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Old June 7, 2007, 09:56 AM   #1
Armorer-at-Law
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Update on Colt v. Bushmaster Trademark Case

I wrote an article, "Snake Bit: The Prancing Pony Takes Two Bites From The Snake" that appeared in the August 2006 S.W.A.T.. The article describes the battle initiated by Colt Defense against Bushmaster involving a patent and trademark/trade dress claims and how Bushmaster had tactically (and on the merits) defeated Colt. Colt claimed that it owned the trademark "M4" for carbine rifles and that the overall look of the rifle was recognized as an indicator of the brand (trade dress).

The district court judge in Maine ruled against Colt on both counts in a well-reasoned decision on the grounds that both were generic. Colt appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (only with respect to the "M4" trademark and not on the trade dress issue). About two weeks ago, the First Circuit upheld the lower court's decision in favor of Bushmaster.

In my opinion, Colt has no basis to seek review by the Supreme Court, so it is official: M4 is generic.

~Glenn
Attached Files
File Type: pdf PLE Opinion Affirmed (W0758388).pdf (80.2 KB, 19 views)
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Old June 7, 2007, 03:22 PM   #2
DouglasW
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Thanks for the update, A-A-L. Interesting to see what kind of precedent this sets in other trademark cases.
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Old June 8, 2007, 09:24 AM   #3
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It really doesn't set any new precedent in trademark law, although it may be useful to support and explain arguments that other military-designated names are not protectable as trademarks.

The whole "functionality as a defense to trade dress protection" issue, that was decided (in Bushmaster's favor) by the district court and not appealed to the First Circuit, is one that is evolving currently and has a circuit-by-circuit split in precedent.
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