The First Circuit gave Colt a jolt today when it affirmed a summary judgment on the gun-maker’s claim against a competitor for infringing its trademark rights in "M4". Colt alleged that M4 identified it as the source of a certain kind of carbine rifle. The court held that the evidence established the "genericness" of M4 and therefore defeated Colt’s trademark claim. Colt Defense LLC v. Bushmaster Firearms, Inc., No. 06-1696 (1st Cir. May 18, 2007).
Colt designed its M4 carbine, at the request of the military, as a compact version of the M16 rifle. Both Colt and the defendant, Bushmaster, made M4s for the military under separate contracts. But Colt registered M4 with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office and sued Bushmaster for using the mark to describe Bushmaster’s lightweight carbine rifle. The district court granted Bushmaster’s motion for summary judgment.
The First Circuit affirmed. It pointed to evidence that trade publications, customers, and even Colt used M4 as a kind of carbine instead of as Colt’s carbine. The trademark registration didn’t overcome the evidence of generic use and understanding of the mark, the court held.
This sort of stuff fascinates Blawgletter. Who knew that the M4 came about because the military wanted a more compact M16? That it has a 14.5 inch barrel and a collapsible stock? Or that M4 doesn’t really refer to a globular cluster of stars in the constellation Scorpius? Wow!