Court Scores One for a Store Called 'Victor's Little Secret' ; in Trademark Case, Justices Say a Store with a Similar Name Does Not Necessarily Infringe on a Famous Brand

By Warren Richey and Linda Feldmann writers of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, March 5, 2003 | Go to article overview

Court Scores One for a Store Called 'Victor's Little Secret' ; in Trademark Case, Justices Say a Store with a Similar Name Does Not Necessarily Infringe on a Famous Brand


Warren Richey and Linda Feldmann writers of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


"Victor's Little Secret" may soon be a secret no more.

In a victory with important implications for US trademark law, the owner of a Kentucky lingerie and adult novelty store has won an important battle toward establishing the right to call his shop Victor's Little Secret.

In a unanimous decision announced yesterday, the US Supreme Court rejected a claim by Victoria's Secret, the intimate-apparel retail and catalog company, that the tiny Elizabethtown, Ky., shop was likely to tarnish its world-famous trademark by adopting a similar- sounding name.

Victor Moseley and his wife, Cathy, had insisted that their store's name was different enough to avoid confusing customers.

They say they are thrilled with the decision. "I can't even think straight. We're very excited," says Mrs. Moseley.

James Higgins, the Moseleys' lawyer, concurred. "We have always said that with the Supreme Court and the law, reason trumps power and that appears to be what happened," he says. "It looks like the Supreme Court followed our legal premise that the law is to be interpreted according to the plain meaning of the words that Congress used."

In siding with the Moseleys, the nation's highest court ruled that the holders of famous trademarks must demonstrate actual dilution to obtain a court order blocking someone else from using a business name similar to their own trademark.

This means that the mere likelihood of dilution of a famous trademark is not enough to obtain protection of that mark in the federal courts. Instead, the trademark holder must show that the infringing trademark causes confusion in the mind of would-be consumers to the extent that the trademark holder may lose business to the company with the similar-sounding name. …

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