D.R. Horton Did Not Infringe on Trademark

     HOUSTON (CN) – A federal judge refused to bar a D.R. Horton housing development in Colorado from using the name that the famous King Ranch says has served as its mark since 1853.
     The 825,000-acre ranch in Texas says its federally-registered trademarks protect use of the words “King Ranch,” as well as the “running W” brand – which consists of a rope in the shape of a “W.”
     The ranch demanded that D.R. Horton stop referring to the “King Ranch Estates” subdivision in Thornton, Colorado, as “King Ranch.”
     A local King family set up a ranch on the Colorado property in the 1920’s, according to D.R. Horton. The homebuilder says that descendants of the Kings asked that Thornton call the area “King Ranch Estates” when the city annexed the land in 2004.
     “King Ranch Estates” and “King Ranch” indicate the geographic location of the housing development, D.R. Horton argued.
     King Ranch suedthe homebuilder in federal court for trademark infringement. The ranch later named the homebuilder’s affiliate and landowner, Melody Homes dba D.R. Horton America’s Homebuilder, as a defendant.
     U.S. District Judge Gray Miller held an oral hearing in April. The judge denied the ranch’s requests for preliminary and permanent injunctive relief and issued an amended order on Wednesday.
     Miller determined that the injunctive relief claims failed according to the fair-use doctrine. The judge’s 20-page order eliminated the likelihood of consumer confusion from D.R. Horton’s use of “King Ranch.”
     Miller wrote, “the court finds that defendant has not used ‘King Ranch’ as a mark identifying the source of a product, but has instead used it solely as a means to inform customers of the geographic location of the houses it builds and sells.”
     The judge denied D.R. Horton’s motion to transfer the case to Colorado.

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