A jury recently awarded World Marketing $3.5 million in damages after finding that Quiksilver had infringed its VISITOR trademark. World Marketing claimed that Quiksilver's VSTR mark infringed on its VISITOR mark. World Marketing manufactures apparel that is sold in various upscale retail outlets. Quiksilver argued that its VSTR mark did not infringe World Marketing's VISITOR mark, because, among other reasons, VSTR is an acronym for "visiting, surfing, traveling and responsibility." A jury disagreed and found Quicksilver liable for infringement of the VISITOR mark, partly because the Quicksilver acronym mark was pronounced "visitor" in advertising for the brand. The jury awarded World Marketing $125,000 in actual damages, and $3.5 million in punitive damages for willful trademark infringement. The jury also found that World Marketing was entitled to interest dating back to December 2011.
TIP: Advertisers that develop acronyms that are to be used as trademarks should consider both the appearance and the sound or pronunciation of an acronym when assessing whether the mark potentially infringes on third party rights. Furthermore, while the meaning of a mark is a factor in determining likelihood of confusion, the jury appeared to give more weight to the sound and sight of the mark than the meaning of the acronym.