(CN) – Imagination Entertainment’s LeFT CeNTeR RIGHT dice game does not violate a New York game maker’s LCR trademark for an earlier version of the game, the 4th Circuit ruled.
George & Co., a New York game maker heaquartered in Florida, said it began selling the dice game under the names Center Right and LCR in the early 1980s.
The game involves three die with sides marked with an “L,” “R,” “C” or a dot. Players start with three chips and roll the die. If a player rolls two L’s and an R, for example, he has to pass two chips to the player on his left and one to the player on his right. C’s mean the chips go to a center pot, and dots are neutral and don’t require any action. The player with the last chip in the game wins.
But George & Co. never trademarked the phrase Left Center Right, because it began selling the game exclusively as LCR in 1992. Instead, George registered trademarks for LCR and a related dice-rolling game.
In 2007, Imagination Entertainment came out with its own version of the game, called LeFT CeNTeR RIGHT. It tried to trademark the name, but was denied on the ground that the phrase was descriptive. It later succeeded in getting the name placed on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s supplemental register.
George sued for trademark infringement, and the district court sided with Imagination, a decision upheld by the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va.
The 4th Circuit said George had no federal trademark rights in LeFT CeNTeR RIGHT, since it had long since abandoned any attempt to register the mark.
Moreover, “the weakness of the LCR mark, the lack of similarities between the two marks, and the lack of predatory intent, leads to the inescapable conclusion that there is no likelihood of confusion … between Imagination’s use of LeFT CeNTeR RIGHT and George’s use of LCR,” Senior Judge Hamilton ruled.