Court: Everybody Gets 'La Michoanaca'
PaleteriaThe story started in the 1940s, when the owners of Productos Lacteos Tocumbo claim their ancestors started the first "paleteria" in the Mexican state. That would be "ice cream maker" to non-Spanish speakers. Paleteria La Michoacana is another paleta company, started by two Mexican-American brothers with pushcarts in the 1990s. Today, the company sells its products at thousands of retail stores throughout the United States. As the businesses expanded, using various advertisements with "La Michoacana," it got legal. They asked the federal courts to decide who, if anybody, owned the phrase and image. After cross-motions for summary judgment and a thirteen-day trial, a judge said the U.S. company did not infringe because the phrase is commonplace. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling against the Mexico-based company on other grounds as well.
Yes and NoThe appeals court said "La Michoacana" referred to paleta sales. "[I]n Mexico, the phrase is generally associated with paletas, much as, in the United States, a red, white, and blue striped pole denotes barbershop service rather than any one brand of barber." On the other hand, the appeals court said Paleteria La Michoacana owned its trademarked image of "La Michoacana," and Productos Lacetos Tocumbo infringed on them. So both companies can use the "La Michoacana" phrase but not the same image. Entendido? Related Resources:
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United States DC Circuit Cases (FindLaw's Cases & Codes)
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