The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently construed the undefined term “advertising idea” in a case of first impression in the Commonwealth, holding that a footwear company’s insurers must provide a defense against an underlying claim alleging unfair use of a former Olympian’s name to promote a line of running shoes.
A Colorado district court held last week that a general liability insurer must defend a product disparagement claim despite a broadly-worded intellectual property exclusion in the policy. The court reached its ruling even though the alleged disparagement involved representations about patent infringement. In so holding, the court rejected the insurer’s attempt to deny coverage where the “crux of the dispute” fell within the policy’s personal injury coverage part and the insurer had failed to show that the underlying allegations “unequivocally” fell within the ambiguously worded exclusion.
In June, Syed S. Ahmad and Jennifer E. White published an article in Risk Management Magazine about how commercial general liability (CGL) policies may help with trademark infringement litigation, despite common exclusions. A recent federal court opinion out of California conforms with the precedent we described in that article, holding that the insurer, Great Lakes Reinsurance (UK) PLC (“Great Lakes”), is required to defend In and Out Fashion, Inc. (“IOF”) in a trademark suit filed by Forever 21, Inc. (“Forever 21”). The fashion giant alleged that IOF essentially sold Forever 21 products as its own by obscuring or removing Forever 21’s marks. IOF requested that its CGL insurer, Great Lakes, defend it in the underlying suit. The relevant CGL policies covered damages because of “personal and advertising injury,” defined to include “infring[ing] upon another’s copyright, trade dress or slogan in your ‘advertisement’.” The policies excluded damages arising from trademark infringement and, according to the insurer, did not cover copyright, trade dress or slogan infringement in non-“advertisement” mediums. Great Lakes refused to defend IOF, and sued for declaratory relief regarding its obligations under the policies.
On Tuesday, Syed Ahmad and Jennifer White published an article in Risk Management magazine about how commercial general liability (CGL) policies may help policyholders looking to recover attorney’s fees or fund settlements in trademark infringement litigation. Historically, like the Johnny Lee song “Lookin’ for Love,” CGL policies were the wrong place to look for coverage, and insurers raised often successful defenses to covering such trademark infringement cases under CGL policies. Or, policyholders would avoid CGL insurance altogether in favor of intellectual property (IP) insurance, which usually covers the cost of sitting on either side of the “v.” when enforcing or defending IP rights. But recent case law signals that businesses may want to take another look at the CGL policies that once spurned their IP advances.