Access Designs, Inc., a company that manufactures TubcuT®, a product that alters regular bathtubs to convert them into walk-in showers, has filed a trademark-infringement suit against The BathWorks Company in federal district court in Charlottesville, Virginia. According to the allegations of the Complaint, two former representatives of Access Designs, Greg and Ellen Murphy, formed BathWorks in Rhode Island and began selling a product similar to TubcuT® and marketing it under the name “Tubcut” or “Tubcuts”, creating a likelihood of confusion in the marketplace with respect to the origin of the customized bathtubs.
The suit is based on the provisions of the Lanham Act that govern trademark infringement and unfair competition, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1114 and 1125(a). To win on both allegations, Access Designs must prove three things: (1) that its mark is valid, (2) that The BathWorks Company’s use of the mark is unauthorized, and (3) that BathWorks’ use of the mark is likely to cause customers to be confused.
Access Designs has a little bit of a head start in that TubcuT® is registered with the Patent and Trademark Office, as registered marks carry a presumption of validity. The key issue in the case is likely to be whether BathWorks is using a mark that is likely to cause confusion among consumers as to the source of the parties’ respective products. To determine the likelihood of consumer confusion, courts generally consider factors such as (1) the strength of plaintiff’s mark; (2) the relatedness or “proximity” of the parties’ goods or services; (3) similarity of the parties’ marks; (4) evidence of actual confusion; (5) marketing channels used; (6) the degree of care likely to be exercised by purchasers; (7) the defendant’s intent in selecting the mark; and (8) the likelihood of expansion of product lines.
Whether or not Access Designs can prove its allegations at trial remains to be seen.