(CN) – Mattel did not abandon its trademark for the “Incredible Crash Dummies” line of action figures, the Federal Circuit said in a ruling that smashes a movie company’s plans to market toys based on 1980s public service announcements promoting seatbelts.
Mattel obtained the trademarks as part of its acquisition of Tyco in 1997, but allowed them to lapse in 2000 while redesigning the toys to meet the company’s “stringent safety standards,” according to the ruling.
Mattel researched, developed and tested the new toys from 2000 until they were reintroduced in 2003, the company says.
Just prior to the reintroduction, Crash Dummy Movie LLC filed an application to use the trademark for a line of “games and playthings.” Mattel opposed the application.
The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, while finding that Mattel had technically abandoned the trademarks by not using them for three years, ruled that the toymaker had successfully rebutted that claim by showing “reasonable grounds for the suspension and plans to resume use in the reasonably foreseeable future when the conditions requiring suspension abate.”
Crash Dummy Movie LLC appealed, but the Washington, D.C., appeals court agreed with the trademark board.
“Although Mattel later allowed its trademark registrations to lapse, cancellation of a trademark registration does not necessarily translate into abandonment of common law trademark rights,” Judge Randall Radar wrote. “Mattel needed sufficient time to research, develop, and market its retooled Crash Dummies toys after acquiring Tyco’s Crash Dummies marks in 1997. Despite Mattel’s delay in utilizing the marks for its toys, substantial evidence supports the Board’s finding that Mattel rebutted the statutory presumption of abandonment of the marks.”
That “substantial evidence” included testimony from a Mattel executive that the company had been in talks with KB Toys as far back as 1998 about a possible exclusive deal to sell the Crash Dummy toys. The company also introduced documents showing that it began “brainstorming” ideas for a retooled Crash Dummy line in 2000 with the intent of reintroducing the toys.