S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. v. Nutraceutical Corp., No. 15-3337 (7th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
In the 1980s, a wilderness guide, Maine developed and bottled an all-natural bug repellant under the mark “BUG OFF.” She did not conduct trademark searches. Maine sold BUG OFF at craft fairs, by catalog and website, and at trade shows. From 1992-1998, she took orders for BUG OFF from every state. In 1994, Smith & Hawken began carrying BUG OFF in its catalog and stores. In 1998 Chervitz, who later assigned to Kaz, filed an application for the BUG OFF trademark, which was registered in 2000. In 1999, Kaz sold millions of BUG OFF wristbands. In 2002, Maine sought to register the BUG OFF mark. The PTO refused, based on the Chervitz-Kaz registrations; Maine did not then assert pre-dating rights. In 2003, S.C. Johnson filed an intent-to-use application for the BUG OFF mark. Maine’s attorney communicated that she had used the mark since at least 1992. The PTO refused S.C. Johnson’s application. In 2007 Kaz assigned its rights to S.C. Johnson. In 2010, S.C. Johnson began using the mark. In 2011 Maine sold to Nutraceutical; S.C. Johnson’s application advanced to registration. S.C. Johnson sued Nutraceutical. Afte the bench trial, S.C. Johnson asserted that Nutraceutical had not shown continuous use after 2012. The court found that while Nutraceutical had proved that it was the senior user and was using the mark nationally from 1995-1998 and continued sales through 2012, it did “not demonstrate continued sales after 2012, which constitutes non-use for more than one year.” The Seventh Circuit reversed. The district court abused its discretion in considering the post-trial argument. Trademark ownership is not acquired by registration, but from prior appropriation and actual use in the market.