The lengths that multinational corporations are prepared to go to protect their brands has been ruthlessly demonstrated again this month in a federal court in the US state of Maryland. America’s second-biggest sportswear company, Under Armour, has filed a trademark-infringement lawsuit against a little-known family clothing business that partially shares the same name, albeit spelled differently.
Despite seemingly posing little threat to the Baltimore-based giant, Armor & Glory was ordered to change its name or face the legal consequences. This latest development has now sparked a David-versus-Goliath style battle and left Under Armour, which counts tennis star Andy Murray and English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur among its elite clientele on this side of the Atlantic, open to accusations of trademark bullying of a company that could hardly be considered a rival.
What this latest high-profile lawsuit also does is remind us just how messy protecting a trademark can get. Over the last year, Under Armour has targeted a number of companies for trademark infringements mostly for using the word “Armor” in their names.
To justify the lawsuit’s filing, the firm whose slogan somewhat ironically reads “Protect This House”, said Armor & Glory’s name “is likely to cause confusion, mistake and deception” as to the two companies’ connection, which would “dilute the distinctiveness” and “further damage and irreparably injure” Under Armour’s brand.
How much damage a small family-run business can genuinely do to a company the size of Under Armour is questionable, but if Armor & Glory were in any doubt as to the intentions of the complainant, the declaration of their attorneys will have dispelled them. Washington-based Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, one of the world’s largest intellectual property firms, has let it be known that Armor & Glory should have to destroy all products, hand over its domain name and any profits, and pay Under Armour’s attorney’s fees and damages of $100,000 or more.
Despite humble origins of its own in the mid 90s, which saw founder Kevin Plan making sweat-wicking shirts in his grandmother’s basement, Under Armour has proved there is no room for sentimentality in business and makes no apologies for its hard-line stance when it comes to protecting its brand.
“We have a chip on our shoulder,” Plank said last year, “and that chip doesn’t go away, because there’s not a finish line.”
Refusing to be intimidated, Armor & Glory has vowed to stand its ground even though the cost of the ensuing dispute is likely to far exceed its resources. To help support its legal defence, the company has launched a crowd-funding campaign and by Wednesday of this week it had raised $100 of its $50,000 target.
Under Armour is far from the only company to fight back against perceived threats to its brand through the courts, but it’s hard not to have a great deal of sympathy for Armor & Glory in this case. However this particular dispute turns out, there’s no doubt Under Armour will survive it. It can only be hoped it is resolved without Armor & Glory being delivered a fatal blow.
As well as checking whether an existing limited company has taken your idea for a business name, you need to do a separate trademark search. If it is not already a registered trademark, use Business Name Checker to see whether your business name is available.