The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that Gatorade’s use of the phrase, “Gatorade The Sports Fuel Company,” constitutes fair use under the Lanham Act, and therefore did not violate SportFuel, Inc.’s (“SFI”) rights. Plaintiff SFI is the owner of two registered trademarks for “SPORTFUEL,” and brought an infringement suit in 2016 against Gatorade for its use of the aforementioned slogan. While Gatorade had also obtained a registration for its trademark, it disclaimed “THE SPORTS FUEL COMPANY,” and defended the lawsuit based on fair use. The district court entered summary judgment for Gatorade, finding that it did not use “SPORTS FUEL” as a trademark, that Gatorade’s use was descriptive of its sports drinks, and that Gatorade used the mark in good faith. On appeal, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the lower court’s ruling. Among other things, the appellate court noted that Gatorade had introduced substantial evidence indicating that “sports fuel” was a marketplace term in describing nutritional sports products, and that Gatorade did in fact hold itself as a manufacturer of sport fuels (which undermined SFI’s alleged “bad faith” argument).
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