Ruggers, Inc v United States of America, Rugby Football Union, Ltd., Civil Action No. 09-cv-30051-MAP, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 94354 (D. Mass. Sept. 10, 2010) (Ponsor, D.J.) [Trademark Infringement, 93A Unfair Competition].

Plaintiff Ruggers, Inc. (“Ruggers”) brought this action against defendants United States of America, Rugby Football Union, Ltd. (“USA Rugby”) and various other clothing vendors including Under Armour, Inc. (“Under Armour”), alleging inter alia false advertising and trademark infringement under the Lanham Act and unfair competition under M.G.L. c. 93A. Under Armour filed a motion to dismiss all claims against it. The District Court (Ponsor, D.J.) granted the motion.

In May 2004, Ruggers entered into a sponsorship agreement with USA Rugby, whereby Ruggers agreed to annually provide USA Rugby with $350,000 of rugby clothing and gear in exchange for the exclusive right to use the USA Rugby trademark on its clothing and to have USA Rugby-sanctioned teams exclusively wear, use, and promote Ruggers’ clothing and gear. Ruggers’ complaint stems from USA Rugby’s alleged authorization in 2006 of use by Ruggers’ competitors’ (including Under Armour) of USA Rugby’s logo in association with their products. Additionally, Ruggers alleges that USA Rugby-sanctioned teams wore and promoted the competitors’ clothing.

Ruggers’ claims that Under Armour engaged in false sponsorship/advertising and infringement of USA Rugby’s trademarks were dismissed because there were no allegations that Under Armour actually “used” USA Rugby’s marks within the meaning of the Lanham Act. The District Court found that Ruggers had not alleged that Under Armour sold or produced, for example, any item bearing USA Rugby’s registered marks. Rather, Ruggers’ allegations focused on the use of Under Armour apparel “in close physical relation to the USA Rugby marks on other garments” during public appearances. Though the association may have inured to the benefit of Under Armour, the District Court found that this association is not within the meaning of “use” that is prohibited by the Lanham Act.

The District Court also dismissed Ruggers’ 93A unfair competition claim. Just as the mere proximity between Under Armour’s products and USA Rugby’s logo were insufficient “use” within the meaning of the Lanham Act, Under Armour’s alleged “use” was insufficient to support a showing that Under Armour “used” the mark in a way likely to cause confusion among consumers within the meaning of 93A.