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Did A&E make a bad call with its "Duck Dynasty" novelty shirts? A federal lawsuit, filed Tuesday, asserts the cable TV network is running afoul of the law by infringing on another company's registered trademark.
Hajn LLC, based in Florida, claims it's been selling shirts with the slogan "My Favorite Color's Camo" since 2011, and registered the slogan with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, according to The Hollywood Reporter. But then along came A&E with its "Duck Dynasty"-branded clothes -- some featuring the nearly identical phrase "My Favorite Color Is Camo," which "Uncle Si" Robertson once uttered on the popular show.
Is this enough for a successful infringement suit, or will A&E's lawyers be able to shoot it down in court?
Hajn's Trademark Infringement Claims
Hajn LLC's complaint isn't only about the "Camo" slogan, it's also about money. The company's lawsuit, posted online by a THR reporter, describes how A&E has raked in millions of dollars through "Duck Dynasty" merchandising deals -- about $400 million in 2013 alone.
In trademark cases, a law called the Lanham Act (codified at 15 USC Chapter 22) allows an injured party to collect compensatory damages. An infringing party can also be forced to hand over all profits unjustly derived from its infringement -- something lawyers call disgorgement.
It's not clear how much of A&E's merchandising profits came from clothes emblazoned with the "Camo" phrase, or when A&E began selling its "Camo" shirts. But if Hajn's lawsuit is successful, a court will likely need to figure out those facts in order to place a dollar amount on damages.
Does It Create Confusion?
Hajn's lawsuit also insists that A&E's use of the "Camo" phrase on clothing marketed "to the same target group of consumers is likely to cause consumer confusion ... as to source, sponsorship, affiliation, or authorization by Hajn." Indeed, consumer confusion is one factor that courts will consider in deciding trademark disputes.
Hajn is seeking unspecified money damages and an injunction to stop A&E from selling its "Camo" clothes. Lawyers for A&E declined to discuss the lawsuit with THR.