SIDNEY O. SMITH, Jr., District Judge.
This is a suit brought under the trademark and unfair competition laws of the United States and the State of Georgia, the plaintiff alleging in brief that since 1939, the plaintiff has manufactured, sold, and advertised furniture products under the name of "HERITAGE"; that, subsequently, the defendant began to use and is now using the trademark "HERMITAGE" which, it is alleged, is likely to cause public confusion and to cause the public to believe that the furniture sold by defendants are the goods of plaintiff, or that plaintiff and defendant are in some way associated with each other, or that the plaintiff has sponsored, endorsed, or approved the defendant's goods.
The defendant's answer denied the essential allegations of the complaint and set forth several other defenses.
At pre-trial, the issues were narrowed to provide for a speedy non-jury trial on the issue of infringement only. At the trial, there was considerable stipulation by the parties and a large amount of documentary evidence as well as oral testimony. From all of such sources, the court makes the following
FINDINGS OF FACT
Plaintiff is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of Delaware, with its principal offices located in the State of North Carolina.
Beginning in the year 1939, HERITAGE Furniture, Inc., a corporation of the State of North Carolina, manufactured, advertised and sold furniture under the name and mark "HERITAGE."
Advertising featuring the said name and mark "HERITAGE" appeared in national magazines at least as early as 1946.
Plaintiff registered its trademark "HERITAGE" in 1942 in the states of Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia and prior to 1950, when defendant commenced operations, the mark was also registered in Illinois, Texas, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi and Virginia, all of which were assigned to plaintiff.
During the 1940's, at their own expense, retail dealers in various parts of the country advertised the goods of Heritage Furniture, Inc. in local newspapers under the name and mark "HERITAGE" at least as early as 1947.
Considerable annual sales were made by Heritage into those states prior to 1950. At least as early as 1941-43, its goods were being sold in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Virginia, Illinois, North Carolina, and Texas, as well as many other states throughout the country. In Tennessee, the plaintiff sold over $100,000 worth of goods in the period 1946-1949.
From 1950 to 1956 Heritage Furniture, Inc. operated under a marketing arrangement with Heritage Furniture Industries, Inc., pursuant to which the furniture pieces of the parties were coordinated in style and design and advertised and sold under the combination of their individual marks, to-wit: Heritage-Henredon.
Among the publications carrying advertisements were House & Gardens, House Beautiful and Holiday. The bulk
In 1956, the joint marketing arrangement between Heritage Furniture, Inc. and Henredon Furniture Industries, Inc. terminated. Thereupon Heritage discontinued all use of the combination marks and used "HERITAGE" as such in its advertising and on its goods. The mark was applied to the goods by means of woven labels, hang tags and burned-in brand.
On November 30, 1960, Heritage Furniture, Inc. was merged into Drexel Enterprises, Inc., the latter acquiring all assets of the former, including its right in the name and mark "HERITAGE", and all registrations thereof. The business formerly conducted by Heritage Furniture, Inc. has since that date been conducted without interruption and is now being conducted by Drexel Enterprises, Inc. under the name and mark "HERITAGE" through a division known as Heritage Furniture Company.
Plaintiff has also received free publicity in the advertising of its suppliers, which featured the fact that its goods were the goods and components of the plaintiff's furniture.
Plaintiff is also owner of registrations of the trademark "HERITAGE" granted by the United States Patent Office to Heritage Furniture, Inc. for furniture, and subsequently assigned to plaintiff, such registrations being identified as Registration No. 444,792, issued on October 20, 1953; and No. 599,977, issued on December 28, 1954.
In 1942 Heritage Furniture, Inc. registered "HERITAGE" in the states of Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia, such registrations having been assigned to Plaintiff on November 30, 1960.
Plaintiff's "HERITAGE" furniture is a high quality line, usually traditional in design, and generally sells in the upper price range. It includes "case" goods, but upholstered chairs and sofas constitute about 60% of its business.
Hermitage Cabinet Shops was a corporation incorporated under the laws of the State of Tennessee in March, 1947.
From 1947-1950, it produced reproductions of small articles of furniture contained in the "Hermitage", home of Andrew Jackson. These sales were made from the shop and so far as the evidence discloses unmarked.
In February, 1950, Hermitage Cabinet Shop, Inc. was incorporated under the laws of the State of Tennessee, with Mr. J. W. Gepford as principal stockholder. Hermitage Cabinet Shop, Inc. purchased the inventory and machinery of the corporation known as Hermitage Cabinet Shops in February, 1950.
Defendant Hermitage Cabinet Shop, Inc. is a corporation formed under the laws of the State of Tennessee in 1950. Beginning on or about February 9, 1950, it manufactured furniture which it sold at retail from its manufacturing premises in Nashville, Tennessee. Sales during that period approximated $60,000. Small space ads in which the company's corporate name appeared were run in a local Nashville newspaper on an irregular basis.
From 1950-1954, chairs were added to the production of the company and constituted the sole production by 1955. Occasional and casual sales were apparently made outside the Nashville area. While the articles, mostly chairs, were invoiced and billed under the corporate name, including the word "HERMITAGE", the products were not marketed as such and there is no satisfactory showing of use of the name on the product or the time and place such sales were made during this period. The conclusions of the use of the Heritage name outside the Nashville area are based entirely on the "recollection" of the witness Gepford prior to 1955.
Beginning approximately 1954 the defendant sold its goods exclusively through Kreb-Stengel, a broker in New York City, which in turn resold them to retail stores under the Kreb-Stengel name. The sales in that year approximated $200,000. Most of the time defendant's corporate name was not used in connection with the retail sale of the goods; however, the defendant's corporate name appeared on a small woven label under the cushion of upholstered furniture sold by it to Kreb-Stengel in those states where such identification of a manufacturer rather than the distributor was mandatory.
The word "HERMITAGE" is the name of the home of President Andrew Jackson located in Nashville, Tennessee. The word is used in Tennessee as a part of the name of many different businesses.
According to Webster's New International Dictionary, Second Edition, "Hermitage" as a noun is defined to be: 1. The habitation of a hermit; a secluded residence. It is also listed as a pronoun. 2. A mansion near Nashville, Tennessee, long the home of Andrew Jackson, and now owned by the State. "Hermitage" as a noun is defined to be: 1. That which is inherited or passes from heir to heir. The World Book Encyclopedia contains information regarding "Hermitage" and identifies it as the home of Andrew Jackson, near Nashville, Tennessee. The current Nashville, Tennessee, telephone directory carries approximately thirty (30) listings of which the word "Hermitage" is a part.
In or about the year 1960, defendant transferred a portion of its manufacturing operations to Cedartown. Sales during that year approximated $600,000. Within a year or two thereafter, it ceased manufacturing in Nashville, and presently its production facilities are limited to the area of Cedartown, Georgia.
Commencing in 1961, the defendant, while still continuing to sell to Kreb-Stengel as aforesaid, hired an independent commission agent to sell its products in the State of Georgia to retail furniture stores. Thereafter, it extended its distribution through commission agents to a number of other states in the southeastern portion of the country.
In 1965, and except for what it sold to Kreb-Stengel for resale under the latter's name, defendant's sales were primarily limited to retail stores in the States of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee. Its sales during that year approximated $325,000.
With one exception the only use made by defendant of the word "HERMITAGE" on the goods sold by it through commission agents has been as part of its corporate name printed on woven labels and tabs under the cushion of its upholstered furniture. The one exception involved its use of cloth streamers displayed across a quantity of upholstered pieces. The streamers featured the component material of one of defendant's suppliers and included defendant's corporate name, as well.
Defendant has also used a brochure containing photographs showing the defendant's goods, and featuring the words "Selections from Hermitage" and the defendant's corporate name with the word "HERMITAGE" appearing in much larger letters than the words "Cabinet Shop, Inc." These materials have been employed by defendant's commission agents in soliciting orders from retail dealers. Such materials are also left with the retail dealers for display by them to their customers.
The defendant produced upholstered and wooden furniture until the close of its Nashville operation. Presently it produces only upholstery. Part of defendant's production of upholstered furniture is a modern design, part of it is Contemporary and some little amount is Colonial in style.
By letter dated April 5, 1962, Plaintiff notified defendant of the former's objection to the use of the term "HERMITAGE" in connection with furniture, and substantial correspondence was exchanged
Defendant's goods are described as promotional items which are sold by retail dealers as a "loss leader", to promote store traffic, and may generally be described as low-quality.
Under new management during the past year, defendant is expanding its sales nationally and intends to extend its sales throughout the United States.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
The court has jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter herein. 15 U.S.C.A. § 1051 ff.; 28 U.S.C.A. § 1338.
Without an extended and laborious recitation of the reasons and statistics, already reviewed at length by other courts, it can readily be concluded that the plaintiff has established a valid right to the exclusive use of its name and mark "HERITAGE", unabandoned by any prior dealings. While it is a dictionary word in common use, it has undoubtedly attained a secondary meaning identifying the products of plaintiff with the general public. See Drexel Enterprises, Inc. v. Richardson, 312 F.2d 525 (10) (10th Cir. 1962); Drexel Enterprises, Inc. v. Heritage House of Dallas, Inc., 136 U.S.P.Q. 415 (N.D. Tex. 1963); Drexel Enterprises, Inc. v. Colby, et al, 138 U.S.P.Q. 1 (S.D. Col. 1963); Drexel Enterprises, Inc. v. American Heritage, Inc., 142 U.S.P.Q. 194 (D.C. Conn. 1964). What has been said there is adopted here as it relates to plaintiff's acquisition of the name over a long period of time.
Insofar as is relative to this contest, it is also concluded that the plaintiff had acquired such use in the states affected prior to 1950 and prior to its federal registration in 1953 and 1954.
It is doubtful that anyone could prevent the use of the name Hermitage in the Nashville area because of its local historical and geographical use and widespread public appropriation there. See Wyatt v. Mammoth Cave Development Co., 26 F.2d 322 (6th Cir. 1928); 3 Callman, Unfair Competition and Trade Marks (2d Ed.) § 72.1 ff., especially § 72.6.
However, the defendant now operates in Georgia and insofar as its minor Tennessee operation in Nashville, it was preceded by plaintiff within the state.
Accordingly, plaintiff is deemed to have established its ownership to its own
In considering the prime question, defendant lays great stress on the absence of proof of any actual confusion and, quite frankly plaintiff rests its case on a comparison of the words themselves. The definitive opinion in this circuit on the lack of necessity for proof of actual confusion or actual damage was rendered by Judge Borah in 1957:
Abramson v. Coro, Inc., 240 F.2d 854 at 856, 857 (5th Cir. 1957). See also Singer Mfg. Co. v. Briley, 5 Cir., 207 F.2d 519 (5th Cir. 1953); American Foods, Inc. v. Golden Flake, Inc., 312 F.2d 619(5) (5th Cir. 1963). Further, it is reasoned that this circuit is amongst those jurisdictions where the owner need not stand idly by until actual confusion and actual damage occurs if there is likelihood of future confusion. See B. Altman & Co. v. Young Colony, Inc., 36 N.Y.S.2d 781 (N.Y.Sup.Ct.1942). The need for diligence could hardly dictate otherwise. La Republique Francaise v. Saratoga Vichy Spring Co., 191 U.S. 427(2), 24 S.Ct. 145, 48 L.Ed. 247 (1903).
As stated, the plaintiff relies primarily on the ocular test. The legal sufficiency of such a test is recognized in this circuit. Frostie Company v. Dr. Pepper Company, 341 F.2d 363(5) (5th Cir. 1965); American Foods, Inc. v. Golden Flake, Inc., 312 F.2d 619 at 624 (2-6) (5th Cir. 1963). This is nothing more than a common-sense test in each case in which the court sits in the dual capacity of a prospective purchaser in comparing the two and as judge of the extent of similarity. Here, the factual test is not that of a careful and discriminatory purchaser, but that of an "ordinary and casual buyer" (Singer Mfg. Co. v. Briley, 207 F.2d 519 at N 3 [5th Cir. 1953]) or a "usual purchaser." (Sun-Maid Raisin Growers of Cal. v. Sunaid Food Products, Inc., 356 F.2d 467 (5th Cir. 1966) or perhaps even an "ignorant, inexperienced, and gullible" purchaser (Tisch Hotels, Inc. v. Atlanta Americana Motor Hotel Corp., 254 F.Supp. 743 [N.D.Ga.1966]). Certainly, in determining likelihood of confusion, the court may not assume that an ordinary purchaser is thoroughly familiar with the products of both parties. Frostie Company v. Dr. Pepper Company, 341 F.2d 363(7) (5th Cir. 1965).
On such a premise, the court concludes that the two marks are confusingly similar. "HERITAGE" and "HERMITAGE" not only are identical but for a single letter, but that letter by its position in the middle of the word and its lack of graphic or phonetic distinction, does not substantially affect either the appearance or pronunciation of defendant's identification from that of plaintiff's. Webster's
Legally speaking the court thus holds that the plaintiff has carried the burden of showing confusing similarity between the marks in question and that defendant's mark is of such character as is likely to confuse a prospective purchaser.
Of course, a striking similarity in and of itself does not necessarily mean there is an infringement when the products are not in competition and people, therefore, are not likely to be confused as was the case in Sears-Roebuck & Co. v. All States Life Insurance Co., 246 F.2d 161 (5th Cir. 1957) and Sunaid Raisin Growers of Cal. v. Sunaid Food Products, Inc., 356 F.2d 467 (5th Cir. 1966). However, even where the products are different but similarly marketed, relief is granted as was the case in Pure Foods v. Minute Maid Corp., 214 F.2d 792 (5th Cir. 1954). Here, there
Having determined that plaintiff is entitled to injunctive relief, an appropriate decree prohibiting use of defendant's name "HERMITAGE" in connection with the present and future sale of its furniture products consistent with this opinion may be presented.
The plaintiff having tentatively waived its claim for damages and none being shown, a future trial on such issue should not be necessary.
It is so ordered.