9th Circuit Throws Out Applied Underwriters’ Trademark Infringement Claims

Written January 17, 2019

Applied Underwriters Inc., a financial services firm that provides workers’ compensation insurance to businesses across the United States, can’t proceed with its trademark infringement claims against Providence Publications LLC, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held January 15, 2019. Applied Underwriters, Inc. v. Lichtenegger, 9th Cir., No. 17-cv-16815, 1/15/19.

In 2015 Providence began offering a webinar that both critiqued Applied Underwriters services and used its trademarks in the webinar’s title and in promotional materials. Applied Underwriters sued, arguing that the marks were used without permission.

The Ninth Circuit affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of Applied Underwriters’ action because it concluded that Providence’s use of the trademark was nominative fair use because Applied Underwriters’ services were not readily identifiable without the mark, Providence only used so much of the trademark as was reasonably necessary, and use of the trademarks did not suggest sponsorship or endorsement.