AMSTAR CORP. v. DOMINO'S PIZZA, INC. No. 79-3650.
615 F.2d 252 (1980)
AMSTAR CORPORATION, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. DOMINO'S PIZZA, INC. and Atlanta Pizza, Inc., Pizza Enterprises, Inc. and Pizza Services, Inc., Hanna Creative Enterprises, Inc., Defendants-Appellants.
United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.
Rehearing and Rehearing Denied May 2, 1980.
Browne, Beveridge, DeGrandi, Kline & Lunsford, Julius R. Lunsford, Jr., J. Rodgers Lunsford, III, Atlanta, Ga., Cooper, Dunham, Clark, Griffin & Moran, Gerald W. Griffin, Norman H. Zivin, New York City, for plaintiff-appellee.
Before AINSWORTH and HENDERSON, Circuit Judges, and HUNTER, District Judge.
Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied May 2, 1980.
AINSWORTH, Circuit Judge:
Amstar Corporation brought this suit asserting trademark infringement and unfair competition against Domino's Pizza, Inc. (DPI) and several of its franchisees
I. Background of Dispute
Amstar Corporation holds several federal registrations for the widely known "Domino"
Defendant DPI is the nation's largest chain of fast-food delivered pizza pie outlets, with 287 stores in 30 states and current sales exceeding $43 million annually. The chain has used the name "Domino's Pizza" since early in 1965. Prior to that date, the pizzeria from which the chain grew was known as "Dominick's," named after its founder, Dominick Devarti. Devarti sold his pizzeria located in Ypsilanti, Michigan to Thomas Monaghan in December of 1960. In 1963 Devarti withdrew his permission to use the name "Dominick's," and for an interim period Monaghan called the store "Ypsilanti Dominick's." During this period Monaghan searched for a suitable new name for his pizzeria. In 1965 an employee suggested the name "Domino's Pizza," and Monaghan adopted the name immediately. At trial, Monaghan stated that he selected the name because it sounded Italian, it resembled "Dominick's," and he was unaware of any other pizzerias using the name. The company initially prospered, and in 1967 the first "Domino's Pizza" franchise was sold. By the end of 1969, there were 42 "Domino's Pizza" stores in operation in three states.
The plaintiff first became aware of DPI on June 24, 1970 when defendants' "Domino's" and "Domino's plus design" marks were published in the Official Gazette of the Patent Office, pending registration of the marks by the U. S. Patent Office. Pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1063, plaintiff filed notices of opposition to registration of the marks. DPI at the time was in serious
In early 1971 plaintiff's counsel wrote to DPI's predecessor, Domino's Inc., requesting that the "Domino's Pizza" mark be changed. Domino's Inc. did not respond to the letter, and plaintiff took no further action at that time. Plaintiff did, however, order credit reports on DPI for the next three years which were used in monitoring DPI's business.
In 1972 and 1974 DPI again sought to register the trademark "Domino's Pizza" with the U. S. Patent Office. The mark was passed for publication in the Official Gazette of the Patent Office on each occasion, signifying that an examiner of the office had concluded that the mark was entitled to registration, 15 U.S.C. § 1062(a). Plaintiff filed notices of opposition to each of the foregoing applications, and defendant withdrew each application. Plaintiff ultimately filed this suit against DPI in September 1975.
In a lengthy memorandum of Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, the district court held that the defendants were guilty of trademark infringement (15 U.S.C. § 1114(1)), false designation of origin (15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)), and dilution, unfair competition and deceptive trade practices under Georgia law. The court detailed at length the plaintiff's use of the "Domino" trademark in connection with sugar, and more recently with portion-control items. It found that "[c]onsumers are highly likely to associate any food products sold or available for sale in supermarkets, groceries or other food stores under the DOMINO mark with the DOMINO food products sold by plaintiff." Finding of Fact No. 31. It further concluded that "[a]s a result of plaintiff's widespread use, advertising and promotion of the DOMINO trademark on a great variety of food products, the consuming public is very likely to believe that DOMINO's Pizza, sold in a separate food store outside of the supermarket, is in some way or manner sponsored by or affiliated with, or connected with, or emanates from plaintiff." Finding of Fact No. 61. The court found that the mark "Domino's Pizza" is "so similar to plaintiff's famous mark DOMINO in sound and appearance that the public cannot always perceive any differences between them." Finding of Fact No. 63. The court concluded that, as a matter of law, "[u]se of virtually identical marks for food products distributed to and in food stores to the consuming public is likely to result in confusion, mistake or deception." Conclusion of Law No. 10.
On appeal, defendants contend the district court erred in concluding that use of virtually identical marks for food products is likely to result in confusion or deception, and defendants also contend that the court erred "by misapplying or failing to apply the critical factors to be weighed in assessing likelihood of confusion." Brief for Appellants at 10. Plaintiff Amstar contends that the court's finding of likelihood of confusion or mistake is not clearly erroneous, and must therefore be sustained by this court. Plaintiff contends that this finding is substantiated by many factors, including the notoriety and strength of the "Domino" mark, the confusing similarity of the marks "Domino's Pizza" and "Domino," the related nature of defendants' goods and services to those of plaintiff, the fact that customers for both plaintiff's and defendants' goods are the general consuming public, the existence of some actual confusion, and the results of two surveys which tend to confirm the likelihood of confusion.
Based on the record before us, we are convinced that the trial court erred in enjoining defendants' use of the mark "Domino's Pizza." We therefore reverse the decision of the district court, and vacate the injunction entered against defendants.
II. Standard of Review
Initially, we must determine the appropriate standard of review applicable to the district court's finding of likelihood of confusion. The determination as to whether confusion is likely has been held to present a question of law, Fleischman Distilling Corp. v. Maier Brewing Co.,
The court's 54-page memorandum of Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law was copied almost verbatim from proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law submitted by plaintiff's counsel. While the practice of allowing counsel for the prevailing party to write the trial judge's opinion has not been proscribed by this circuit, it should nevertheless be discouraged. Even though the court, in adopting plaintiff's findings and conclusions, stated that it had "individually considered" them and adopted them because it "believed them to be factually and legally correct," a cursory reading of the district court's memorandum leaves one with the impression that it was indeed written by the prevailing party to a bitter dispute. While the "clearly erroneous" rule of Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a) applies to a trial judge's findings of fact whether he prepared them or they were developed by one of the parties and mechanically adopted by the judge, "we can take into account the District Court's lack of personal attention to factual findings in applying the clearly erroneous rule." Wilson v. Thompson,
A finding of fact is clearly erroneous "when although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." United States v. United States Gypsum Co.,
III. Likelihood of Confusion
Infringement of a registered mark is governed by the provisions of 15 U.S.C. § 1114(1), which imposes liability against "use . . . likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive." The same test is applicable to the deceptive trade practices claim, Ga.Stat.Ann. § 106-701 et seq.; Baker Realty Co. v. Baker,
Roto-Rooter Corporation v. O'Neal,
An evaluation of these factors leads us to conclude that defendants' use of the trademark "Domino's Pizza" presents no likelihood of confusion, mistake, or deception.
1. Type of trademark
We consider, first, whether "Domino" is a "strong" or a "weak" mark since the strength and distinctiveness of plaintiff's mark is a vital consideration in determining the scope of protection it should be accorded. "Strong marks are widely protected, as contrasted to weak marks." Lunsford, Julius R., Jr., "Trademark Basics," 59 Trademark Rep. 873, 878 (1969).
At trial, defendants introduced into evidence or tendered into court some 72 third-party registrations of the mark "Domino" in the U. S. Patent Office. Brief for Appellant at 18-24. These registrations were for such products as canned fruits, citrus, cigarettes, cheese, wheat flours, chrome-tanned leather, canned sardines, animal feed, envelopes, pencils, fishing line, candy mints, whiskey, ladies' hosiery and haircream. In addition, defendants presented extensive evidence of 15 third-party uses of the "Domino" mark from 1885 until the present. These uses included "Domino" cigarettes and matches, which are currently sold in grocery stores, two restaurants currently operating under the "Domino's" mark, a small chain of supermarkets in the Bronx, New York, with sales of $3,900,000 in 1976, and a "Domino Donut Mix" distributed by General Mills to commercial bakers since 1959. The district court dismissed these and other third-party uses as either long abandoned; remote as to goods or geography; small, obscure and localized; or used only in shipments to the trade. We do not believe that such extensive third-party use and registration of "Domino" can be so readily dismissed. The impact of such evidence is not dispelled merely because "Domino" cigarettes and matches are not leading brands, or because some uses of the mark "Domino" by third parties have not been related to food products. As was stated by one commentator, "If the owner of KODAK should permit its use by others on washing powders, shoes, candy bars, or cosmetics, or if The Coca-Cola Company should permit COCA-COLA or COKE to be used for rain coats, cigarette lighters, golf balls, or jewelry not of its manufacture, it would not take long for even these giants in the trademark world to be reduced to pigmy size." Lunsford, supra at 878-79. As stated in comment g to the Restatement of Torts § 729 (1938), "The greater the number of identical or more or less similar trade-marks already in use on
Defendants do not contend, nor does this court hold, that plaintiff's mark is not a distinctive, well-known mark for its sugar and related products. The third-party uses and registrations discussed above merely limit the protection to be accorded plaintiff's mark outside the uses to which plaintiff has already put its mark. American Sugar Co. v. Texas Farm Products Co., 159 U.S.P.Q. 679, 681 (T.T.A.B.1968);
Additional support for the conclusion that the mark "Domino" should be accorded only limited protection outside of plaintiff's sugars and related food products can be derived from the nature of the mark itself. "Domino," in spite of the district court's finding that it is "not primarily a surname," Finding of Fact No. 98, is indeed the surname of a good number of people, as a glance at a local telephone directory can verify. The word is a common English name for a game, a hooded costume, a type of mask, and a theory of political expansion. Thus, "Domino" is not a coined word, is not purely fanciful, and while its application to sugar may be arbitrary,
2. Similarity of design
"Similarity of appearance is determined on the basis of the total effect of the designation,
Defendants' mark, far from suggesting plaintiff's mark, is stylistically and typographically distinguishable.
We must also consider the commercial impression created by the mark as a whole. Seabrook Foods, Inc. v. Bar-Well Foods, Ltd.,
Additionally, the U. S. Patent Office has made, on three separate occasions, an initial determination that DPI is entitled to register the mark "Domino's Pizza." DPI applied to register "Domino's" or "Domino's Pizza" plus corresponding designs three different times. Each time, a trademark examiner in the office determined that DPI was entitled to have the mark registered. See 15 U.S.C. § 1062(a). The trademark examiner on one of these occasions wrote that "[a] search of the Office records fails to show that the mark, when applied to applicant's services, is confusingly similar to any registered mark." Record on Appeal at 2815. At the time this search was made, plaintiff had registered "Domino" for sugar, mustard, ketchup, salt and pepper. Id.
3. Similarity of products
The district court stated in some detail its view of the similarities between defendants' pizza and plaintiff's sugar, salt, mustard, ketchup and other condiments. The court at one point went so far as to state the "consuming public considers sugar to be a related food product to pizza." Finding of Fact No. 84. However, we fail to see any great similarity between the respective parties' wares. "About the only things they have in common are that they are edible." California Fruit Growers Exchange v. Sunkist Baking Co.,
4. Identity of retail outlets and purchasers
Dissimilarities between the retail outlets for and the predominant consumers of plaintiff's and defendants' goods lessen the possibility of confusion, mistake, or deception. The dissimilarities here are substantial.
Plaintiff's "Domino" sugar products are distributed to the public primarily through grocery stores; defendants' pizzas and soft drinks are distributed exclusively through fast-food outlets specializing in home delivery or customer pickup, but offering no facilities for sit-down service. Plaintiff attempts to narrow the gap between itself and defendants by arguing that its single-serving sugar packets, and more recently its line of single-serving condiments, are widely used in fast-food outlets and restaurants. Thus, it argues, the public has come to associate the mark "Domino" with restaurants and fast-food establishments. While the argument carries some weight, it is insufficient to overcome basic differences between plaintiff's and defendants' modes of distributing their products.
Although "Domino" sugar and individual condiment packages are distributed to the public through restaurants and fast-food chains, they are not sold to the public by plaintiff but are generally distributed to customers by the restaurant owners. Amstar is not engaged in the direct sale of condiment packages to the public. In contrast, "Domino's Pizza" products are sold directly to the public through "Domino's Pizza" outlets. While the public may decide to purchase a pizza based on its perception of "Domino's Pizza" quality, it is unlikely anyone would choose to frequent or avoid a restaurant because of the brand of condiment packages carried by the restaurant. Thus, while Amstar might broadly be classified as "in the restaurant business," it is in that business at a different level than defendants.
There are substantial dissimilarities between the predominant purchasers of plaintiff's and defendants' products. According to surveys presented at trial, "Domino's Pizza" patrons are primarily young (85.6% under 35 years of age), single (61%) males (63.3%). This coincides with the fact that 75% of the "Domino's Pizza" stores throughout the country are situated in college campus towns or around military bases where the advertising for "Domino's Pizza" is directed to the 18- to 34-year-old single male. In contrast, "Domino" sugar purchasers are predominantly middle-aged housewives.
5. Identity of advertising media utilized
The district court made extensive findings of fact regarding plaintiff's advertising of its "Domino" mark. The court found Amstar advertised extensively in nationally circulated magazines, newspapers and trade journals, and spent substantial sums of money on radio and television commercials. It stated "DOMINO is the only sugar on network television every week." Finding of Fact No. 23. In contrast to plaintiff's broadly based national advertising, defendants' advertising has a completely different focus. Because over 80% of defendants' pizza sales involve free delivery, defendants' advertising is of two principal types: (i) store signs, flyers, delivery car signs and other like materials designed for maximum impact in the 1.5-mile delivery area of a "Domino's Pizza" outlet, and (ii) "Yellow Page" ads. Unlike the national audience sought by Amstar, defendants' advertising is targeted at young, male college students.
The substantial dissimilarities between plaintiff's and defendants' advertising campaigns tend to negate any inference of unfair competition or trademark infringement. Defendants' advertising program is geared to seek out and exploit a highly localized and rather specialized class of consumers. Defendants have not sought to mine the good will established by plaintiff. In short, hardly anyone would confuse a "Domino" sugar ad with a "Domino's Pizza" sales pitch, nor would they likely believe the two advertisements emanated from the same source, considering the significant differences between the advertisements in message content and presentation.
6. Defendants' intent
The intent of defendants in adopting the "Domino's Pizza" mark is a critical factor, since if the mark was adopted with the intent of deriving benefit from the reputation of "Domino" that fact alone "may be sufficient to justify the inference that there is confusing similarity." Restatement of Torts § 729, comment f (1938). Bad faith in the adoption and use of a trademark normally involves the imitation of packaging material, use of identical code numbers, adopting of similar distribution methods or other efforts by a party to "pass off" its product as that of another. Kentucky Fried Chicken Corp. v. Diversified Packaging Corp.,
7. Actual confusion
Although evidence of actual confusion is not necessary to a finding of likelihood of confusion, it is nevertheless the best evidence of likelihood of confusion. Roto-Rooter Corp. v. O'Neal,
At trial, both parties introduced survey evidence on the issue of likelihood of confusion. The trial court characterized the defendants' survey as "about as contrived a survey as I have ever run across,"
Plaintiff's survey was made by Dr. Russ Haley, Professor of Marketing at the University of New Hampshire. It was conducted in ten cities among female heads of households primarily responsible for making food purchases. Each participant was shown, in her own home, a "Domino's Pizza" box and was asked if she believed the company that made the pizza made any other product. If she answered yes, she was asked, "What products other than pizza do you think are made by the company that makes Domino's Pizza?" Finding of Fact No. 90(d). Seventy-one percent of those asked the second question answered "sugar."
Of additional concern, plaintiff's survey was a "word association" test. Participants in the survey were confronted with the "Domino's Pizza" mark, and more or less asked if it brought anything else to mind. We have previously held that such a procedure degenerates "into a mere word-association test entitled to little weight." Holiday Inns, Inc. v. Holiday Out in America,
The trial court discounted defendants' survey for largely the same reasons just discussed — it was conducted on the premises of "Domino's Pizza" outlets and therefore did not examine a proper survey universe, and the questioning procedures used were improper. Thus, defendants' survey is likewise not probative of the presence or absence of confusion.
Accordingly, we conclude that the trial court was clearly in error when it held defendants' use of the trademark "Domino's Pizza" was likely to cause confusion, mistake, or deception. In the absence of any solid evidence of actual confusion, the limited strength of the "Domino" mark outside plaintiff's line of sugars and portion-control condiments compels the opposite conclusion, especially in light of the marked dissimilarities between plaintiff and defendants in trademark design, products, retail outlets,
Our conclusion that there is no likelihood of confusion in this case is fatal to most of plaintiff's claims. With no likelihood of confusion, there can be no trademark infringement, 15 U.S.C. § 1114(1). Since there is no likelihood of confusing defendants' goods with those of plaintiff's, the false designation of origin claim also falls. 15 U.S.C. § 1125; Boston Professional Hockey Ass'n, Inc. v. Dallas Cap and Emblem Mfg. Co., Inc.,
Georgia's anti-dilution statute protects against "dilution of the distinctive quality of the trade-mark . . . notwithstanding the absence of competition between the parties or of confusion as to the source of goods or services . . . ." Ga.Code Ann. § 106-115. Dilution, as we have previously noted, occurs "where the use of the trademark by the subsequent user will lessen the uniqueness of the prior user's mark with the possible future result that a strong mark may become a weak mark." Holiday Inns, Inc. v. Holiday Out in America,
In reversing the district court and vacating the injunction entered against defendants, we do not intimate that the mark "Domino," as applied to plaintiff's sugars and portion-control items, is not a widely known mark deserving substantial protection. However, "[t]he right granted to the owner of a registered trademark is a monopoly and should not be extended unless the owner is clearly entitled thereto." S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc. v. Johnson,
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