Belmora LLC v. Bayer Consumer Care AG, No. 15-1335 (4th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
BBC, owner of the FLANAX trademark in Mexico, and its sister company, Bayer, filed suit against Belmora, owner of the FLANAX trademark in the United States, contending that Belmora used the FLANAX mark to deliberately deceive Mexican-American consumers into thinking they were purchasing BCC’s product. The court concluded that the Lanham Act’s, 15 U.S.C. 1125, plain language contains no unstated requirement that a section 43(a) plaintiff have used a U.S. trademark in U.S. commerce to bring a Lanham Act unfair competition claim; the Supreme Court’s guidance in Lexmark International, Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc. does not allude to one, and the court's prior cases either only assumed or articulated as dicta that such a requirement existed; and therefore, the district court erred in imposing such a condition precedent upon Bayer’s claims. The court also concluded that BCC has adequately pled a section 43(a) false association claim for purposes of the zone of interests prong; BCC's allegations reflect the claim furthers the section 45 purpose of preventing the deceptive and misleading use of marks in commerce within the control of Congress; and BCC has also alleged injuries that are proximately caused by Belmora’s violations of the false association statute. Therefore, the court held that BCC has sufficiently pled a section 43(a) false association claim to survive Belmora’s Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Because these statements are linked to Belmora’s alleged deceptive use of the FLANAX mark, the court is satisfied that BCC’s false advertising claim, like its false association claim, comes within the Act’s zone of interests. The court inferred that the alleged advertisements contributed to the lost border sales pled by BCC, and that the claim also satisfies Lexmark’s proximate cause prong. Further, the court agreed with Bayer that the district court erred in overturning the TTAB’s section 14(3) decision because it read a use requirement into the section that is simply not there. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded.