Supreme Court Amicus Brief of Law Professors in Support of Petitioner, Abraham v. Alpha Chi Omega
134 S.Ct. 88 (2013)
31 Pages Posted: 24 Jan 2014 Last revised: 2 Oct 2019
Date Written: July 10, 2013
The Federal Lanham Act provides that injunctive relief, the primary remedy in trademark cases, is to be granted in accordance with the principles of equity. Expressly included among such equitable principles are the defenses of acquiescence, laches, and estoppel. Naturally, these defenses have become commonplace in defending against claims of trademark infringement. In the absence of a statute of limitations courts rely on the doctrine of laches, for example, to determine when trademark infringement claims have become stale. Our informal study of the district in which this case arises shows that from 2005 to 2011, nearly two thirds of answers filed in trademark cases involved the laches defense.
The circuit courts, however, are in conflict over the proper application of these defenses. Clear guidance is needed as to how the defenses should each be distinctly applied, when these defenses ought to bar injunctive relief, and the degree to which these defenses ought to be mitigated by the potential for public confusion. Meanwhile, uncertainty regarding these defenses creates obstacles to business, burdens the consuming public and the courts, and encourages forum shopping. The negative impacts of this uncertainty within trademark will only be resolved if the Supreme Court issues an opinion as to the proper legal test for each of these equitable defenses. This case presents an ideal vehicle to address this conflict and provide clarity in this important area of trademark law.
Keywords: trademark, Lanham Act, equitable defenses
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