Elgar Intellectual Property and Global Development series
Edited by Irene Calboli and Edward Lee
Chapter 4: The Pan-American Trademark Convention of 1929: a bold vision of extraterritorial meets current realities
In 1990, the Federal Circuit reaffirmed the principle of territoriality, a central tenet of U.S. and international trademark law. That principle holds that trademark rights are bound by national borders. This non-controversial principle led to a harsh result for a sympathetic plaintiff in Personís Co. v. Christman. Larry Christman, a U.S. citizen and an employee of a sportswear wholesaler, took a business trip to Japan. While there, he visited a Personís Co. clothing store. Christman purchased several items of clothing bearing the Personís logo. When he returned home, he developed a clothing line based on the products he purchased from Personís Co. Many items were copied wholesale. The resulting clothing items were marked with the Personís logo bearing the same globe design used by the Personís Co. Christman obtained a registration for the Personís mark in the U.S. a few years later. During that same period, the Japanese Personís mark had become a well-known mark in Japan. Additionally, Personís Co. was in the process of expanding its business to the U.S., apparently unbeknownst to Christman. Significantly, Christmanís goods made it to market seven months before the Japanese goods, and Christman preceded the Personís Co. to the trademark office. Nevertheless, Personís Co. sought to cancel Christmanís Personís mark based on its prior foreign use, and due to the registrantís bad faith.
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