Ray Communications, Inc. v. Clear Channel Communications, Inc., No. 11-1050

Decided Mar. 8, 2012

Ray Communications, Inc. (“RCI”) filed an action alleging trademark infringement and unfair competition under the Lanham Act, and unfair competition and deceptive trade practices under the North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, challenging the use of its federally-registered AGRI-NET trademark by Clear Channel Communications, Inc. RCI appealed the district court’s order granting summary judgment to Clear Channel on its affirmative defense of laches. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the district court erred in determining that Clear Channel established its defense as a matter of law and separately in failing to consider whether laches bars RCI’s claim for prospective injurious relief. The Court found that the record was insufficient to establish as a matter of law that RCI had a national presence such that the AGRINET mark would likely be associated with RCI even in territories in which RCI did not broadcast. Furthermore, even if this fact were established, it alone would not be enough to establish a likelihood of confusion triggering the laches period. Additionally, the district court’s determination that Clear Channel had suffered both economic and evidentiary prejudice was not established as a matter of law. Accordingly, the Court vacated the judgment and remanded for further proceedings.

Full Opinion

-Sara I. Salehi

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