Aftermarket Competitors Given a Boost by the Supreme Court


The Supreme Court of the United States recently decided that a supplier of replacement parts to printer remanufacturers can rely on U.S. Trademark Law to maintain a suit for unfair competition. In what began as a copyright infringement action in 2002, Static Control filed a countersuit against Lexmark alleging unfair competition under the Lanham Act that traveled through the appeals process up to the Supreme Court. The Lanham Act contains the federal laws that regulate trademark law. Among other activities, the Act prohibits unfair competition through false advertising.

In Lexmark International, Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc. (572 U.S. ___) (2014), the Court broke new ground because, traditionally, a company bringing such a complaint under the Lanham Act needed to be a direct competitor. Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act gives a right of action to “any person who believes that he or she is or is likely to be damaged” by another’s false representation in commercial advertising or promotion. Previously, the phrase “any person” was generally understood to mean “any direct competitor.” In this case, the Court found that Static Control suffered commercial injury due to Lexmark’s actions and broadened the definition of who is considered a competitor under the Lanham Act.

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