Law School Case Brief
Moseley v. V Secret Catalogue - 537 U.S. 418, 123 S. Ct. 1115 (2003)
Objective proof of actual injury to the economic value of a famous mark, as opposed to a presumption of harm arising from a subjective "likelihood of dilution" standard, is a requisite for relief under the Federal Trademark Dilution Act.
Owners of a retail chain, Victoria's Secret Lingerie, Inc. (Secret), sold women’s lingerie in over 750 stores. They owned the “VICTORIA’S SECRET” trademark. A husband and wife, Victor and Cathy Moseley, owned a store named “Victor’s Little Secret,” which also sells women’s lingerie as well as novelty items. Plaintiff Secret filed a suit seeking to compel the Moseleys to stop using the name "Victor's Little Secret" for their single retail store in Kentucky, alleging that the Moseleys’ conduct was likely to blur and erode the distinctiveness and tarnish the reputation of their trademark. The District Court enjoined the Moseleys from using the name “Victor’s Little Secret,” which the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld, concluding that relief under the Federal Trademark Dilution Act (FTDA) did not require proof of actual economic harm. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari review.
Was the likelihood of dilution enough to grant the trademark owners relief under the FTDA?
The United States Supreme Court determined that the trademark owners were required to show actual dilution, rather than a likelihood of dilution. According to the Court, there was a complete absence of evidence of any lessening of the capacity of the trademark owners' mark to identify and distinguish goods or services sold in the trademark owners' stores or advertised in their catalogs. In addition, difficulties in obtaining proof of actual dilution were not an acceptable reason for dispensing with proof of an essential element of a statutory violation. The evidence in the record was not sufficient to support the summary judgment on the dilution count.
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