Pinterest Loses Trademark Battle In Court

October 29, 2015 — Leave a comment

A trademark lawsuit beginning in 2013 may finally be at a conclusion, resulting in Pinterest losing some ability to prevent other businesses from using the word “pin” online to save links, images, and other works.

The lessons stemming from this case are helpful to business owners everywhere. Here’s how it went down.

The Parties.

Pintrips operates a website that allows users to save travel items on other websites for later viewing on the Pintrips website. Users do this using a “pin” button that is imbedded on third party websites.

Pinterest, on the other hand, operates the widely popular website allowing users to “pin” creative items into boards on the Pinterest website. Much the same as Pintrips, users do this with a “pin it” button on third party websites.

Pinterest filed suit against Pintrips in 2013.

Pinterest is the owner of multiple Pinterest trademark registrations and at least one Pin trademark registration. As a result, it brought suit against Pintrips in 2013 seeking to prevent Pintrips from using its blue pin button to save travel information on the Pintrips website.

Complicating Pintrips business further, the USPTO denied the company’s trademark application for “pin” pending resolution of the lawsuit.

Pintrips attorneys argued that the words “pin” and “pinning” are simply part of internet terminology. They claimed that saying “pin” was much like saying “trash” in reference to a computer’s trash folder. Further, they argued it would be unreasonable to allow large corporations to “seize control” of commonly used terms that are a part of “everyday culture.”

The court agreed with Pintrips.

In tossing out Pinterest’s lawsuit, the court stated that “no reasonable weighing of the evidence presented at trial could lead to the conclusion that Pintrips used the term pin as a way to identify, distinguish, or indicate the source of its goods or services…. In fact, any attempt to distinguish Pintrips by use of its pin button would be futile, given that the words pin and pinning have been used to describe the same feature by many of the most popular and well-known software and internet products since well before Pintrips’s creation.”

The court also agreed with Pintrips’ argument that “pin” is just part of internet terminology saying that it was similar to early software designers using “real-world metaphors such as folders, files, desktops and bulletin boards to describe new technological functions.”

The lessons for your business.

This case and the loss for Pinterest is a great example you should keep in mind when creating your branding. Rather than trying to use generic terms to describe your features, try to be more original. Use arbitrary terms whenever possible if you really want to ensure you can protect your branding with trademark law. Descriptive terms may be easier to market, but arbitrary terms are easier to protect.

Want to learn more?

You should subscribe to our quarterly newsletter, Mighty Updates, to stay current with trademark news and legal issues.


Image: Pinterest Logo
*This article is very general in nature and does not constitute legal advice. Readers with legal questions should consult with an attorney prior to making any legal decisions.

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