Headphone Maker Skullcandy Sues Skelanimals for Trademark Infringement

By Joseph Mandour on November 23, 2011

headphones-thumb-200x149-30646 California – Headphone manufacturer Skullcandy recently filed an action for trademark infringement against music apparel and accessory brand Skelanimals. The action concerns the Skelanimals logo, which Skullcandy claims is confusingly similar to its own.

Park City based Skullcandy filed the action in a Utah federal district court, claiming that the Skelanimals logo will confuse consumers as to the source of goods bearing the logo. Skullcandy claims that Skelanimals deceptively uses several logos confusingly similar to its own in order to piggyback on the good will of the Skullcandy trademark. In addition, Skullcandy alleges that the use of a similar logo by Skelanimals will devalue the Skullcandy brand.

Trademark infringement occurs when someone other than the holder of a valid trademark uses a similar trademark that is likely to cause customer confusion as to the source of goods bearing the trademark. Likelihood of confusion is assessed using several factors including the strength of the original trademark, the similarity of the trademarks, Defendant’s intent in selecting the trademark, and the similarity of goods bearing the trademark.

In this case, Skullcandy claims that Skelanimals’ intent was to use Skullcandy’s success to deceive customers into believing that Skelanimals’ products originated from Skullcandy. Regarding similarity of the goods, Skullcandy and Skelanimals both purport to be “lifestyle brands.” While Skullcandy primarily manufactures headphones and related accessories, Skelanimals makes music accessories and apparel. Skullcandy’s initial market was the action sports industry, though they have since garnered a wider following.

Regarding the similarities of the trademarks,the Skelanimals logos at issue are transparent skeletal animal designs such as cartoon dogs, spiders, and birds. The designs are marketed to be applied to cellular phones, computers, handbags, and other items. Meanwhile the Skullcandy logo is a transparent black and white skull face surrounded by a black circle. The logo appears on the company’s headphones and other products.

Skullcandy argues that its trademark is distinctive and that customers strongly associate the trademark with Skullcandy. Skullcandy claims that its logo is a registered trademark in the United States and abroad. Skullcandy will likely have to prove both that the trademarks are confusingly similar and that its logo is a valid U.S. trademark to prevail on the merits of the case.

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