On January 21, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its first substantive trademark opinion in over ten years.
In Hana Financial, Inc. v. Hana Bank, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court held that whether two trademarks may be tacked for the purpose of determining priority is a question for a jury to resolve. Tacking refers to when two marks create the same, continuing commercial impression so that consumers consider both as the same mark. In 1994, the defendant began advertising its services in the U.S. with advertisements that included the name "Hana Bank" as well as other source indicators. The plaintiff began using the name "Hana Financial" and registered it as a trademark in 1995. In 2002, the defendant began operating a bank in the U.S. under the name "Hana Bank." In 2007, the plaintiff sued the defendant for trademark infringement. The defendant argued that there was no infringement because its use of "Hana Bank" in 2002 (and later) can be tacked on to its use of the term "Hana Bank" in advertisements from 1994, which predated plaintiff's use and trademark registration. A jury agreed that there was no infringement because the defendant's current use could be tacked on to its earlier use. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the jury's decision on appeal. The plaintiff then appealed to the Supreme Court arguing that tacking should be an issue for a judge, not a jury to decide. Because there was a circuit split between appeals court as to whether a judge or a jury should decide the issue of tacking, the Supreme Court heard the case. The Supreme Court found that a tacking inquiry "operates from the perspective of an ordinary purchaser or consumer" to determine what impression that a mark conveys. The Supreme Court reasoned that a jury, not a judge, is in the best position to determine whether to allow a tacking defense because a jury would understand better than a judge what understanding an ordinary consumer would have with respect to a mark. Thus, the Supreme Court affirmed the jury's decision.