Los Angeles Trademark Battle: Mag-Lite v. MagnaLight

By Joseph Mandour on June 14, 2012

flashlight-200x133Los Angeles – Mag Instrument, the owners of a family of trademarks including “Mag-Lite”, has reportedly filed a lawsuit against Larson Electronics in federal court this week. The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles, alleges that Larson Electronics’ use of the Magnalight trademark infringes on Mag Instruments’ registered trademarks. In response, Larson Electronics argues that it has priority use of the Magnalight trademark, since it has been manufacturing and distributing the product since 1973. The Mag-Lite trademark was registered with the United States Patent Trademark Office in 1979. Mag-Lite is claiming that it registered its trademark prior to Magnalight and since the trademark is confusingly similar to the Mag-Lite trademark, Larson Electronics must cease and desist the use of the product name Magnalight.

According to the USPTO website, Larson Electronics filed an Application in November 2011 to protect the Magnalight trademark. However, State and federal laws dictate that the first user of a trademark generally has superior rights regardless of filing a trademark application. As such, generally speaking registration of a trademark with the USPTO does not trump the prior unregistered common law rights of a party using a trademark for a longer period of time. The rights of the senior user of a trademark can continue as long as the trademark is also used continuously, and are not erased simply because another user files registration paperwork.

Larson Electronics, based in Kemp Texas, is best known for its distribution of industrial and commercial grade lighting products. Magnalight flashlights and lighting products have been distributed in the U.S. and Canada for over 44 years. A hand-held light with a magnetic base, the lights were intended for portable use on a vehicle or other metal device, to provide a well-lit work area. Magnalight handheld portable lights are sold today across a wide spectrum of consumers, including many of the same customers that it sold to in 1973.

Headquartered in Ontario Canada, Mag Instrument considers itself a leader in the portable lighting products industry. Though Mag Instrument was founded in 1955, it was not incorporated until 1974. The company’s primary focus was creating flashlight products for the public safety sector. To that end, it’s well-known line of flashlight products were introduced in 1979 and quickly became best sellers.

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