In a decision last month, the Fourth Circuit affirmed a district court's grant of summary judgment to the defendant in a trademark case. The mark at issue was OBX, which was an acronym coined to be short for the Outer Banks area of North Carolina. The plaintiff coined the acronym and sold various products bearing the acronym. Over time, the public began using the acronym as shorthand for the geographic region in North Carolina.
The district court, examining the extensive evidence in the record that the public associated OBX with the region rather than with a particular provider of goods or services, granted summary judgment of noninfringement to the defendant, who sold goods bearing the mark "OB Xtreme." The Fourth Circuit affirmed, noting that while the plaintiff did spend a substantial amount of money on advertising, there was simply no evidence in the record that consumers associated OBX with anything other than the region. This was the plaintiff's owner's intent: he "intended solely that OBX become associated with and descriptive of a geographical location, the Outer Banks," and affixed the OBX letters "not to label an OBX brand product produced by [the plaintiff], but to indicate an association with the Outer Banks." Accordingly, there was no evidence of secondary meaning, and the trademark claims failed as a matter of law.
More detail of OBX-Stock, Inc. v. Bicast, Inc. after the jump.