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Bose Weighing Next Step In CEDIA Trademark Dispute

5/04/2007 03:16:00 PM Eastern

Indianapolis — Bose is deciding whether to appeal the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office decision upholding the use of the Electronic Lifestyles trademark granted to the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA).

Bose’s 2003 petition to cancel CEDIA’s trademark was “dismissed on all grounds,” the office’s trademark trial and appeal board said in its ruling (See http://www.cedia.org/emails/ttabvue.pdf.

“We’re currently reviewing the opinion and deciding whether to appeal,” a Bose spokeswoman said.

Bose’s next step would be to ask the three-person appeal board to reconsider its action, but Bose would not be able to present new evidence to the board, a Patent Office spokeswoman said. If the board upholds its decision, Bose’s next step would be to file a lawsuit in the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit or in a U.S. district court.

“Electronic Lifestyles is a spectacular asset that CEDIA has spent countless man hours and significant dollars building,” said Don Gilpin, executive director of CEDIA. “We will immediately expand the use of Electronic Lifestyles to continue creating new alliances and forging major in-roads with the architecture, building and interior design communities.”

“CEDIA members have spent an enormous amount of money on a lawsuit that we always believed was unjust. We look forward to receiving an apology from Bose — in whatever form it might take,” said Former CEDIA president Ray Lepper.

In its complaint to the Patent Office, Bose contended it had the exclusive right to use the term “lifestyle” in connection with music systems and speakers and that CEDIA’s use of the term could be confused with the Bose-trademarked term “lifestyle.”

The Patent Office decision, however, concluded “no likelihood of confusion exists.

Although the two parties “target the same consumers, namely, custom installers, builders and architects,” the decision states, “the overlapping consumers are highly sophisticated.” It is “highly unlikely that attendees or exhibitors at [CEDIA’s] trade shows (custom installers, builders, architects, manufacturers) would be confused into thinking that petitioner, an associate member, was the source of the trade show services offered at the trade shows.”

The decision adds, “Notwithstanding the similarity of the marks and the strength of petitioner’s [Bose’s] mark in the field of loudspeakers and music systems, we find that petitioner’s loudspeakers and music systems and respondent’s trade show, educational and technical advice services are too dissimilar for source confusion to result. We find petitioner’s likelihood of confusion theory to be speculative and that the extent of potential confusion is de minimis at best.”

Although general consumers could be aware of CEDIA and its trademark, the decision continued, “to the extent there would be an overlap in the general consumer base, there would be no perception of a relationship between these [Bose] goods and [CEDIA] services.

“We do not believe that the normal channels of trade for loudspeakers and music systems for general consumers overlap with educational services in the field of electronics,” the decision said, “and there is no evidence that general consumers of electronic goods are exposed to a manufacturer of loudspeakers providing training seminars on electronics or on the custom installation of a home audio or theater system.”

At the time of trial, the decision noted, “the parties’ marks had been in contemporaneous use for approximately eight years. We note that there is no evidence in the record of even a single occurrence of actual confusion during this time. This is not surprising given the level of sophistication of respondent’s and petitioner’s overlapping consumers. This overlapping consumer base is highly sophisticated and could distinguish between similar marks that had some differences.

The decision also faulted Bose for waiting too long to file its petition. “The first contact respondent ever had with regard to petitioner’s objection to its use of Electronic Lifestyles was approximately June 12, 2003, the date petitioner sent respondent a cease-and-desist letter. At no time prior to that letter did respondent receive any objection or complaint from petitioner,” the decision said.

Bose filed the petition based upon what the company said were “incontestable long prior rights” to its famous trademark “lifestyle” and after failing to amicably resolve the issue, a spokeswoman said at the time. “Bose has been selling Lifestyle music systems to consumers since 1990 [and] sold many Lifestyle music systems through custom installers in the custom electronic design and installation industry,” a spokeswoman said at the time.

CEDIA said it began promoting its Electronic Lifestyles products, services and events as early as 1997 and in 1998 and 1999 received four federal trademark registrations for the term.

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