, accounting, consumers, coexistence, enrichment, compete, vacuums, unjust, weak

Trademark Law, Likelihood of Confusion, Consumer Confusion, General Overview, Causes of Action Involving Trademarks, Infringement Actions, Remedies, Equitable Relief, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, Clearly Erroneous Review, Damages, Business & Corporate Compliance, Buyer's Damages & Remedies, Fraud Remedies, Sales of Goods